Saturday, August 22, 2009

My take on the critics: Brian Wilson's SMiLE

I've been toying with the buying SMiLE for a has a 97% on Metacritic and is one of the highest rated albums of the decade. It's interesting to compare the critic's views to the users' views. The users give SMiLE 79%. So who is right? The users or the critics? Is the best work one that polarises people, or one that everyone likes? A business oriented person would surely say that the only thing that matters is who is actually buying. On that ground, SMiLE is certainly not the greatest album of the decade. It certainly did sell, but was easily outsold by many other records.

I found SMiLE a refreshing change from my usual listening. The attention to detail in the harmonies is amazing, as it always was with the Beach Boys. The opening track has more in common with Thomas Tallis or John Taverner than 21st Century pop music. However, nothing has really stuck after one listen. There are no words or melodies I want to repeat again and again, except 'good vibrations', but that was a hit for the Beach Boys already. As a whole, I'd say that there are too many short sections of music, ideas are not sustained and developed for long enough for me to get comfortable. It's as if Mr Wilson is trying to cram too many ideas into too few minutes. Something I've been guilty of in the past, but not something I'd have expected from him, however, many of those sections are awesome.

I'm impressed with Mr Wilson's musical skills, but what's missing from these songs are compelling characters, stories and catchy lyrics. In one of the interviews I read, he said that he and the lyricist worked at this material in 2-bar sections. Perhaps that explains this disjointedness. In all, I'd probably with the user average on this - 80%, not 97%.

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