Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Brian Wilson released Smile after nearly 40 years


Brian Wilson

Released: September 28, 2004

Charted: October 16, 2004

Peak: 13 US, 7 UK, 44 CN, 17 AU

Sales (in millions): 0.34 US, 0.1 UK, 0.44 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: pop


Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Our Prayer/ Gee
  2. Heroes and Villains (8/5/67, 12 US, 8 UK) *
  3. Roll Plymouth Rock
  4. Barnyard
  5. Old Master Painter/ You Are My Sunshine
  6. Cabin Essence
  7. Wonderful (10/04, 29 UK)
  8. Song for Children
  9. Child Is Father of the Man
  10. Surf’s Up
  11. I’m in Great Shape/I Wanna Be Around/ Workshop
  12. Vega-Tables
  13. On a Holiday
  14. Wind Chimes
  15. Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow
  16. In Blue Hawaii
  17. Good Vibrations (10/22/66, 1 US, 1 UK) *
* Chart positions are for the original Beach Boys’ songs.

Total Running Time: 46:59


4.271 out of 5.00 (average of 32 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

This album lived in myth for decades” RS’20 – “the white whale of ‘60s record-making.” AMG The Smile album was intended as the Beach Boys[‘ response to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but “Brian Wilson halted work on it in May 1967 (after an exhausting 85 recording sessions).” AMG It “gradually gained a legend that not only inflated its rumored importance and complexity, but gave credence to an odd notion – that completing it, then or ever, was impossible.” AMG

It ”languished in the vaults and remained the perfect record – perfect, of course, because it had never been finished.” AMG However, nearly four decades later it finally surfaced. “Since Wilson himself was previously the most opposed to SMiLE appearing in any form, it’s a considerable shock that this new recording justifies even half of the promise that fans had attached to it.” AMG Brian Wilson “listened to the original recordings with his musical midwife, Darian Sahanaja of the Wondermints (which has long functioned as Wilson's live backing band), and then worked them into a live show and album recording.” AMG

“Everything that Wilson and his band could control sounds nearly perfect. Every instrument, every note, and every intonation is nearly identical to the late-‘60s tapes; one has to wonder whether vintage hand tools weren’t acquired for Workshop and Paul McCartney wasn’t flown in to add chewing noises to ‘Vega-Tables.’ (The players did, however, book time at one of Brian’s old haunts, Sunset Sound, and utilized a ‘60s tube console to record their vocals). No, the harmonies here aren’t the Beach Boys’ harmonies, and Brian’s vocals aren’t the vocals he was capable of 37 years ago, but they’re excellent and (best of all) never distracting.” AMG

“Longtime Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks helped [Wilson] realize his vision.” RS’20 His “new (or newly heard) lyrics fit into these compositions, and the work as a whole, like hand in glove.” AMG There are also “lush string arrangements, sublime melodies, and vocal harmonies, all impeccably constructed. Close your eyes and you can imagine how it might’ve changed the world in 1968, but with Wilson’s influence still all over scads of indie bands in 2004, it sounds and feels majestically modern.” RS’20

“Aside from the technical acumen on display, Wilson has also, amazingly, found a home – the proper home – for all of the brilliant instrumental snippets that lent the greatest part of the mystery to the unreleased SMiLE.” AMG “The former instrumentals include Barnyard; ‘Holiday,’ which is here called On a Holiday; ‘Look,’ which is now Song for Children; and ‘I Love to Say Da-Da,’ which is now part of ‘In Blue Hawaii’.” AMG

“Most surprisingly, nearly all of this thematic unity was accomplished by merely reworking the original material already on tape, which proves that Wilson was never very far from finishing SMiLE in 1967. (It’s very likely that the gulf was psychological; SMiLE had few supporters among Brian’s closest friends and family).” AMG

The new recording “reveals the record as nothing more (or less) than a jaunty epic of psychedelic Americana, a rambling and discursive, playful and affectionate series of song cycles. Infectious and hummable, to be sure, and a remarkably unified, irresistible piece of pop music, but no musical watershed on par with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Wilson’s masterpiece, Pet Sounds.” AMG

“The work that evolved divides into three sections: SMiLE begins with Americana, which takes the dream of continental expansion from the old Spanish town saga of Heroes and Villains to the landing at Plymouth Rock and, finally, the end of the frontier at Hawaii.” AMG “It continues with a Cycle of Life that progresses from the virginal grace of Wonderful to the simultaneous peak and decline of the creative life on Surf’s Up; and ends with an environmental cycle called The Elements, which includes Vega-Tables, (Earth), Wind Chimes (Air), ‘Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow’ (Fire), and In Blue Hawaii (Water).” AMG

“Wilson’s love of ‘feels’ – short passages of cyclical music that could be overdubbed and rearranged countless times – had made 1966’s Good Vibrations the ultimate pocket symphony, but had also quickly spiralled into the instability that consumed him during its follow-up, ‘Heroes and Villains, projected to be the centerpiece of SMiLE.” AMG

“Reports that the recording of Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow had caused a nearby building to burn down and whispers of ‘inappropriate music’ gave it the character of a monster, one that cursed all those who approached it and claimed the heart and mind of its major participant.” AMG

“Hopefully, Capitol is readying a SMiLE Sessions box set to release all of the vintage material, but it’s clear that nothing they dig up from the vaults will be able to match the unity of this attractive recording. It’s up to the standards of anyone who’s ever scoured the bootlegs to create a SMiLE tape, and further, it beats them all, which is the highest compliment. So, if you’ve never been burdened with a friend’s SMiLE tape before, count yourself lucky that Brian Wilson’s is the first you’ll hear. And if you have heard a few, prepare to listen to them much less religiously.” AMG

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First posted 3/29/2008; last updated 4/26/2022.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Green Day released American Idiot

American Idiot

Green Day

Released: September 21, 2004

Peak: 13 US, 12 UK, 13 CN, 12 AU

Sales (in millions): 5.91 US, 1.8 UK, 18.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: punk/pop


Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. American Idiot (8/21/04, 61 US, 5 AR, 1 MR, 3 UK, sales: 0.2 m, airplay: 0.1 m)
  2. Jesus of Suburbia (10/25/05, 27 MR, 17 UK)
    i. Jesus of Suburbia
    ii. City of the Damned
    iii. I Don’t Care
    iv. Dearly Beloved
    v. Tales of Another Broken Home
  3. Holiday (3/14/05, 19 US, 1 AR, 1 MR, 11 UK)
  4. Boulevard of Broken Dreams (10/16/04, 2 US, 1 AR, 1 MR, 30 AC, 1 AA, 5 UK, sales: 5.0 m, airplay: 0.9 m)
  5. Are We the Waiting
  6. St. Jimmy
  7. Give Me Novacaine
  8. She’s a Rebel
  9. Extraordinary Girl
  10. Letter Bomb
  11. Wake Me Up When September Ends (8/31/05, 6 US, 12 AR, 2 MR, 13 AC, 8 UK)
  12. Homecoming
    i. The Death of St. Jimmy
    ii. East 12th St.
    iii. Nobody Likes You
    iv. Rock and Roll Girlfriend
    v. We’re Coming Home Again
  13. Whatsername

Total Running Time: 57:14

The Players:

  • Billie Joe Armstrong (vocals, guitar, piano)
  • Mike Dirnt (bass, backing vocals)
  • Tré Cool (drums, percussion, backing vocals)


4.059 out of 5.00 (average of 22 ratings)

Quotable: “One of the few – if not the only – records of 2004 to convey what it feels like to live in the strange, bewildering America of the early 2000s.” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Who would’ve ever guessed that the most successful politically-charged album of the 2000s – a rock opera, no less – would be authored by” PM “the Nineties’ most irrepressible punk brats” RS’11 “best known for an album named Dookie?” PM The album “revitalized Green Day after some commercial lean times, and the record’s critical accolades and gangbuster sales cemented the trio…as an institution.” PM They took on “the kind of gargantuan old-school concept album that nobody else seemed to have the guts to try” RS’20 and “raged against political complacency of mid-decade America with a Who-size sense of grandeur, zeroing in on the rock audience’s political outcasts and misfits.” RS’20

The funny thing is, Green Day hadn’t changed all that much in the decade since ‘Longview’ vaulted the group to stardom.” PM Even here, “the speedy punk blasts of…St. Jimmy PM and “the fiery anti-Dubya title anthem” AMG “sound like vintage Green Day.” AZ “The key difference is that on this full-length the members’ bad attitude and the devil-may-care spirit found righteous inspiration in their outrage at the state of Bush-led America circa 2004.” PM “In its musical muscle and sweeping, politically charged narrative,” AMG Green Day “proved they could take on the kind of gargantuan old-school concept album that nobody else seemed to have the guts to try.” RS’11

American Idiot is “one of the few – if not the only – records of 2004 to convey what it feels like to live in the strange, bewildering America of the early 2000s.” AMG This is “one of the greatest albums of its generation,” GL “as effective a manifesto of the band's musical capabilities as it is its political leanings.” PM “The increased musicality of the band is matched by Armstrong's incisive, cutting lyrics, which effectively convey the paranoia and fear of living in American in days after 9/11, but also veer into moving, intimate small-scale character sketches.” AMG These are “songs that are as visceral or as poignant as Green Day at their best, songs that resonate outside of the larger canvas of the story.” AMG

To that end, Green Day found their greatest commercial success with Boulevard of Broken Dreams, a “Foo Fighters-style power ballad” AZ that reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy for Record of the Year. “The hushed Wake Me Up When September EndsAZ tread similar ground and gave Green Day yet another top-ten pop hit.

However, the songs “have a different, more lasting impact when taken as a whole.” AMG Green Day rage “against political complacency of mid-decade America with a Who-size sense of grandeur.” RS’11 It’s tempting to see this as the punk trio’s “version of a Who album.” AMG Indeed, “American Idiot is an unapologetic, unabashed rock opera, a form that Pete Townshend pioneered with Tommy, but Green Day doesn’t use that for a blueprint as much as they use the Who’s mini-opera ‘A Quick One, While He's Away,’ whose whirlwind succession of 90-second songs isn’t only emulated on two song suites here,” AMG (such as “the nine-minute epic Jesus of Suburbia,” RS’11 “a master class in song writing” GL) “but provides the template for the larger 13-song cycle.” AMG

“But the Who are only one of many inspirations on this audacious, immensely entertaining album.” AMG The album is “built around elaborate melodies, odd tempo changes, and a collection of songs that freely reference classic rock warhorses like the Beatles and Pink Floyd.” AZ “The story of St. Jimmy has an arc similar to Hüsker Dü's landmark punk-opera Zen Arcade, while the music has grandiose flourishes straight out of both Queen and Rocky Horror Picture Show (the ‘50s pastiche Rock and Roll Girlfriend is punk rock Meat Loaf), all tied together with a nervy urgency and a political passion reminiscent of the Clash, or all the anti-Reagan American hardcore bands of the ‘80s.” AMG Green Day assimilates these influences into its own musical template which “fuels the anger, disillusionment, heartbreak, frustration, and scathing wit at the core of American IdiotAMG

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First posted 3/27/2008; last updated 5/1/2022.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Arcade Fire released debut album Funeral


Arcade Fire

Released: September 14, 2004

Peak: 131 US, 33 UK, 23 CN, 80 AU

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 0.36 UK, 1.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: alternative rock

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) (6/20/04, --)
  2. Neighborhood #2 (Laika) (3/28/05, #30 UK)
  3. Une Année Sans Lumière
  4. Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) (5/23/05, #26 UK)
  5. Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)
  6. Crown of Love
  7. Wake Up (11/14/05, #29 UK)
  8. Haiti
  9. Rebellion (Lies) (9/12/05, #19 UK)
  10. In the Backseat

Total Running Time: 48:02


4.353 out of 5.00 (average of 14 ratings)

Quotable: “Arcade Fire’s debut…defined the independent rock of the ‘00s.” – Rolling Stone

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Arcade Fire’s debut…defined the independent rock of the ‘00s.” RS’20 The Montreal-based group “made symphonic rock that truly rocked, simultaneously outsize and deeply personal, like the best pop.” RS’20 The group’s “emotional debut…is brave, empowering, and dusted with something that many of the indie-rock genre’s more contrived acts desperately lack: an element of real danger.” AMG The album touched on themes of “loss, love, forced coming-of-age and fragile generational hope,” RS’11 “rendered even more poignant by the dedications to recently departed family members contained in its liner notes.” AMG

“Paying tribute to lost love is a personal moment but it was the connection that the band of merry musicians shared with each other and the audience that made the experience enriching.” FO Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, the married couple at the helm, “are broken, beaten, and ferociously romantic, reveling in the brutal beauty of their surroundings like a heathen Adam & Eve.” AMG “The songs here are full of the horrible electricity of grief” GU but “Funeral is anything but a morbid affair.” FO “Though the title of the album may have solemn connections…there is a palpable verve to the record that feels energising” FO and “is somehow joyous.” FO “For all its sad realism…this was music that still found solace, and purpose, in communal celebration, as anyone who saw them live during this period can attest. The upshot was an album that repaid countless listens – and made a generation of young rockers grateful for those childhood cello lessons. RS’11

“Aesthetically…there is no inherent weakness with the LP.” PM Arcade Fire “accomplished the seemingly impossible with its debut — it made music that was equally avant-garde and flat-out fun.” EB “The album addresses some of the most vulnerable moments of our society with a baroque-pop prowess that, legendary fan, David Bowie would be proud of.” FO

The songs, especially the four-part ‘Neighborhood’ suite, stir such conflicting emotions that you might find yourself drying a tear and dancing at the same time.” EB “Quiet yet anthemic, cold yet passionate, joyous yet sad, the album touches on themes as broad as power, love and death, with an overwhelmingly affective sound that will hit you right in the heart and leave you wondering how you ever got through life without this album.” GL

“The album drips with enough romanticism to rival Jeff Buckley’s Grace,” AZ inhabiting “the same post-apocalyptic world as London Suede’s Dog Man StarRS’11 With “a rich, folkie musicality, the band made symphonic rock that truly rocked, using accordions and strings as central elements rather than merely as accessories, with a rhythm section that never let up.” RS’11 They weave “near-cinematic, folk-influenced chamber pop that slots in somewhere between Belle and Sebastian’s delicacy and the robust classicism of ’80s New Zealand bands such as the Chills and the Verlaines.” AZ “Butler sings like Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood used to play, like a lion-tamer whose whip grows shorter with each and every lash. He can barely contain himself, and when he lets loose it’s both melodic and primal, like Berlin-era Bowie or British Sea Power.” AMG

Wake Up, “featuring all 15 musicians singing in unison,” AMG “builds from a midtempo strum into a ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ gallop, which singer Win Butler interrupts with a yell: ‘You better look out below!’ Somehow, none of this hits the ear as overemotional.” AZ Songs like this “were simultaneously outsize and deeply personal, like the best pop.” RS’11

Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), the first of four metaphorical forays into the geography of the soul, follows a pair of young lovers who meet in the middle of the town through tunnels that connect to their bedrooms. Over a soaring piano lead that’s effectively doubled by distorted guitar, they reach a Lord of the Flies-tinged utopia where they can’t even remember their names or the faces of their weeping parents.” AMG

Neighborhood #2 (Laïka) examines suicidal desperation through an angular Gang of Four prism; the hypnotic wash of strings and subtle meter changes of Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles) winsomely capture the mundane doings of day-to-day existence; and Neighborhood #3 (Power Out), Funeral’s victorious soul-thumping core, is a goose bump-inducing rallying cry centered around the notion that ‘the power’s out in the heart of man, take it from your heart and put it in your hand’.” AMG

“The Arcade Fire are not bereft of whimsy. Crown of Love is like a wedding cake dropped in slow motion, utilizing a Johnny Mandel-style string section and a sweet, soda-pop stand chorus to provide solace to a jilted lover yearning for a way back into the fold, and Haiti relies on a sunny island melody to explore the complexities of Chassagne’s mercurial homeland.” AMG

“However, it’s the sheer power and scope of cuts like ‘Wake Up’…and the mesmerizing, early-Roxy Music pulse of Rebellion (Lies) that make Funeral the remarkable achievement that it is. These are songs that pump blood back into the heart as fast and furiously as it’s draining from the sleeve on which it beats, and by the time Chassagne dissects her love of riding In the Backseat with the radio on, despite her desperate fear of driving, Funeral’s singular thread is finally revealed; love does conquer all, especially love for the cathartic power of music.” AMG

“One of the indie rock community’s most beloved finds of 2004, Arcade Fire are poised to win over even more listeners.” AZFuneral still retains its power and beauty years after its release and stands as an important landmark in shining a light on music made in Canada.” PM

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Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 8/17/2010; last updated 4/28/2022.