I Just Wasn't Made For These Times (MCAD 11270)
The mid-90s pop revival created a musical climate such that Pet Sounds is now name-checked more than Alice Beasley at a "Moonlighting" convention. Uncalled-for irreverent pop-culture references aside, it is nice to see PS get the attention it deserves, though at the current rate of "influences" people bestow upon it, Pet Sounds very well might eventually attain the annoyingly overrated status of a Sgt. Pepper.
The Tom Petty and Thurston Moore testimonials in the 1995 Brian Wilson documentary I Just Wasn't Made For These Times were not of the typical Paul "I've bought a copy for all my kids" vein, though hearing Moore go on and on about the "creepy" cover art distinctly gave the impression that producer Don Was was going "Man, let's give this album some of that 'indie credibility'!"
Nevertheless, at this point in the game, Pet Sounds hardly needs DIY-world endorsements, and it was none too surprising that the album was a lead character in the Brian bio pic. Interspersed throughout the movie, the audience is treated to new performances of both Beach Boys and solo Brian material, and surprisingly, only one PS song is revisited, the eternally lovely "Caroline, No."
This is a good thing, though, as a nice spread of Brian's songs over the years is represented. One step away from a typical Unplugged arrangement, producer Was assembled a crack team of ace studio musicians (Keltner, Waddy Wachtel, etc) to back Brian on such gems as 20/20's "Do It Again," Sunflower's "This Whole World," and two stand-outs from Brian's '88 solo outing, whose sound palette has unfortunately not dated well.
Chalk one up to the power of good songwriting, as the stripped-down arrangements on IJWMFTT lift "Love And Mercy" and "Melt Away" out of the 80s synth-muck tarpits.
Granted, not every performance is going to go down as the definitive one, and most likely were not meant to in the first place. For instance, the version of "'Til I Die" is friendly enough, but there's absolutely no f'n way in hell it was going to approach the jaw-dropping oft-bootlegged long version from the Landlocked sessions. Not definitive, just generally pleasant all around.
Now for the major, major gripe here. This CD is 29 freakin' minutes long! What in Sam Hill? And that's including the mesmerizing demo of "Still I Dream of It." I don't care if there wasn't any more room in the movie for the addition of extra songs. It's not as though the studio musicians already didn't know the entire Brian catalog, or that there was a shortage of studio resources, etc.
29 minutes long! That's like 1959-era album reissue length here, and at least those are usually cheaper than normal. Now, don't get me wrong, just because a CD can hold 74+ minutes doesn't mean you fill it to the rim, but c'mon, unless it you're billing it as an EP or something, which in this case you can't because it's got 11 tracks, give the fans a lil' something. It had been 7 years since anyone had gotten to purchase any new Brian material (not counting the Beach Boys box set) throw us a bone!
In the same breath, the extra songs could've been like the rap-infested "Smart Girls" from Brian's forsaken Sweet Insanity album. Well, maybe that would've been a good thing. Or maybe not. At this point, I'm just as confused as Mr. Wilson. Does that make me a genius, too?
Review by Ray Davis, Cat Burglar