Review Summary: The magnum opus of Dennis The Menace. Epic, mythic, Spector-ish California pop, with vocals worthy of obsessed Mark Lanegan. Of all currently out of print albums, this one may be among five best.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Dennis Wilson was Beach Boys' sex symbol, one of the world's most obnoxious stars, spiritual father of Paris Hilton, in terms that his name was very often guest of newspaper's yellow pages. He was also a drummer for Beach Boys and was lucky to have Brian Wilson for elder brother. And it was easy to hate him. He had everything, and behaved so careless that it hurt.
So this is widely acknowledged version of his life. While nothing from above paragraph is not untrue, this is only one side to his story. When all of the dust settles down, he was the only possible heir when Brian Wilson stopped recording and composing, not because of familiar relations, but because of his unique talent.
Although Dennis learnt so much from Brian, his music was very far from his elder brother's. Brian often used elegant and gentle arrangement, while Dennis was much more closer to paint his musical pictures using Richard Wagner-esque sounds. Both used Phil Spector wall of sound technique, Brian often used to bring some heavenly harmonies, Dennis used it to add some dramatic and dark textures. To simplify things, Brian's music is sometimes described as teenage symphony to God. Talking about Dennis Wilson's music, nothing is further from truth than this. Dennis is wild, driven, devilish charmer, hyperactive child, always in trouble but always comes back and apologizes with tears in his eyes. And here is his musical force (but problem in his real life): ultimate devotion to his loving one, but disability to stay for a long time.
And this is evident on "Pacific Ocean Blue". It is very dark and bombastic LP and is often described as "one of the best cocaine fueled albums". It certainly has something paranoid and wasted. For example, album concludes with "End of the Show". Think of these lines - "it's wonderful to know that you are alive at the end of the show" and "thank you very much for everything I've ever dreamed of" and what happened to him subsequently - it was clearly his goodbye to this world. He also tackles ecology themes ("River Song"), love ("Rainbows", "You and I", "Thoughts of You"), living like a rock star "What's Wrong" and (not) surprisingly mortality ("Farewell My Friend" and "End Of The Show") from prodigal son's perspective. I see he was feeling cursed, restless and obsessed. His voice and songs are very emotional, moving and honest, voice sounding similar to Mark Lanegan or Tom Waits.
This album has been prepared for a long time, recorded during 7 years period. Dennis Wilson mostly played and sang on it. Although this album doesn't have some weak spots, it is not so unified, somehow I have feeling it is great collection of great songs rather than great album.
After release of "Pacific Ocean Blue", Wilson himself panned the album he had been making so painstakingly. He was wrong, needless to say. This album easily outsold most of Beach Boys then current records and those who have original copy of that album, may sell it for one hundred dollars. And it is because of the beautiful music. Maybe now in 2007, 30 years after original release, finally some Pacific Ocean Blue Special Collector's Edition sees the light of the day. We deserved it, and so did Dennis.