Minus Mike Love & Bruce Johnson, some tracks here on No Pier Pressure offer up a great Beach Boys reunion; with Al Jardine, David Marks, and even Blondie Chaplin included on the record. 13 songs long, or 16 (if you count the vinyl deluxe edition), Brian Wilson’s return serves up some classic Beach Boys jams and sadly, also just some boring throw-away.
Album opener, “This Beautiful Day,” kicks off the record perfectly, with Wilson-grade harmonies and giant vocals and synth pad/violin orchestration. One defining sound of No Pier Pressure, besides Wilson, is the use of Mark Isham on flugelhorn or jazz legend Wayne Bergeron on a harmon-muted trumpet, which always comes in just right where you need it, whether it’s a good song or not. Save, “This Beautiful Day,” and “Whatever Happened,” other album tracks like, “Runaway Dancer,” “On the Island (feat. She & Him),” and “Guess You Had To Be There (feat. Kasey Musgraves),” just sound corny and repetitive, and I honestly never want to hear them again, let alone got through the whole song without skipping to the next track.
Track 6, “Our Special Love,” featuring Peter Hollins, was originally supposed to feature Frank Ocean, and it’s so incredibly obvious how Ocean would have sounded so much better on the track than Hollins did. With Hollins, and the overly a cappella-like sounding production and vocal percussion, it sounds so forced, like they ripped it off of a Glee episode or from the forthcoming Pitch Perfect soundtrack. In fact, the original project was supposed to be a record described by Brian as a, “concept album entitled Pleasure Island: A Rock Fantasy.”
Whether or not No Pier Pressure is a manifestation of that original idea, if “On the Island,” or the album’s entire-island-60’s-disco-party theme doesn’t give it away, the original idea was supposed to be about “some guys who took a hike, and they found a place called Pleasure Island. And they met all kinds of chicks, and they went on rides,” as Wilson explained back in 2009. I was trying to find what tied all of these tracks together and made them sound so cheesy and boring, and I think Brian just told us why.
Back to the reason for Frank Ocean’s exclusion however, it was because, “he wanted to do rap,” as Wilson explained it, as well as his vocals, which was apparently not cool with Brian, but upon listening to the track, I can totally hear it happening and fitting in their so well, maybe even making it something of a good song, something “Super Rich Kids”-sounding. However, Ocean ended up not being on the record, as well as Lana Del Rey, who was supposed to finish out the album with Brian on “The Last Song,” but probably cancelled due to the record being the opposite of music that Lana Del Rey represents herself with. Or maybe she just heard the track with Kacey Musgraves and knew that it would be the right move to just get the hell out of there.
My recommendation, is to shorten the record to:
1) This Beautiful Day
2) What Ever Happened (feat. Al Jardine & David Marks)
3) Half Moon Bay (feat. Mark Isham)
4) The Right Time (feat. Al Jardine & David Marks)
5) Tell Me Why (feat. Al Jardine)
6) The Last Song
And just call it a new Brian Wilson & The Beach Boys – EP.