Playback: The Brian Wilson Anthology
Brian Wilson is a living legend – and largely for the work he did on an album when he was in his early 20s. And then for an album he wouldn’t ever be quite satisfied with – there was magic either side of those albums, sure, but that’s the legacy stuff. He paid a toll too – more than is reasonable, so it’s tricky to say this – but to see his solo career summarised like this, as if it actually means anything, is heart-breaking. This is garbage, woeful, embarrassing…
We kick off with Love & Mercy, a song that’s now a staple of his live shows, and understandably. It was a channelling of the earlier magic, filtered through his later vulnerability. But in its original incarnation it’s somewhat clunky, production-wise. No stress though, there’s far worse to come. A handful of songs from that eponymous Wilson solo album – and they’re really the highlights here. Sadly his 1990s is mostly ignored. The album, Imagination is under-represented here, the soundtrack to the documentary I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times and the Van Dyke Parks collaboration, Orange Crate Art are not even represented at all. Outside of his solo debut they’re the most interesting non-Beach Boys things he’s done.
So instead, this “Anthology” collects his live versions of Beach Boys songs, “his” versions of songs from the version of SMiLE that was released by Wilson and his life/career-saving backing band of the 00s. And worse yet, songs from his Disney tribute and 2015’s woeful No Pier Pressure.
No one could think this was a good idea unless they were on the payroll – it’s awful, it’s like a vintage Olympic athlete’s life being summarised only by their nursing-home photos.
These are Beach Boys parodies at best. And often, so often, they’re worse. So much worse.