For me, as for so many, Brian Wilson isn’t only a musician I look up to: he feels almost like a best friend I’ve never met. Everything about his musical persona is crafted out of gentleness and love. So perhaps it’s due to feelings of closeness that I want to review No Pier Pressure positively. Every inch of my being wants to be able to say this is a fine release, and a worthy addition to the man’s legacy. But I can’t. Unfortunately, as it stands, No Pier Pressure is okay at its best, and – as much as it pains me to type these words – flat out bad at its worst.
Things start well, with the solid This Beautiful Day. It’s a treat indeed to hear those angelic vocals again: Wilson sounds as good on the track as he did almost half a century ago on You Still Believe in Me. On The Island is another success, what with its sun-bleached lyric and a guest spot for She & Him that really works.
But those two tracks represent the album’s only true highlights: it’s all downhill from there. The songs range from the painfully forgettable – the pretty but hollow What Ever Happened – to the flat out painful. Saturday Night feels like it barely features Wilson at all, and the insipid melody begins to grate within the space of a whole fifteen seconds. Nonetheless, of them all, Runaway Dancer is the album’s worst track. It’s an embarrassing, daggy ‘dance’ number that immediately and horrendously shows Wilson’s age: it sounds like the great musician’s attempt to cash in on a musical genre he doesn’t particularly like, or even understand. It’s the worst song a great musician has released in a very, very long time.
A precious handful of the mundane tracks have a few nice moments – Our Special Love starts well, before it falls apart into tacky nonsense; Half Moon Bay, an instrumental, is pleasant but overlong; and the opening strains of One Kind Of Love hint at a better song than the one it becomes.
But really, as hard as I’m trying to focus on the positives, it’s impossible for me to escape No Pier Pressure’s essential flaws. Despite the odd flash of brilliance, on the whole this is a mostly lifeless, mostly embarrassing collection of songs. It’s a special kind of painful when an artist who you’ve spent much of your life looking up to turns out an album this bad. The best way forward is probably to pretend like it never got released.