RS #381: Beach Boys, The Smile Sessions


The Beach Boys The Smile Sessions

Release Date: 2011
Previously Owned: No
First Time Listen: Well, sort of. I used to try to download versions of this album during the old Napster heyday.

Smile. By Source, Fair use, Link

Impressions: Here. Here’s a whole box of toys. Some are broken. Most don’t quite match. I’m going to spill it out on this table and you can try to enjoy it, or better yet, figure it out yourself. Maybe if this Beach Boys lost masterpiece of an album was truly figured out into some cohesive whole, it would have had a punchers chance to be in the top 10 on this list. Right now, it’s just shards. Gorgeous shards, but shards nonetheless. This overstuffed box-set contains chamber pop pieces, harpischord ballads, faded surf songs, sad lyrics, unbelievable harmonies, a couple of great hooks, a boatload of weird ideas, and more than a couple of ideas (“veggie-tables?”) that just seem you need to be heavily medicated to truly grok them. Songs float in an out. A few classics. Instrumentals. Just all dumped out there. On FIVE DISKS. No wonder many, including Brian Wilson himself, have gone mad trying to sort out this enigma. There’s some beautiful even uplifting music in songs like the wistful “Surf’s Up” that are undercut with a sadness that gives it a strange resonance. Some of these songs are woven in to the fabric of their story as a band. I know I’ve heard “Good Vibrations” a million times on the radio, in movies, commercials, etc but it might be one of the top 10 songs of all time on this whole list. It’s just amazing and surprisingly weird– although it makes more sense surrounded by all these other misfit toys.
Great Lyric: “In the cantina/margaritas keep the spirit high” –
“Heroes and Villains”
Starred Songs: “Heroes and Villains,” “Good Vibrations”
Sneaky Track: “Our Prayer/Gee,” “Surf’s Up”
Should this album be on the list? Ehh.. I’d prefer just the “album” without all the box set-induced clutter. Maybe Brian Wilson’s own recording of this material could have made it on here. Well, I’m not taking it off.
Will You Listen To This Again: Well, parts of it…that contain Smile itself, whatever that means.
Verdict: The fabled classic all-time greatest album that never was, if you squint past five sprawling discs of material you can make out a masterpiece in the distance.