Label: Warner Brothers
With all the worthy, but often bandwagonesque attention being paid to Brian Wilson (circa “Pet Sounds”- of course) people often forget that he made a few other decent records with the Beach Boys right around that same time. The best post-“Pet Sounds” album is “Smile,” and was produced by rock composer Van Dyke Parks just over 30 years ago. “Smile” is a weird pop record, but also a very good one.
After having listened to so much Brian Wilson influenced music over the past year, a few months ago I decided to unearth a barely listened to copy of “Orange Crate Art.” For whatever reason I had picked up the album, listened to it once and then quickly lost track of it. Sometimes a surprise rediscovery can actually make an artist seem even better. “Orange Crate Art” is basically a album of songs written by Parks and sung by Wilson. On the surface the album sounds like a fusion of neo-Jimmy Buffet tropical cheese, and densely layored lyricism produced by a true studio genius.
Either way, it is nice to hear Wilson’s distinctive voice singing smart lyrics accompanied by a vaguely familiar structural style. For anyone smitten by the High Llamas, Eric Matthews, Richard Davies, Spooky Ruben or any of the other Pet Soundsian prodigy, “Orange Crate Art” is a curious and entertaining diversion.