Brian Wilson still bound to Pet Sounds

Rating: NNNNNHow fitting that Brian Wilson's first-ever solo tour revisits the Pet Sounds album. The pop masterwork is Wilson's definitive.


Rating: NNNNN


How fitting that Brian Wilson’s first-ever solo tour revisits the Pet Sounds album. The pop masterwork is Wilson’s definitive artistic achievement, and since its 1966 release he has never really got over its crushing commercial failure.

From then until now, Wilson has largely lived in seclusion, waiting for the liberating acknowledgement that his greatest creation has had the spiritually uplifting effect he intended.

If he hasn’t been able to glean that from hearing the obvious influence Pet Sounds has had on everyone from the Beatles right through to the High Llamas and the Apples in Stereo, maybe he needs to feel its impact by performing the music to live audiences, accompanied by the members of the Wondermints and a 50-piece orchestra.

Then again, maybe he just needs to get out of the sandbox.


Fun fun fun

“I’m pretty proud to be going out and playing these songs on tour,” declares Wilson with childlike delight. “I think it’ll be real fun.”

While it’s frustrating to hear a deep thinker like Wilson expressing himself in such vague terms, he’s not being coy. That’s just the way he conducts a telephone interview. Over the course of our 15-minute discussion, he remains cordial but guarded, speaking slowly as if to divulge as little as possible.

Judging by his recently released Live At The Roxy Theatre (Brimel) double disc — available exclusively online through his Web site, www.brianwilson.com — Wilson appears to be much more at ease onstage.

The recording of his weekend stand at Los Angeles’ Roxy Theatre — on which he presents the Pet Sounds songs along with a selection of Beach Boys-era tunes (and two unremarkable new compositions, The First Time and This Isn’t Love) — is probably a good indication of the straight-up recreations that can be expected at the Molson Amphitheatre tonight (Thursday, July 20).

“Is that a good album?” he asks with a hopefulness that’s as absurd as it is disheartening. “I think my sense of humour comes through.”

What Wilson is alluding to is his quote from the Barenaked Ladies song Brian Wilson as an introduction to Till I Die. It’s no knee-slapper, but coming from Wilson it’s a rare and entertainingly clever twist.

“When I heard the song, I was real thrilled that someone said my name on a record — it thrilled me to death to hear that. I met the guys about three weeks ago and they said they were very honoured that I did it.”


Rock return

Evidently, Wilson has no plans to cut a complete version of the Ladies’ Brian Wilson for his next studio album, which he plans to begin recording in October. Furthermore, the rumoured reunion with Pet Sounds lyricist Tony Asher is now definitely off.

“He kind of split on me. He never called for a long time, so I figured he must’ve had enough of me. I’ll be writing alone from now on.

“I’m going to be doing a rock and roll album next. I’ve got one song called How Could We Still Be Dancin’? and two more in the works. Hopefully, I’ll have some others done by November.

“We’re going to try and emulate the sound of Phil Spector’s records. I really like the echo, the drums, the piano, the guitars and the whole ‘wall of sound.’ His records are just right for me. I listen to ’em all the time.”

Instead of trying to “emulate” the Phil Spector sound, Wilson might save some studio time by inviting the man himself to sit in on the sessions. Sure, Spector has a reputation for bizarre behaviour and unorthodox techniques, but so does Wilson. Who knows? It could work.

“I’ve thought about it,” chuckles Wilson, “but I don’t know if I’ve got the guts to do it. Someday I will.

“I saw him three times over a period of one week at Los Angeles Lakers games. Every night he was seated in the front row and I was two rows up from him. I yelled out ‘Hey, Phil!’ And he turned around and went, ‘Oh, how ya doing?’ That was it.”

timp@nowtoronto.com


BRIAN WILSON, at Molson Amphitheatre (909 Lakeshore West), tonight (Thursday, July 20) at 8 pm. $29.50-$59.50. 870-8000.

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