Artist: Brian Wilson
Album: No Pier Pressure
Label: Capitol Records
Release Date: 04/07/2015
At this point in his career, the only thing that distinguishes a Brian Wilson album from that of the Beach Boys is, well… the presence of the Beach Boys. That’s been the case ever since Pet Sounds and the famously aborted Smile albums, each of which he conceived and recorded with session musicians while the band itself was touting the hits on tour. Not surprisingly then, No Pier Pressure recalls the Beach Boys in style, substance and suggestion, from a title that captures their carefree days down by the boardwalk, to its luscious harmonies and songs brimming with innocence and idyllic imagery. Oh, and there are a couple of actual Beach Boys on board — Al Jardine, David Marks and Blondie Chaplin — who, along with Brian himself, were left high and dry after Mike Love assumed ownership of the brand and jettisoned his bandmates in a nasty coup d’etat.
Mostly though, No Pier Pressure is one of those grand productions made in the Wilson mold, a complete extravaganza employing legions of players (many of them members of his touring band, the Wondermints), several unlikely special guests (She & Him, Nate Ruess, Kacey Musgraves and Mark Isham) and lots of studio embellishment, all of which belies the simple sentiments that Brian’s also eager to employ. There are songs about nostalgia (“Whatever Happened”), songs about breaking away (“On the Island”), songs that celebrate the virtues of pure, romanticised love (“Our Special Love,” “One Kind of Love,” “Saturday Night”), any of which qualify for a return to the charts if radio was simply more agreeable. No Pier Pressure is prime Brian Wilson, that mix of innocence and intelligence that’s always marked this brilliant man-child’s work throughout the ages.
With the recent release of the telling Wilson biopic Love & Mercy, interest ought to be piqued for this latest Wilson release, and indeed where the film’s star John Cusack provides a sometimes clumsy portrayal of the movie’s main subject, the new album accurately reflects Wilson’s innate sensibilities in the usual infinite detail. No Pier Pressure is simply a triumph and another masterpiece that can be credited to the man whose brilliance still shines brightly.