Brian Wilson Dave Marsh - Essay

Dave Marsh

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Beach Boys are easily the most overrated group in rock & roll history—which presents the reviewer with a problem: simply stating the facts invites an overreaction from the band's maundering cult who exaggerate the surf bums' importance. But the truth is that Brian Wilson was never a musical genius, though he executed some of the most crafty reworkings of Phil Spector's production style ever done and, for a few years, tapped into the heart line of teenage lifestyle; that the Beach Boys have not made great rock music since Wild Honey; that the Beach Boys have not made competent pop music since Holland.

Like the LPs that preceded it, L.A. (Light Album), the Beach Boys' CBS-distribution debut, offers hope to the faithful with a mix of the barely listenable and distant echoes of the good old days. Even the vaunted disco track, "Here Comes the Night," is not so much a sellout as it is simple padding….

Don't get me wrong. It would be easy to attack L.A. (Light Album) as an awful record, if only out of spite for being bored to death by the jabbering of the Beach Boys' champions. But this LP is worse than awful. It is irrelevant. (p. 57)

Dave Marsh, in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1979; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 292, May 31, 1979.