Caroline Now!

Caroline Now!

The Songs of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys

Marina / EFA

Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys are unique in their sound and influence; very few (if any) artists since them have managed to compose music that is as instantly catchy and — simultaneously — fantastically complex and multilayered. This very carefully plotted tribute to that music focuses on more obscure tracks, so if you were hoping to hear something like “Good Vibrations” or “Barbara Ann” done in a modern style, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Most of the names on here are unrecognizable, and even those that ring a bell do so only faintly. Eugene Kelly, who opens the album with “Lady,” fronted Captain America and Eugenius in the early ’90s. Jad Fair, Eric Matthews, and the High Llamas are a bit more likely to be recognized, but so far have had more luck emulating the Beach Boys’ complicated pop than their overwhelming acceptance.

But never mind all that. What we have here is a fine collection of songs — all of them as beautifully constructed and delicately balanced. Soft-spoken and sensitive without being overtly sentimental, Caroline Now! is conclusive proof not only of Wilson + co.’s genius, but their lasting and pervasive influence. Stevie Jackson (Belle and Sebastian) and his rendition of “Good Time” is an intimate session with an acoustic guitar. Jad Fair’s self-conscious “Do Ya” is awkward but charming, to say the least. Well-researched liner notes (which include an interview with Wilson himself) make this indispensable to any fan of the Beach Boys or student of American Pop.

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