{fv_addthis}

Latest Blog Posts

by Matt White

29 Jan 2009

The shadow of Pet Sounds loomed large on the Beach Boys after it was released in 1966. How do you follow-up one of the greatest, if not THE greatest album of all-time? Well, with Smile of course! But when that album failed to materialize, the record-buying public seemed to turn their backs on the Beach Boys in disappointment. Album sales dwindled and despite “topical” songs like “Student Demonstration Time” (and despite their beards) the Boys suddenly seemed out of step with the times. It’s in retrospect that people have begun to discover and appreciate their post-Pet Sounds albums and it’s about time. Although this period was famously a difficult time for Brian Wilson, it didn’t stop him from writing some fantastic songs.

In 1968 most of Brian Wilson’s days were spent locked away in his Bel-Air mansion. Friends, the album the Beach Boys released that year, included the song “Busy Doin’ Nothin’” written by Brian. It’s practically a diary entry, describing in detail a typical day in the life of its author. It is also a mess of contradictions. Starting with the title of the song itself, Brian seems to be trying to convince us (and himself) that he’s keeping busy when in fact he seems to be doing nothing much at all. It really reads like an answer to the question “What do you DO all day, Brian?”

“I had to fix a lot of things this morning / ‘Cause they were so scrambled / But now they’re okay / I tell you I’ve got enough to do”

Brian sounds like an unconvincing child in these first lines. Vaguely describing that he’s fixing things (what things exactly?) because they’re “so scrambled” and then for some reason hurriedly adding he has enough to do. It’s also interesting that the word scrambled is used as it conjures up the state of Brian’s mind at this time, which indeed could have used some fixing.

The next line starts with Brian telling us how busy his afternoon is but immediately he changes the subject to the weather. He seems to be trying to veer off from the question of what occupies his time.

“The afternoon was filled up with phone calls / What a hot sticky day / The air is cooling down.”

 

What follows next is truly one of the most bizarre moments in any Beach Boys song ever. It’s basically Brian giving you directions to his house. He leaves out street names but it’s still a weirdly detailed and candid description. According to the Friends liner notes, ”provided you knew where to start, you would’ve gotten to Brian’s Bel-Air house.”

“Drive for a couple miles / You’ll see a sign and turn left for a couple blocks / Next is mine / You’ll turn left on a little road / It’s a bumpy one / You’ll see a white fence / Move the gate and drive through on the left side / Come right in and you’ll find me in my house somewhere / Keeping busy while I wait.”

Later in the song Brian wants to make a phone call to a friend but can’t find the number, so what does he do?

“I sat and concentrated on the number / And slowly it came to me / So I dialed it.”

That’s right; he sits and concentrates on the phone number until he remembers it. The fact that the above line is an actual lyric in an actual song is exactly why I love Brian Wilson. And it gets better…

“And I let it ring a few times / There was no answer / So I let it ring a little more / Still no answer / So I hung up the telephone / Got some paper and sharpened up a pencil and wrote a letter to my friend.”

Such a great ending to such a bizarre and enjoyable song. On the surface the lyrics seem light and inconsequential and the music fits them perfectly; a bossa nova beat and soft flutes make the song so relaxed it’s almost lulling. But it all seems to hide an extreme loneliness; the unanswered phone call to a friend, going so far as to invite the listener over to his house, directions provided. It’s an amazing glimpse into Brian Wilson’s world in the late ‘60s and proof that the Beach Boys’ great songs didn’t end with Pet Sounds.

by Sarah Zupko

29 Jan 2009

I’ve been enjoying Southeast Engine’s new record, From the Forest to the Sea (Misra Records), all week. The pastoral pop blended with classic indie rock, a bit of British Invasion harmony and Band/Byrdsian rootiness makes their new album a pretty addicting proposition. “Black Gold” is the first video off said release and has the band posing as tourists in Washington DC. Look for the album the week of February 17th and the PopMatters review then as well.

by Sarah Zupko

29 Jan 2009

Ben Kweller dropped by David Letterman’s show on Monday night to play “Fight”, a seriously country-infused tune off his upcoming release Changing Horses. Nice jump aboard the Americana bandwagon. Hey, it worked for Robert Plant and it works for Ben Kweller too. The hootenanny vibe is a really nice change of pace for Kweller, as the track comes across as half Nashville country and half Woody Guthrie folk anthem. Good stuff and befitting an artist who now calls Austin, Texas home.

And here’s the official video…

by PopMatters Staff

29 Jan 2009

The LA electropop duo Jupiter Rising may not be re-inventing the wheel with their club-friendly pop, but as Evan Sawdey noted back in 2007 “who needs to be revolutionary when you’re having so much fun?” The duo’s (Spencer Nezey and Jessica Payo) new record, The Quiet Hype drops on March 17th. In the meantime, here is their new video for “Falling Away” directed by Andrew Gura, who has previously worked with the likes of Wyclef Jean and Snoop Dogg.

by PopMatters Staff

29 Jan 2009

Andrew Bird dropped by the David Letterman show Tuesday night to strum his guitar and whistle his way through this track off Noble Beast. Mehan Jayasuriya says of the song: “‘Fitz & Dizzyspells’ skews closer to the Armchair Apocrypha model [of Andrew Bird albums], favoring layered (though mostly acoustic) guitar lines and propulsive drums, though there’s a brief pizzicato coda at the one minute mark.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Emerging from My Hiatus from Big Budget Games

// Moving Pixels

"I'd gotten burned out on scope and maybe on spectacle in video games, but I think it's time to return to bigger worlds to conquer.

READ the article