Saturday, April 16, 2011
BEACH BOYS - SUNFLOWER
I just caught the end of 'Gentlemen Prefer Blonds'. Jesus Christ Marilyn Monroe was a simpering idiot. Sure, she was an iconoclast and admittedly not unattractive but fuck me is she painful to watch 'act'. I would say 'I wonder how she got her big break' but I don't need to, I'd imagine those sculpted legs and sit up and beg chest defined the casting couch pre-req for an entire decade. What I will say is 'I wonder if those morgue slab rumors are true'.
It's interesting to see how certain ice-berg sized chunks of our cultural heritage seem alien in their uselessness here in 2011.
'Gentlemen Prefer Blonds' is perfect Saturday matinee fodder, brain-dead vintage pulp from a bygone era, a time of stuffy suits, airs and graces and plot-lines so contrived that they appear a parody.
Luckily for those of us stuck in the present, much of that popular culture flotsam of yesteryear does translate. We have the Rolling Stones, to a lesser extent The Beatles and other heavy hitters such as The Beach Boys. A funny group of chaps The Beach Boys. They didn't surf and they were grown men. What they did do was leave a hell of a cannon of work, one often hidden behind a deluge of very average tracks about cars, girls and surfing.
Amongst their more interesting work are the aft lorded 'Pet Sounds' (It's alright) and 'Smile' (we should get the final version at some point over the next couple of months). What they have two albums after 'Smile' (more accurately 'Smiley Smile' the unfinished 'Smile') is an unbroken run of three absolutely stellar albums: '20/20', 'Sunflower' and 'Surf's Up'.
Lets talk about 'Sunflower' because that's the album that I put on to drown out Marilyn's idiot voice. The title of the album and ever cheery sleeve are misleading. This isn't the seemingly sunny proposition that it presents itself as, the darkness that reverberates throughout the follow-up (Surf's Up) is also evident here. In fact the albums closing shot 'Cool Cool Water' dove-tails perfectly into the foreboding opener of 'Surf's Up'.
I inherited my copy of 'Sunflower' from my dad. Out of interest he bought it from 'Brierley's' (I would imagine of Brierley Hill near Birmingham England) for 62 1/2p in 1970. I don't remember him ever playing it but do recall it sitting tucked down the side of a silver Philips all in one surrounded by white shag-pile carpet.
That's not all that makes it special. The cover looks like an ill- rehearsed family portrait or team-shot and despite the great rainbow of colours and logo that frame it, this has to be contender for one of the most average album sleeves ever.
What saves it is the pictures on the gatefold. The group appear to have taken it upon themselves to don fancy-dress. Most interestingly of which are Alan Jardine's choice of dressing like a street peddling monkey grinder and more sinisterly Mike Love's decision to dress like some kind of bearded and potentially sinister deity surrounded by children. Anyway, rather than over analyzing this I will talk about the music.
'Slip on Through', 'This Whole World', 'Add Some Music to Your Day', 'Tears in the Morning' and 'Forever' are the standouts. What do they sound like? You know the drill: Vocal harmonies, considered slightly grandiose instrumentation and catchy as fuck. But 'Sunflower' has the added bonus of a slight twinkling of the darkness that reflected the often turbulent and fragile inner workings of the group at this time, one that would be fully realized on 1971's 'Surf's Up'.
They do not make them like they used to.