|The Beach Boys:
Wild Honey Label: Capitol
According to AllMusic Guide, Wild Honey in its original release format, sans bonus tracks, clocks in at 24 minutes and 24 seconds. That’s 12 minutes and 12 seconds of music per album side. What the hell? Well, it was more or less proof that the Beach Boys were fading fast in comparison to just about everyone else out there making music at the time. Sgt. Pepper and the Summer of Love passed the group by. Smiley Smile was a mere soured fart compared to the glory that Smile was supposed to have been, and Brian Wilson was soon a victim of too much drugs and dropping out. The rest of the band soon moved his piano into a giant sandbox in his house to supposedly give him those old vibes of their former glory.
Well, there were still no songs about cars, chicks, and surfing. What popped out instead was Wild Honey, another stripped-down affair that was a nod to the R&B music Carl Wilson initially loved and wound up turning Brian onto sometime before they became recording artists. Indeed, the title track is sung by Carl, who by this point was the member of the band holding everything together. He was the one who always stood by Brian, especially during Pet Sounds, when cousin Mike Love wanted nothing to do with the project.
Wild Honey still only feels half a step removed from the flakiness of Smiley Smile. It’s the more satisfying album of the two, thanks to there being actual songs on the album, but it’s not without its own moments of sheer weirdness. In a moment of zonked, gonzo brilliance, Brian Wilson tosses off “I’d Love Just Once to See You,” which was the precursor to the equally nutty “Busy Doin’ Nothin.’” “I’d Love Just Once to See You” culminates in perhaps one of the most hilarious endings in a song ever, finishing off with the Beach Boys’ harmonies floating away in as nonchalant a manner as possible.
Elsewhere, Brian manages to take the lead on “Here Comes the Night,” which sounds like a freak show at the chorus thanks to Wilson’s constipated delivery. He also contributes parts to “A Thing or Two,” the groovy “Aren’t You Glad” which sort of loses its oomph at the choruses, and the stunning “Let the Wind Blow.” This last tune sounds like the kind of thing “Wind Chimes” on Smiley Smile wanted to be. But hey, that song was its own weird mess in the end.
But it’s Carl who comes through time and again to place Wild Honey on a higher pedestal than its predecessor. “Darlin’” is a classic by any standard, and the cover of “I Was Made to Love Her” cooks with an assuredness that Brian just didn’t have anymore. Likewise, the short and groovy “How She Boogalooed It” (not sung by Al Jardine, mind you) has a nervous energy running through it that sounds like both a nod to sock hop rock and roll and some weird bit of amphetamine-powered garage groove. It’s just a shame that the whole album has to end on “Mama Says,” another leftover fragment from the Smile project that makes no sense out of its original context and feels like a letdown after so many good songs.
But that was that, more or less. Brian would continue his decline into paranoia and depression, while the rest of the band tried to remain relevant in an ever-changing ‘60s atmosphere. While some of the group would go off to India along with the Beatles in 1968, their result would be the lightweight Friends LP, while the Fab Four delivered the stunning White Album. Still, the band would make a comeback of sorts in the ‘70s, becoming a huge concert draw with fans wanting to hear all the oldies while all the new stuff (save for the rare album like Sunflower) was passed over. For the Beach Boys, 1967 was definitely a surf’s down event.