Brian Wilson

No Pier Pressure

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That's Why God Made the Radio provided a bittersweet coda to the Beach Boys' career but the soothing sounds of the 2012 reunion didn't linger long before they were soured by the internal fighting endemic to the band. Mere weeks afterward, Mike Love announced Brian Wilson wouldn't join the Beach Boys for any dates after the summer 2012 tour, leaving Brian free to capitalize on the good press of That's Why God Made the Radio. He headed into the studio with guitarist Jeff Beck and producer Don Was in 2013 with the intention of cutting a full album but that collaboration quickly fell apart, leaving Wilson to re-team with his longtime collaborator Joe Thomas to turn these abandoned sessions into what turned out to be No Pier Pressure. Caught halfway between a back-to-basics move along the lines of TWGMTR and a star-studded extravaganza, No Pier Pressure certainly doesn't have much to do with the high art that's marked Wilson's new millennium; there's nary an echo of the SMiLE revival or the Van Dyke Parks collaboration That Lucky Old Sun. This is all sand, sun, and Saturday night nostalgia, a sensibility goosed by the addition of Al Jardine, David Marks, and Blondie Chaplin -- the part of the Beach Boys camp that threw in their lot with Brian -- who help give their numbers ("What Ever Happened," "The Right Time," "Sail Away") a bit of the classicist AM pop sheen that made That's Why God Made the Radio so soothing. It's a nice anchor for the record and, frankly, No Pier Pressure needs such a grounding force because it often threatens to drift far away on the surging tides of showbiz schmaltz. When She & Him breeze in to deliver some Caribbean camp on "On the Island," the results are agreeably camp but "Runaway Dancer," a collaboration with Sebu Simonian of Capital Cities that seems determined to revive the arch camp peak of Stock, Aitken & Waterman, feels like a half-imagined Ibizaian hangover. By any measure, "Runaway Dancer" is bizarre but by arriving second on No Pier Pressure, it throws the whole feel of the album out of whack, turning such otherwise nice moments as Kacey Musgraves' "Guess You Had to Be There" cloying. By the time Nate Ruess of Fun. shows up for "Saturday Night," a throwback that seems to belong the early-'80s soft rock glory days of Carole Bayer Sager and not American Graffiti (and is the better for it), No Pier Pressure seems genuinely weird, as it's perilously perched between the best and worst of Wilson's pop talent and Thomas' showbiz instincts.

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