Monday, July 13, 1998

Sweet Insanity

"We said good-bye last September your words I still can hear. Keep an eye on summer this year. Those things I say in my letters, you'll find them most sincere. Keep an eye on summer this year. Soon we'll be graduating and we'll be so far apart. And though you could be dating I'm waiting and waiting. And as we look at the future, though it be through a tear, keep an eye on summer this year..."

People tend to squirm when they see you are walking that thin line bordering insanity. You can tell by that dreadful dead giveaway look in their eyes that they have no clue as to how to act around you. They desperately try to act as if nothing is wrong but at the same time they don't seem to want to validate your thoughts and behavior lest they are the ones to push you over the edge. That very awkwardness is what is so appealing about Brian Wilson's best music.

Wilson's new CD Imagination sounds like very typical Wilson music and very like very wistful Beach Boy music. It's almost amazing how out of touch he sounds to the rest of the music world. Unfortunately to the detriment of the music this time around he doesn't sound so out of touch with reality. On Imagination Wilson as he most often does mixes dark and desperate lyrics with sunny melodies and harmonies. Yet the eccentric edge isn't there and without it the corresponding craziness is lacking and the music sounds merely like inconsequential light summer music. Still it's almost like a new Beach Boys album and with the hot days of summer upon us, that somehow is comforting and appropriate.

Imagination is Wilson's second solo album. Like the first (which opened with the wonderful Love and Mercy) it starts off well with a great opening song. Your Imagination is full of regret and sorrow as the singer remembers a friend who no longer is there. "Another bucket of sand, another wave at the pier. I miss the way that I used to call the shots around here." Wilson sings the song so sweetly and so sadly and it comes across as a wistful cry from a survivor, one who has lost his two brothers and now is left to somehow carry on. "Smile and say you don't understand. To look in your eyes and see what you feel and then realize that nothing's for real, 'cause you know it's just your imagination running wild..."

The CD aptly demonstrates Brian's unmatchable ear for detail. His skill in layering vocals with intricate musical flourishes is what makes his music special. What is missing here is that troubling and disturbing car wreck can't look away element to the music. Wilson is one of the few rock musicians who truly is a genius and he has proven that not only with his musical skills but also with his rather close proximity to insanity. One of my favorite Beach Boys records is Love You which coming from any other writer one would dismiss as sophomoric and silly. But with Brian you just never know. "Pat, pat, pat, pat, pat her on her butt, butt. She's going to sleep, be quiet..." I remember playing that in the store once and having all the customers look up with either a bemused smile or a slight look of terror. A sadomasochistic lullaby?

Imagination covers all the many angles of sadness. She Says That She Needs Me is bitter. Lay Down Burden is bittersweet. Cry is heartbreaking. "A silly quarrel, that's what we had. Then I heard you cryin'. You broke my heart, broke it in two. How could I have left you alone like that to cry?" His childlike innocence and his sincerity is always moving. The way he reveals his heart so openly is both uncomfortable and touching. That he still is so capable of exorcising his pain through his music and that his music is still so appealing makes him a writer that has guaranteed his unique place in music history. He has the special gift of being able to write music that speaks directly to the heart. Imagination may be "safe" Brian Wilson music but it thankfully adds clarity to our understanding of a unique soul.

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