June 20, 2009
Just as it isn’t Burt Bacharach’s fault that his name is now rock-critical shorthand for “This band knows someone with a flugelhorn,” BRIAN WILSON (born 1942) is not to be blamed that his is invoked every time more than two people sing together on a record, even when the results sound more like The Roches (Dirty Projectors) or The Back Porch Majority (Polyphonic Spree). Even when the familiar (and gorgeous) block harmonies he arranged for The Beach Boys are copped with some success (Grizzly Bear), the amalgam of whimsy, melancholia and sheer melodic grace — often closer in spirit to Irving Berlin or even Stephen Foster than anything comfortably categorized as rock and roll — at the core of Wilson’s best work remain elusive. Perhaps it’s only the overt auteurist complexities of Pet Sounds and Smile (the unfinishable Woyzeck of popular music, its 2004 Wilson-approved live reconstruction notwithstanding) that allow us to hear the same qualities in such early, ostensibly frothier fare as “Fun, Fun, Fun.” But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).