Tuesday, July 14, 2015

bus vibes #25 - beach boys, beastie boys, bye

hello there

well, then, look you see, so it ends. my last regular, verk related bus odyssey was way back last friday; apologies for only getting around to a comment and review on what vibes i opted to go with for this final adventure.

i did, as it happens, put some thought and consideration into just what it is should listen to on those last two journeys. as you, however, now know what i selected, assuming you noticed the title of this post, i shall save you the trouble of reading these thoughts and deliberations, instead just getting on with it.

for many years, as in the 80s and a substantial part of the 90s, i had a limited, or if you like ignorant, level of knowledge of The Beach Boys. i was aware of things like Surfin' USA and California Girls, and just assumed that all of their stuff was whimsical, somewhat throwaway pop all centred on giving an idyllic view of America. i was aware that Pet Sounds was an album routinely and frequently celebrated by musicians and the British music press, but i never bothered to give it a listen, assuming it would be just all American beach pop, describing how dudes were all perfect surfers and the ladies just fell in their laps.

and then, around 1997 or maybe 1998, i heard a song called God Only Knows on the soundtrack to the film Boogie Nights. i was somewhat surprised to learn that it was a song off of this album by The Beach Boys that people went on about, so off i went to explore.

it is with some consistency that this album, when magazines and websites are inclined to fill space, features very high up on lists of "best albums of all time", and frequently it is in the top position. it is not for me to argue with it being ranked very highly indeed, although i would be reluctant to declare any album as being the "single greatest ever" one. if a friend, someone i knew or a passing stranger came up to me and said "in my opinion Pet Sounds is the greatest album ever", i would say to them "i know where you are coming from and i dig your style, man".

what makes it so great? for a start it's a complete album, as in "all killer, no filler". i don't want to dive into this whole "concept album" business, but it does make sense that people do hear this one as the first 'concept' album as we understand the term today, as thematically everything is linked.  it doesn't tell a specific story in the sense of, say, Tommy or Misplaced Childhood, but it does tell a tale all the same.

that tale is a deeply introverted, introspective one by Brian Wilson, who i gather more or less forced through his vision of what this album should sound like, with the rest of the band being all but relegated to hired help. what is it that these insights all pertain or relate to? oh, the usual on a broad level - love, hate, life, death, laurel, hardy, peace, war, the world, everything in it. the trick is it's a poetically gifted artist opening his heart and mind and letting it all flow, rather than some contrived, colour by numbers stuff designed for commercial success.

to that end, i believe it was a financial failure in the States, although much loved and much bought in Britain. playing it makes it very easy to see why. whereas The Beach Boys are about as American as you can get, and much of the reference points on this particular album are unmistakably American, there's just this amazing English feel to how it all sounds. and i would, like totes, accept that i have that reaction due to this record influencing the next 5 - 6 years of British psychedelic pop, right up until the point of the hard hitting Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin sound dominating that which was not all the glam of Bowie and Bolan.

my favourite track off of the album? just to be awkward, the only non-Brian Wilson track on the record, Sloop John B. it's from a time when cover versions were done because an existing song expressed what the artist wanted to say better than they could write it themselves, and not just for commercial considerations. just as Crossroads is forever associated with Clapton and Cream, Hey Joe and All Along The Watchtower with Hendrix and Without You with Nilsson, i quite think it's the case that The Beach Boys took ownership of Sloop John B with their cover.

there are, approximately, 1001 different versions, variations and re-released packages of Pet Sounds out on release and available to buy. my advice? basically any CD, tape or lp that contains the original tracks of the album will do. extras are nice, but not essential - what made it onto the final release is that good that there's no chance of anything better than it being on a shelf or on a bit of tape somewhere.

and so, for the final ride, the second album proper off of the Beastie Boys, Paul's Boutique.

i still have the original issue CD of this. my Grandma and Grandad who are sadly no longer with us bought it for me, and so for that reason if no other it would be treasured. that it happens to be one truly great album, of course, helps.

yeah, i know, it was slammed, panned and didn't sell well at all on release. i don't know, i heard it and i loved it, and i am glad that as years went by others came to appreciate it too.

Paul's Boutique is the personification of all the artistic brilliance hip hop and rap can be. samples are used as instrumentation rather than a lazy backdrop. lyrics switch from witty, funny and entertaining to harsh, sharp, critical, hard and damning in the break of a beat. it's as an exciting and edgy album now as it was, what, some 26 or so years ago when i first heard it. that takes some doing, that, i would think, by anyone's definition. not bad for a band that were written off as a gimmick with a novelty song called Fight For Your Right.

despite the predominant use of samples for their sound, the Beastie Boys were in fact accomplished musicians, and from time to time let that rip across records. here's a bit of that on a particularly hard hitting highlight on the album, Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun.

from what i can work out, modern day rap or if you like hip hop is all about displaying an on the whole unwarranted sense of entitlement, of being brazen and brash about how much money you are making off the absolute minimum level of work and talent, with the occasional stop off to make sure everyone knows how sorry you are that a mate got killed in a drive by shooting, for some reason using Sting to channel those emotions, in particular if someone has already beaten you to a Dolly Parton track. well, if the kids like that, then that's fine, but i think i really rather preferred it all with a bit more intelligence behind it, as given by the Beasties, and indeed the likes of Public Enemy and NWA.

and so that's that for bus vibes, then. car vibes instead? i really don't think so. it's going to be all Who, Frankie and U2, and i've probably written more than enough on them over the years here anyway. should anything of consequence come up on the car stereo, then sure, but it won't be regular.

i am really sorry that bus vibes didn't get as far as edition #69, as i was really looking forward to some super funky Prince. hey ho.

thanks for reading, and dig what you dig, man.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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