Gettin' In Over My Head (2004) Oct 13, 2019 14:52:50 GMT
Post by Kapitan on Oct 13, 2019 14:52:50 GMT
As I've gotten older, various bands and musicians I've come to really like have disappointed me, come to that (often irreversible) moment when what they're doing just isn't what I'm looking for anymore. And it's different with active musicians than legacy acts' back catalogs. It's easy for me to absorb the fact that the Stones and the Kinks just stopped putting out anything I wanted to hear by the mid-70s and thereafter. Fine. Or frankly that the Beach Boys slid into mediocrity and then awfulness by the 80s. No problem.
This, 2004's Gettin' In Over My Head, is the Brian Wilson album that truly disappointed me upon its release.
In the late '90s I "discovered" (although I think a person or two was hip to him before me...) Brian Wilson as a genius. The Smile myth, the avant garde brilliance that seemingly stood in contrast to his lame bandmates, the sordid stories, I was hooked. And of course there was some kind of emancipation story--like the third or fourth one--as, after Imagination he began working with a brilliant and sympathetic band. A pair of live releases (and my first Brian Wilson concert, in 2001) hinted at how good this could turn out if only there were new music.
During the Glasgow February 2004 Smile show, in the first set, Wilson introduced a new song as being from his upcoming album. "It'll be coming out ... actually I don't know when it's coming out." (He did two that night, I think "Desert Drive" and "City Blues," though the title track might have been in there instead of one of those. One's memory gets foggy.) The new stuff sounded just fine to me!
Through spring 2004 we heard about the guest stars, about the goddamn cover, and finally the album was released. And the vocals were (almost) entirely done by Wilson himself.
Why, God, why?
The vocals, more than anything, are what sink this ship. Sure, the material itself is mixed, a hodgepodge of old songs and lackluster new ones. The lyrics, obviously, are pretty bad. The tracks are competent but not great or particularly inventive. The guest stars are poorly chosen and poorly used at least in the case of Elton John, inexplicably being given the lead vocal of the leadoff track...only in Wilsonworld. But no, it's the vocals that sabotage the album.
An album from the newly (re-)emerged genius finally associated with the seemingly perfect backup band of youthful and versatile voices consists primarily of the old man half-assing his way through mediocre material, but apparently insisting on half-assing the entire thing his goddamn self rather than letting people who could, you know, hit and hold notes or enunciate lyrics handle it.
It has its moments. I like the title song. "How Could We Still Be Dancing?" is another nice one as long as one can hear the version in his mind, one without John and with a competent Wilson and his backup singers handling "hey everybody" instead of that vocal abortion of Wilson's, the first note like a third-rate version of the first note of "She's Got Rhythm." While I don't particularly feel a need for Eric Clapton, I do think "City Blues" is a pretty good song. "Desert Drive," "Saturday Morning In the City," "Soul Searchin," even "Don't Let Her Know She's An Angel," fine, fine...
But honestly. After what seemed like an eternity to me--and on this, you longer-term fans have my sympathies!--this was the result? The piece of trash hit the charts for one week, where it landed at #100. It probably got a boost from people's attention and the positive response to the Smile shows.
I know Brian Wilson Presents Smile has its detractors and its flaws, but it was aural mouthwash in late September 2004 after four months of this. I tried to like it. I listened A LOT. But my gosh. Thank God for BWPS!