Brian Wilson, No Pier Pressure, album review: A loving reminder of how much he has given pop

Signs of division still linger on this record

Former Beach Boys member Brian Wilson
Former Beach Boys member Brian Wilson

Pier Pressure began life as a bona fide new Beach Boys album, until bad intra-group vibes (lack of harmony?) forced Wilson to assume ownership.

Signs of division linger: too many impersonal guest contributions resemble the work of a high-grade cruise-ship covers band, but when Wilson and three good ol’ Boys (Al Jardine, Blondie Chaplin, David Marks) take the lead – well, watch out for that sand speck in your eye.

On the nostalgic reverie of “Whatever Happened”, lush harmonies from Jardine, Marks, and Wilson invest even goofy rhymes (“time goes by, he wonders why”) with emotional worth.

On the gorgeous Jardine/Wilson weeper “Tell Me Why”, the doleful nostalgia is surprisingly clear-eyed: “Kind of funny but mostly sad/ Kind of good but mostly bad/ I really miss that thing we had.”

Sadly, “that thing” goes missing on Kacey Musgraves’ kite-weight offering and electro throwaway “Runaway Dancer”, fronted by Capital Cities’ Sebu Simonian, with synths via McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime”.

Peter Hollens’ bland “Our Special Love” is more Boyzone than Beach Boys. Even the best guest-led confection, She & Him-fronted frolic “On the Island”, could have used more Wilson to deepen its allusions to the life of Brian: a “bucket of sand”, sunshine-pop dreams of retreat from times he just wasn’t made for … But Wilson sails back for the wounded but resilient “One Kind of Love” and “The Last Song”, a sumptuously sad closer.

“I wish that I could give you so much more,” he laments: a loving reminder of how much he has given pop and why we still cherish him.

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