The Smile Sessions is being touted as the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Beach Boys[/lastfm]’ final finishing of 1967’s Smile–an album that was supposed to be the follow-up to the still-influential 1966 classic Pet Sounds.
While that may be true, Smile Sessions actually comes off as more of an experiential, experimental look into the cultural and artistic mindset of the mid- to late-’60s, the popularity of psychedelic drug use, and the amazing working process of [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Brian Wilson[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Van Dyke Parks[/lastfm].
The Smile Sessions starts with what the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Beach Boys[/lastfm] are most famous for: their sweet-toned harmonies. Reminiscent of divine Gregorian chant, “Our Prayer” is a dulcet introduction into Smile Sessions–an album with songs that pierce through the good-old-boy gossamer to expose a hammock full of relaxed psychedelia, Dadaist jazz, circus strains, and Tin Pan Alley vaudeville.
On the second album during “Our Prayer (Dialog),” Wilson asks “Are you guys feeling the acid yet?”
“Heroes and Villains” shows the quirky underbelly of the quintessential twee ’60s sound with symphonic pop gem turned vaudeville when Wilson sings lines like “in the cantina, margaritas keep the spirit high.” In the midst of us getting to know this drunken character, the Beach Boys mimic the sound of a police siren with their harmonic wail. Our hero (or villain?) is “under arrest.”
The song becomes a question of light and dark, major and minor chords, light melodies with crunchy percussive. It’s ostensibly one of Wilson’s finest accomplishments.
Although as fine as “Heroes and Villains” is, it’s not as eccentric, endearing, and ultimately, as modern as “Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock).”
More Smile: “Worms,” “Surf’s Up,” and full track list