Thursday, July 31, 2008

Music Library: Battles, Bauhaus, Be Bop Deluxe, Be Your Own Pet, Beach Boys

Battles - EP B and Mirrored. See, I like krautrock and glipsy-glitch noises and ambitious proggy stuff when it doesn't take itself too seriously. This music is all goofy space-funk with Euro-alien overtures, which, as you can tell, doesn't lend it to easy descriptions.

Bauhaus - Mask, "Swing The Heartache," "She's In Parties," and Go Away White. A gift from a friend, I haven't listened to these much. I wasn't a big fan of the Bauhaus back in high school, but I very much enjoyed revisiting their older songs here and the 2008 Go Away White reformation-and-resplit album.

Be Bop Deluxe - "Fair Exchange." Over-the-top glammy silliness.

Be Your Own Pet - s/t. Fun teenage retro post-punk thing. A little too relentless all at once, but great in small doses.

Beach Boys - Uh, there's a lot of these. Let's break them out.

  • The Beach Boys' Christmas Album: Yawn.
  • Today!/Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!): Two-fer of 1965 albums with the classic Beach Boys sound at its peak. There's some wild variance between the heights and depths. The songs that are great are really, truly, amazingly great, but those that aren't are rather shockingly bad.
  • Pet Sounds: What more can I add to everything that's been said of this album? It's utterly brilliant all-American psychedelia, a truly weird and beautiful experience, and it gives your ears a chance to stretch their muscles.
  • Pet Sounds Sessions: How much do I love Pet Sounds? Enough to buy a 4-disc box of studio sessions, which is like loving sausage so much that buy the parts of the pig that people rarely think of as food.
  • Smile - GEMA Bits and Pieces. I have a lot of versions of SMILE (thanks to Gary Mairs! - when I first became interested, all I had was the Vigatone Smile, but Gary hooked me up with four other versions). I was an obsessive SMILE collector for a while, back before Brian Wilson went back into the studio and re-recorded the tracks to clarify how all these pieces were supposed to go together. This one collects a bunch of studio fragments.
  • Smile - GEMA Version. This sequence in this version throws me. It makes some sense in terms of flow, but it's entirely different from the way I would have constructed it. And the way that Brian Wilson actually constructed it, for that matter, but that didn't happen until later. Many of the selected tracks are still quite unfinished in this version, too. And there's a handful of odd choices that don't really seem to belong. But on the other hand, there's some stunning barnyard sounds in the version of "Heroes and Villians" and some other curlicues of greatness shoved into the margins.
  • Smile - Good Vibrations Box Set. These are the Smile tracks from the Beach Boys box set, the first official glimpse of the mastered tracks. Brilliant, natch, even if unfinished.
  • Smile - Vigatone. Culled from the Vigatone box-o'-copyright-violations, this was my attempt to make a version of Smile that flowed right well before Brian Wilson went back into the studio to set the record straight. It's not too far from the final version, but mine has a lot more of the different Bicycle Rider themes holding everything together. Plus it has "Well, You're Welcome" at the end and a bunch of bits and pieces that aren't on any of these other compilations.
  • Smile - Unsurpassed Masters, Vol. 16. This version is somewhere between the Good Vibrations Box and the Vigatone Smiles.
  • Smiley Smile. When the Smile sessions fell apart, the Beach Boys cobbled together finished tracks and parts of other tracks for this album. It's a cracked reflection of a masterpiece, not up to the dizzying heights of Pet Sounds or the promise of Smile, but with much of the Smile sessions' wacky psychedelia on display, it's a great near-miss.
  • Wild Honey. After Smile fell apart, Brian Wilson was unwilling and unable to lead the Beach Boys, so Mike Love took the lead in making this album, which was a few steps back musically and creatively but, on the other hand, was a decent set of songs (with a couple of stone classics) displaying the Beach Boys' other strengths. I have these last two albums collected on a single CD with a few Smile odds and ends added on.
  • Friends. The Beach Boys become more democratic, which is theoretically good, but more odd, in that they've been touched by the avant-garde experiment of Smile and are still trying to craft mainstream pop, circa 1968.
  • 20/20. Same deal, although this one has even more Smile detritus and Dennis Wilson's Charlie Manson-penned song "Never Learn Not To Love."
  • Landlocked. A bootleg of demos pre-dating Sunflower. Many of these songs turned up on later releases. Most are pretty decent.
  • Sunflower. This is what the post-Smile Beach Boys were worked towards: a more democratic album that is unabashed sunny and weird avant-pop. A great, great album.
  • Surf's Up. Named after the best song Brian Wilson ever wrote, this is both the logical progression from Sunflower and the flip-side of the coin. Where Sunflower is sunny and hopeful, Surf's Up is dark and fatalistic. It culminates in Brian Wilson's finest post-Smile work: "A Day In the Life Of A Tree," which is as batshit insane as it is stunningly gorgeous, "'Til I Die," which is the hymn God sings at the Church of Humanism, and "Surf's Up," which is so incredibly wonderful that it breaks the Second Law of Superlative Thermodynamics.
  • Endless Summer. Wow, those early Beach Boys tracks, huh? Those kids could sing the shit out of anything, but Brian Wilson's songs were so intricate and brilliant and unfortunately ubiquitous that it's easy to forget just how brightly they shine.
  • Adult Child. Demos for an unreleased late 70s Beach Boys album. There's some fantastic songs here, but a lot of dreck, too.
  • The Beach Boys Love You. Ah, there's the crackpot Brian Wilson at his crackiestpottery.
  • Creme De La Rest. A mix by my friend Gary of the early BBs with surprisingly little overlap with Endless Summer. Fantastic!


Jim 1:39 AM, August 13, 2008  

Obviously Pet Sounds is a classic album and it contains some of my favorite Beach Boys songs. But, I've always been a fan of some of the later albums that had more input from the other Boys like Dennis and Al. The LA (Light Album) has a great mix of songs, even though it has some throwaway tracks.

So, for me, I like the more balanced albums, but that doesn't take away from the genius of Pet Sounds.


The Laptop Sessions Cover Songs

Hayden Childs 11:23 AM, August 18, 2008  

Hi, Jim. I've heard good things about the LA. I certainly like Dennis Wilson's solo album quite a bit, so I should check it out.

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