Brian Wilson Davitt Sigerson - Essay

Davitt Sigerson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The finest wit, the most affecting, and the most difficult to achieve, is the wit of tolerance. The Beach Boys have become masters of this medium in recent years. Although their output has been worrisomely uneven, they have not, as some argue, "gone soft." The Beach Boys have never worked with the facile arts of cynicism: so, in the Sixties, simple minds believed their surfing records to be naive, because they were uncontemptuous … so, in the Seventies, simple minds believe the Beach Boys are dead, because they are unrepentent.

The Beach Boys are not dead, as this fine album ["L.A. (Light Album)"] proves. Their gentle wit begins in the title, a double pun. For not only does LA stand for "Light Album" (at which unperceptive listeners may dismiss it)—the "Light," we are told, refers to "the awareness … and presence … of God."…

"Here Comes The Night" does for the dance-floor what "I Get Around" did for the wood-panelled station wagon. It's a disco record, a Beach Boys record and a great record, in no particular order.

The rest of "L.A." is comprised of short, melancholy, exquisite ballads. "Angel Come Home" is a great pop record on an old theme. "Good Timin'" and "Full Sail" are songs with positive messages that make you feel sad; its clear how imperfect we are, how pathologically misunderstanding and misunderstood, how seeing the light and employing it are not the same thing. That they communicate irony without bitterness, sadness without hoplessness, is the mark of their art.

Davitt Sigerson, "The Beach Boys' Divine Light," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), March 31, 1979, p. 23.