Webmaster's note: Another positive review for POB from the rock press. This may be one of my favorites...Cohen understands the impressionistic nature of Dennis' music, and the POB material in particular, and communicates these qualities eloquently. The bittersweet irony of the last line of the review hit me right between the eyes. Circus Magazine, September, 1977. Photo Caption: Dennis Wilson was the inspiration for "Surfin". He still rides the California waves avidly.|
All Alone and
On the Beach
Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue Is First Beach Boy Solo LP
by Scott Cohen
The Beach Boys began in the back seat of the Wilson's family car one Friday night in 1961, when the three young brothers sang in three-part harmony. Later, brother Dennis turned to Brian and suggested that they sing a song about surfing - all the kids at school would love it. So Brian and cousin Mike Love wrote "Surfin", and you know the rest.
Dennis, who rode a surfboard, is the first Beach Boy in their sixteen year history to release a solo album. Nonetheless, the album, Pacific Ocean Blue (Brother), is not a surfing album. Nor do any of the Beach Boys appear on it, although his wife Karen Lamm, Billy Hinsche (he has sung backup vocals for years) and ex-Beach Boys Bruce Johnston and Ricky Fataar, do.
Pacific Ocean Blue is, in fact, very un-Beach Boyish, if that's at all possible, Dennis - who flunked his army physical when he was caught with someone else peeing in his jar, always seemed a little different from the others.
The meaning of Pacific Ocean Blue, if an album could be said to have a "meaning" will not be found in any individual song, but in the impression the sum total of all the songs creates, just like it's not an individual snowflake, but the total accumulation of the storm -- in Dennis' case, a sandstorm -- that leaves an overall impression.
One gets the impression from listening to the album that his house is about to slip into the ocean, or a fist is about to come through the door. The punch itself, however, is felt, not in any one song, but in the spaces between them, just like the most moving parts of a great book are often read between the lines. The tricky part of this album is that it sounds like so many others, although which, exactly, escapes us. This is not to say he is copying other people, or that Pacific Ocean Blue is, by comparison, inferior to them -- rather, it's like playing with a good poker player who you feel has the winning card up his sleeve, but don't know which.
The quality of his voice resembles the quality of light as it mixes with the fog rolling off the sea. "The sunshine blinded me this morning love! Like the sunshine, love comes and goes again. . ." in "Thoughts Of You" is sung in a sexy, gruff, late-at-night, another-cup-of-coffee, one-too-many-cigarettes sort of voice, to a wide awake one that's just had its first morning gulp of fresh sea air.
The hardest thing to identify is where the album's coming from -- no doubt somewhere aloof, sexy and remote, like Dennis himself -- and where it takes you. You don't know where, but it sends you there.
It's as if something in the date Dennis had been eating suddenly made him remember the tropics, just before an approaching storm. For him, the record was like having a short wave radio, one that could catch sounds coming from all directions. He had wanted the best album possible, just like he had wanted the best radio possible, as much so he could watch it spin on the turntable as to listen to it. Once a little deuce coupe had been his joy-thought. Now, when Dennis wheels through the California night, he can think of his record spinning out in the future, forever uniting himself with his listeners, no matter how distant they may be, whether in Japan, Java or the twenty-first century.