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Q's Trashing of New Brian Wilson Album


JohnO

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Just got the new issue of Q, where they give "That Lucky Old Sun" a whopping 2 out of 5 stars, claiming that Brian no longer knows the meaning of "quality control", and can't tell the difference between good music and total crap anymore.

I've got a boot copy of TLOS demos, and, while there are several really good songs on it.....very, very sadly, this review ain't all that far off the mark! (although I'd give it maybe 3 stars, not 2....). It's very hit or miss.

While I think "Good Kind Of Love", "Forever my Surfer Girl" and "Midnight's Another Day" are right up there with anything he's done during his solo career, some of the tunes are just plain bad ("Mexican Girl", "Oxygen To The Brain"), and I agree with the Q reviewer that the interlude/narration bits between songs are overwrought and just plain goofy (Q compares his narration to William Shatner!). Also, I've been told by a fairly reliable source (from whom I got the boot) that the final versions of most of the songs, with dozens of added overdubs versus the demo versions, are worse than the demos.

It's a strange album...and one where I change my opinion about it after every listen...guess I'll get the official release on Sept. 2 & give that a listen and see......

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Oh, I'll also undoubtedly buy it....but it's starting to look like Brian was being dead serious a couple of years ago when he said he was suffering from writer's block. (Regarding Marv's comment, it's starting to look like, unlike God, Brian rests a lot more than 1 day a week....)

Look at his last several releases - Many of the better songs on "Imagination" were remakes of older ones. "Getting In Over My Head" was chock-full of songs from his previous 2 unreleased albums ("Sweet Insanity" and "Landylocked/The Paley Sessions") from 10 years before. The Christmas album was nothing to write home about..."Smile" - well, that was close to 40 years old, and ditto the "Live Pet Sounds"

And don't get me wrong, I love Brian, and I'm grateful for whatever we get out of him, which us mostly great live shows nowadays. I don't personally think that Brian owes us one damn thing at this point.....but I'm also somewhat fascinated as to how everytime he puts out something new, and this is going back to his Beach Boys days, when he was in and out of the band, somebody somewhere starts yammering about how it's the best thing he's done since "Pet Sounds" or the 1988 debut album, etc. Sorry, still haven't seen or heard it yet. And honestly, I personally don't expect it, either.

(Same for McCartney, BTW....)

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John,

Are you a regular reader of this magazine? The reason I ask, is it seems to me that there are certain publications that no matter how terrific something is by legends like Brian, Paul, etc they rip into it because it's apparently "cool" to attack the great ones and sometimes, a writer is trying to make a name for themselves. I'm unfamiliar with this one, so I wondered your opinion. Do they review certain types of music more favorably than others?

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Pat - As Hollies said, Q is NOT a magazine that regularly rips Brian....quite the contrary. If I recall, though, I don't believe they gave a glowing review of Brian's live show that featured "Lucky Old Sun".

I think this is simply a matter of the critic listening to the album, and deciding that it ain't up to Brian's standards. Frankly, I agree with the guy in this case. If the writer of this review is trying to make a name for himself, he hasn't succeeded - I can't even remember his name offhand! As a matter of fact, can anyone here think of a case where a critic actually did make a name for himself/herself just by ripping someone in print? I certainly cannot.

(NOTE: Making a statement that certain mags/critics rip into Brian, Paul, etc., no matter how terrific their work may be, seems to assume that everything they do is automatically excellent.....and maybe it is to some people...after all, "good" and "bad" are not absolutes, they're just subjective opinions. Personally, I say - listen to the work, and make your own judgment.....)

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For what it's worth, both MOJO and UNCUT are giving TLOS 4 star reviews. Now.....since a question was asked about the reviewer's possible motivation for the Q review, let's ask a similar one now!

Were these good reviews given just to kiss Brian's ass, or were they just a by-product of the UK's continued fawning over him????.....OR....could they not simply represent the opinions of the reviewers???

Once again, I've NEVER heard of a case of a critic making a name for himself or becoming famous due to a crappy review, even if he/she is the only one who's expressing such an opinion. Even in the recently publicized case of MAXIM magazine giving The Black Crowes' "War Paint" a 2 and 1/2 star review, only for the critic to later confess he had never even heard the album -I don't remember hearing or reading the critic's name anywhere. (Thank God the band's manager was watching!....I doubt that those potheads in the band even know what year it is!....and I like the band a lot!)

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There is a writer here in Chicago named Jim Derogatis, who never writes anything positive about McCartney shows nor pretty much anyone else who ever sells records (which doesn't make them bad), especially over the age of thirty. His thing is writing about bands that aren't popular (which doesn't make them bad, either). It's gotten him a television show on PBS.

Last time Paul was in Chicago, he ripped him saying "his singing had deteriorated from his last tour, when he was brilliant". I pulled out the archives from the previous tour and he blasted the entire performance, including his vocals. In the first review, he wrote that people don't want to hear the same Paul songs every year and they become boring, then when Paul stopped doing some classics on this last tour, he ripped him for that! Ditto for the Stones. When they do their hits, they are boring, when they don't do them, they "rob the audience". Which is it?

There is a sports writer (Jay Mariotti) at the same newspaper that also rips everything and it's landed him a gig at ESPN. Someone recently called him out here for one day writing that the Cubs are "too cheap to go after Rich Harden" then a week later when they got him, he wrote "why would they go after a pitcher like Harden who is injury prone?"

Sensationalistic journalism happens every day.

I'm not putting down the magazine you mentioned, I don't know of it, I'm just asking if they often tear down icons, which I see quite a bit.

Didn't Cream's Lester Bangs basically make a name for himself by ripping acts?

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Pat - I believe I've only heard of Derogatis through (1) his biography of Lester Bangs....and (2) the fact that both of those guys got fired from Rolling Stone for writing negative, disrespectful (per Wenner) reviews...which only makes me admire them all the more! Now, who they reviewed...I'd have to look it up. I remember Bangs trashed the MC5's debut, only to take it back 2 albums later....and he certainly wasn't fired for that, since most critics of the day trashed them!

It sounds like Derogatis has a serious memory problem regarding Paul Mc....Consistency is definitely a problem with that boy.

I think Lester B. was known more for the weirdness of his reviews and his excesses (alcohol, drugs) than the nastiness....sometimes he'd talk about anything but the album he was supposed to be reviewing....and he had various grudges with musicians over the years, but it was usually with the likes of Lou Reed....again, that's in his favor as far as I'm concerned.

Agree that sensationalistic journalism sells....but I really wouldn't consider a two star rating of a Brian W. or Paul McC. CD as all that sensationalistic. Yes, they're idols/icons, but not all of their releases are iconic, IMO......and I could be wrong, but I'll guess that the reviews for "That Lucky Old Sun" will be all over the board, as it's a strange album for Brian...

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  • 4 weeks later...

Marv - So do Uncut, Mojo, Classic Rock, Rolling Stone, most other publications, and most reviewers at Amazon.com....It got 4 star reviews (out of 5) from most of these.

While the guy in Q is pretty much alone in his assessment (excluding Marc Nathan & me), he was the very first out of the box with his review. At the very least, he wasn't influenced by what anyone else said or thought, I'm guessing.

I'm not making any comments about it until I hear the official release (out today). All of my earlier remarks are based on the demos I've heard...and I don't know how close they really are to the finished product.

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"Opinion is all over the place on this one."

As it should be, since, IMO, this album is also all over the place....I've seen several very unusual 4 star reviews, where the reviewer knocks half of the songs plus the goofy narratives, but still gives the overall album a very high rating. Personally, I go back to my original assessment of 3 stars. Some excellent material, but a lot of weirdness as well.....

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"No one wants to do the sacreligous act of panning Brian Wilson."

Well, it certainly didn't stop anybody from panning "Gettin' In Over My Head", or his Christmas album!

I think there may be some reluctance in panning TLOS because it's been hyped as an "important" work of Brian's, the best thing since "Pet Sounds" or "Smile" or whatever.....also it's, if anything, very nostalgic, and trashing it could be viewed as criticizing Brian's old work....just my 2 cents.

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Personally, I like the official release a lot better than the demos, at least on most songs....as it should be! The chief improvement, though, ain't the additional overdubs....it's Brian's far superior lead vocals, versus the demo/scratch versions. Even the goofy narratives are way better.....

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JohnO I'm guessing you've had a chance to spend more time with the album now, what's your take? I've been listening to it pretty much continuously for the last two days, and am really impressed by the melodies. Brian's vocals have been going slowly downward for the last few years, but on this disc, his vocals are as good as they've been in a long time. I agree with you about the 'goofy' narratives. While I see their intent, having Brian recite them doesn't work for me. Might have been a better idea to have a more coherent voice, or even Taylor Mills do the talking.

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Marv - I'd raise my rating to maybe 3 and 3/4 stars at this point. Still not too crazy about several of the tunes, which come across as very weak on the Demos bootlegs, but it's pretty strong overall.

Honestly....with his band and backing singers, Brian could sing the contents of a phone book, and by the time he's produced it, layered the vocals, added overdubs, etc., it's gonna sound great. To me, though, really good songs could be played on a piano or guitar, with one person singing them, and they'll still be great. I doubt that "Mexican Girl" or "Oxygen To the Brain" and maybe a couple of others could stand up to such scrutiny. The better tunes in TLOS would....(as would practically anything on, let's say Pet Sounds).

Numerical ratings and criticisms aside, it's truly amazing what Brian's managed to do in the past 5-7 years, as far as a comeback to reality and normalcy, let alone making great music, live or in the studio!

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Totally agree with you John about Brian's band and the positive influences that he now surrounds himself with. Having said that, I'd love to see the resurrection of the Wondermints, and see what kind of music they'd now make after being surrounded by Brian for the last few years. Interesting that Darian S seems to be in the background on this disc and it's Scott Bennett who has the prominent role.

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