“The astonishing genius of Brian Wilson”

In which we learn that there was always a touch of darkness lurking in the Beach Boys’ music:

In truth, if you’d been listening closely, you might have realised something was up with Brian Wilson long before the events of 1967. Behind all the bragging and bravado of the Beach Boys’ biggest hits — “We always take my car coz it’s never been beat, and we’ve never missed yet with the girls we meet” — a strange, rather desperate sadness kept seeping out on B-sides and album tracks: In My Room, Please Let Me Wonder, In The Back Of My Mind. You could hear it on Wilson’s instrumental introduction to California Girls, its gorgeous, autumnal wistfulness at odds with the song’s sunkissed lechery; and it seemed to have overwhelmed the: band entirely on 1966’s Pet Sounds, an impossibly sumptuous album on which even the: most upbeat songs were shot through with: yearning and loss and confusion.

Craig Newmark

Associate Professor of Economics, North Carolina State Univ.

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