Picks and Pans Review: Brian Wilson

updated 09/12/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/12/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Brian Wilson

Let's, for the sake of argument, assume that psychologist Eugene Landy is some kind of supertherapist. After all, following years of sometimes 24-hour-a-day treatment by Landy, Wilson seems to have fought off his mental illness and drug problems. Brian's attorney, John Mason, has been quoted as likening the Wilson-Landy relationship to The Miracle Worker: "Helen Keller and the therapist. It's just like that." Whatever his abilities as a therapist, however, Landy—who is executive producer of this record and co-wrote five of its 11 songs—would seem to have the musical sensibilities of your average sofa cushion. This first solo album by Wilson, who as the Beach Boys' most notable creative force established himself long ago as a pop music genius, is often appalling. While the best Beach Boys music captured the freedom, energy and spirit of California, this record wallows in the state's most dreary phenomenon—psychobabble. There's So Many is pro-astrology. Let It Shine suggests the miracle of modern reincarnation: "Of all the lives that I've been through/ I never really thought it was true/ That all I ever needed was you/ Let it shine." Love and Mercy has a whiny, gosh-all-naïveté quality: "Oh, the loneliness in this world, well, it's just not fair." Even the straightforward romantic songs contain horrendous clichés: "There comes a burning fire/ It fills me with desire" or "Yeah, the great big river/ Rolls on and on." Wilson's Beach Boys lyrics rarely resembled Elizabethan poetry, but they were charming and appropriate to the music. While Wilson, 46, is now 25 years older than he was when the Beach Boys started, you couldn't tell it from this record. Though the brilliant melody-harmony sense of, say, Heroes and Villains and Good Vibrations is still evident, Wilson's voice hasn't grown out of its boyish frailty. More crucially, his touch with the language seems gone, as if he had lost contact with his imagination. This album should perhaps have had a subtitle: Shrinkin' U.S.A. (Sire)

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