Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Brian's "No Pier Pressure" Announced (Sort of), Brian PBS "Soundstage" Episode, New Brian Guest Spots

Finally announced a little while back was the official title (with accompanying cover art) for Brian Wilson’s upcoming new studio album, which will indeed be titled “No Pier Pressure.” The cover art looks just fine, and probably helps a bit to soften the title’s rather ham-fisted pun. Fans are still debating the “meaning” of the title, and if indeed it is a jab at some other Beach Boys.

The good news is that a title and cover make it highly unlikely the album will fail to materialize. The bad news is that Brian has stated the album is due “Spring 2015”, which means in even the best of scenarios we won’t see the album released until April or May of next year.

No other details have emerged as far as song titles, although it seems highly likely we’ll get the Zooey Deschanel and Lana Del Rey tracks. In the case of the former, they have apparently already filmed a “music video” for it. In the case of the latter, the “Last Song” track with Del Rey has received some mention in a few articles, with a rumored release date near the end of this year (the date has likely been moved to some time in the early months of 2015 I would imagine).

Meanwhile, Brian has popped up on a few releases.


Most interesting is an actual track credited solely to Brian, a cover of Paul McCartney’s “Wanderlust”, which appears on “The Art of McCartney”, an expectedly mixed bag of covers of McCartney tracks. The album is being released in about 87 different configurations. No worries though, Brian’s track is on any and every edition. The best bang for your buck is the Amazon-exclusive 2 CD/1 DVD version which gives you two bonus tracks and of course a DVD; meanwhile six other bonus tracks are being spread among various other outlets. Most elaborate is a big boxed set going for around $200 which includes a bunch of swag, a vinyl copy, a CD with *all* eight of the bonus tracks, the aforementioned DVD, and some sort of audio documentary.

As for the track itself, it’s an inspired and refreshingly unexpected pick (whether Brian or the album’s producer Ralph Sall picked it; it sounds as though Sall picked most of the tracks for the artists). It was likely recorded at some point in the last five years, and Brian comes off well. A+ for track selection, and a solid B+ for execution (including keeping the song in its original key).

Fans have been trying to do some deduction and figure out when the track was recorded, as Sall has been working on compiling the album since around 2003. The track credits include Brian's backing band. Most interestingly, former members Jeff Foskett, Jim Hines, and Taylor Mills are credited. This likely dates the track to some time in the pre-2007 era, and perhaps as early as 2003 or 2004.

A bit of a warning: If your only interest in the tribute album is Brian's track, then it's worth noting that the nearly 90-minute-long documentary on the DVD in the Amazon "Deluxe" edition makes not one mention of Brian, nor shows any footage of Brian.

Not sure how much folks would like a full review of the album, but as I mentioned, it's a mixed bag. It's a bit of a case of Ralph Sall having put about a million times more effort into the album than most tribute albums get, yet only getting about 50% better quality. Opening both discs in the set with rather bland, key-lowered Billy Joel covers (who I usually like; at least his back catalog) of familiar songs doesn't help. Jeff Lynne's cover of "Junk" is nice. It may not be a coincidence that, while many of the tracks on the album feature McCartney's touring band as backing musicians, both Brian's and Jeff Lynne's tracks do not. The album has too many old fogeys to lure in a lot of younger, new prospective fans. Sall produces or co-produces most of the tracks on the album, and most of the tracks have a rather bland, muted, softened quality; lacking punch. Still, with 34 (or more) tracks to choose from, there are always going to be some interesting bits.

Less interesting and a bit head-scratching are a few tracks by other artists with Brian popping in for some vocals. Previous reports of Brian’s album indicated a possible collaboration with Frank Ocean on a track titled “Our Special Love.” However it happened, what we have instead is “Our Special Love” on the new album from Peter Hollens, with some backing vocals from Brian. Cut immediately to Brian Wilson fans researching who Peter Hollens is. A quick bit of research indicates he’s most recently famous for a long series of a Capella YouTube videos. Whatever his background, the track and performance aren’t terribly impressive. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Hollens has gotten off his ass and done more than I’ll ever do. But whatever singing skill he has is mitigated by a sh*t-ton of autotune and an uber-bland composition, which Brian apparently had some hand in as well. I’m not a typical Brian Wilson fan living in a vacuum who will always say Brian’s contribution to something is the best element. But in this case, by far the only reason to seek the track out is to hear some warm and familiar stacked Brian vocals (likely also run through autotune).

Brian has also popped up on a track along with Andrew Wyatt titled “Falling Apart” by Emile Haynie. Cut once again to Brian Wilson fans looking these folks up and trying to find out who they are. I honestly haven't had a chance to listen to this one yet. But I wanted to mention that it's out there if you need a Brian fix. I'll hopefully have some thoughts on it soon. As you can tell, I'm not terribly super interested in these Brian guest spots.

Meanwhile, Brian has two shows currently scheduled. There is a show in Tulsa, OK scheduled for December 4th. Al has not been mentioned in relation to this show, so I'm not sure if he will be attendance. It appears so far this year that Al has played all of Brian's California dates, and the only show he has missed thus far is the benefit gig Brian did in Canada in October.

A more high profile Brian gig is scheduled for December 12 in Las Vegas, where Brian will be shooting an episode of the PBS series "Soundstage." Surely not coincidentally, this show is produced and/or directed by Joe Thomas. More interestingly, Brian will be premiering some stuff from the new album and will have a few guests from the album appear. This will include Al Jardind as well as Blondie Chaplin *and* Ricky Fataar. It's unclear whether Fataar is actually on the album. Either way, Brian will have no less than four Beach Boys on stage for this gig. Is this meant as a little mini-"FU" towards Mike? Perhaps, although all involved have to be aware that it accomplishes nothing beyond being a little "FU" moment. Mike continues to tour. The "BAD" tour in 2013 didn't change anything. One interesting question is whether Brian will have David Marks appear, as Marks did apparently play on some sessions for Brian's album at some point.

The "Soundstage" episode will air next year, no doubt in time to promote the new album.

Meanwhile, Mike and Bruce have already booked some shows for early 2015. That, coupled with Brian's biopic and new album coming out around the middle of next year, make the already unlikely prospect of more "reunion" activity for the group virtually impossible. Please don't mistake this for me having been delusional enough to think it was at all likely for something like this to happen. A few "sources" have been quietly suggesting that, despite some acrimonious moments between the camps in 2014, some sort of reunion in the future is not completely out of the question. But it appears that if by some chance that does happen, 2016 would be the earliest we would see it. Some fans have already been speculating on a "Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour." I'm not sure how likely that concept is. But another tour would be nice, right?