Friday, September 3, 2010

380. Sunflower- A bunch of Beach Boys songs you've never heard.

Album: Sunflower
Artist: The Beach Boys
Year: 1970
Genre: Rock


  1. Slip On Through
  2. This Whole World
  3. Add Some Music to Your Day
  4. Got to Know the Woman
  5. Deirdre
  6. It's About Time
  7. Tears in the Morning
  8. All I Wanna Do
  9. Forever
  10. Our Sweet Love
  11. At My Window
  12. Cool, Cool Water

By 1970 the Beatles had broken up and the road was clear for the Beach Boys to become the dominant force in the pop world. Sadly they were unable to pounce on the opportunity. Brian Wilson was a broken man and the public had moved on from the Beach Boys when they moved away from their surfing roots and tried to embrace psychedelia. They were dropped by their record label and drifting aimlessly like a surfer on a reservoir. When they finally got an album of new material together and a label who would sign them they produced Sunflower, which decades later rock critics have decided they love but the record buying public ignored completely. It's highest chart position in the US was 151, a sad decline for a once proud band.

I have to confess I've never really liked the Beach Boys much. I find their sunny attitude to life and devotion to surfing intensely irritating. I think it's partly because I know they didn't actually surf themselves. They adopted a manufactured image in order to sell records and that sort of thing always gets on my nerves. Sunflower however is a late-era Beach Boys album, there's no Good Vibrations or Surfer Girl here it's post psychadelic music created by millionaires dealing with fame, drug habits and a sense of spiritual emptiness.

Sunflower is also a collaborative effort. Every member of the group contributed a track after band leader and songwriter Brian Wilson decided to retreat into his bedroom and immerse himself in cocaine and junk food. While the others had been able to ride on Wilson's songwriting abilities in the past they had to produce their own songs which gives Sunflower a bit of a disjointed feel. It's the strange sound of a veteran band relying on novice songwriters.

A lot of Sunflower is painfully bad: Diedre is a saccharine dedication song whose existence must be an unwanted extra layer of pain for anyone unfortunate enough to be named Deidre. Add Some Music To Your Day sounds like a discarded Sesame Street composition and Tears in the Morning is so bad it features a piano accordion. Lyrically the album is a definitely on the odd side as well. Our Sweet Love feature the line "Pretty things like insects and flowers, I want to make them part of our sweet love." Sorry what? I can understand how you'd want floral arrangements to make a contribution to your romantic life but insects? What girl wants insects to be part of their sweet love? "Oh darling how romantic! You've strewn the bed with rose petals! And what's this all over the pillow? Oh my God!" Cool Cool Water must annoy chemists everywhere when it keeps refering to water as "a gas" not once but several times. Men in white lab-coats must scream "It's a bloody liquid!" at their CD players every time this track comes on.

In amongst the average tracks and the below-average tracks is one song that I'd have to say is an undiscovered gem. It's About Time is a fantastic Rock and Roll song and I wonder where it's been all my life. It's three minutes of great music that any rock band at the time would be proud of. A thumping piano and bass riff, a catchy chorus, some bongos and a fantastic vocal performance. If you haven't heard it then I strongly recommend you track it down.

Sunflower might be a bit of an unfocused mess but it's definitely an unfocused mess by the Beach Boys. The tight harmonies and lush vocals are on every track and for fans of the Wilsons and Co it's no Pet Sounds but I can imagine it earning a regular spin on the turntable.

Highlight: It's about time
Lowlight: Deidre

Influenced by: The Beatles.
Influenced: Rock critics to wax vitriolic.

Favourite Amazon Review Customer Quote: "even the marginal tracks (deidre, at my window, tears in the morning) are not bad at all and are masterpieces when compare to any wack music you care to mention."

-I love the application of hip hop street terms to 1970's psychadelic pop.

So is Sunflower the work of Budding Geniuses or Blooming Idiots? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. Cant wait to hear Its about time. Sums up what 500 horizons can discover.