Brian Wilson + Blondie Chaplin and Al Jardine, “Sail Away” from No Pier Pressure (2015)

Share this:

This is as close as we’re apparently going to get to what should have happened in 2013, after the Beach Boys’ reunion tour with Brian Wilson.

There should have been new songs, a sense not just of homecoming (a feeling that surrounded the previous year’s That’s Why God Made the Radio) but of forgiveness, and of grace. They should have righted decades of wrongs, paved over the empty garden of lawsuits and bad vibes, emerged from the studio with another album sprung from new memories that finally replaced the bad ones.

That’s not how it turned out, of course. A number of reasons were proffered, of course. Sides were chosen, of course. But who ever you decide to blame, the facts are these: Moments like “Sail Away” — where Brian Wilson writes one of these soaring paeans to the endless horizon of a summer’s afternoon near the water, is joined in voicing it with fellow former Beach Boys members like Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin, and sends it out into the world — are becoming fewer. They just have to be.

After all, shadows are growing long over this American genius, as with so many of his generation. Time is running out for absolution over everything that’s wrecked the Beach Boys — personally, and even musically — in the time since they shook popular music to its girders with Pet Sounds. In the meantime, we’re left to treasure these partial reconciliations, to imagine them as something larger. But they really aren’t. Tragically, they simply can’t be.

“Sail Away” isn’t the Beach Boys. (Or even a similarly named track from Brian Wilson’s 1995 collaboration with Van Dyke Parks on Orange Crate Art.) It’s a lovely new song that reaches for, and almost collects within its grasp, those earlier hopes and dreams. Having three figures so closely associated with the Beach Boys certainly gives this session a gravitas for which others could scarcely hope. Still, as “Sail Away” begins to wind down, nothing remains but a soft, twilit poignancy.

It’s hard not to wonder what might have been.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
Share this:
Close