Brian Wilson: Smile
Only 37 years late, the white whale of American pop music has surfaced. Formulated in 1967 and rerecorded in 2004, this is the fabled, aborted release that has kept Brian Wilson a legend long beyond what his musical output should have dictated. It is the follow-up to the Beach Boys' revered Pet Sounds; the result of Wilson's untold months locked in a recording studio on a frightening lysergic diet; of his failed megalomaniac compulsion to defeat The Beatles in the race to create the perfect studio album. On the history-obsessed landscape of pop culture, the pressure accompanying this release is only rivaled by new Star Wars movies, and the verdict is ... it's nice. Definitely more entertaining than The Phantom Menace, and it stands up better to repeated playing. Wilson takes acid rock, quasi-church music, harmonized doo-wop and a pile of orchestral instruments, crams them into the gumball machine of '50s sugar-pop and rolls out a fragmented and beguiling piece of Americana that would doubtless have been hailed as American's Sgt. Pepper if given the chance. So many trends have risen and died since 1967 that Smile doesn't quite sound as unprecedented as diehard Wilson-philes may hope, but it is sure to add legions of new fans to their ranks.