Dennis Wilson

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

Those expecting surf, sun and/or sand from Dennis Wilson might find themselves taking something of a bad trip upon popping in Pacific Ocean Blue. This 1977 solo debut by the Beach Boys drummer—and Brian’s younger bro—is altogether darker and deeper than anything touched upon by his main band. Forget Smile, too: Much of the album plays like a woozy Malibu riff on The Wall, a meditation on love, nature and loneliness that grows progressively eerier and more unsettling as it continues.

Wilson’s voice is limited, but as a songwriter and—especially—an arranger, he’s an overpowering force. “Thoughts of You” gradually layers multitiered harmonies and ominously sweeping strings, yielding a three-minute epic that threatens to trump Roger Waters for sheer hallucinatory paranoia. The record hits its emotional peak on the brief yet enormously moving “Farewell My Friend,” a piano-and-voice adieu swimming in liquid reverb and synthesized seagull caws. There is breezy rock here, such as the honky-tonkin’ “What’s Wrong” and the Cat Stevens–esque life affirmer “Rainbows,” though what stays with you is the sense of a scarily talented artist awash in complex feelings. “Pacific Ocean Blues” rides in on a funky strut, but the lyrics contain brain-scrambling eco-commentary: “The flagship of death is an old whaling trawler / The people are rising over whale killing crawlers.” Disc two of this lavish reissue features Wilson’s scrapped follow-up—the compelling but spottier Bambu—uncompleted upon his 1983 drowning death at age 39.

Pacific Ocean Blue (Caribou/Epic/Legacy)