I’ve been comparing the original Smile
bootlegs with the finished product delivered unto us last year. Also, watching a doco with brief audio snippets of the original tapes reminded me of some noticeable differences which only now become more apparent. It’s all in the voices, the vocal approach. And Brian’s singing style or brief to the BBoys. The singing is much younger, of course, and hence fresher and better suited to innocence slash youth themes (Carl, always so fresh!). But most significantly, the original vocals are fused and forged with melancholy, with a kind of hashed-out sadness slash longing slash emotional feel. In Brian above all. A vocal on the cusp of self-alienation, regarding the self from a slight distance and perceiving a sadness therein. It comes out on the extra scattered tracks from the period as well, stuff like With Me Tonight
. The new and completed album, despite all its slickness and clarity and musical precision, skims off this rich layer of melancholy cream (ugh, great curdling metaphors, Batman). The new album’s (backing) vocals are great, except as mentioned earlier, Brian sings all the leads and Brian’s voice is several generations removed from the young man of 25 — it’s as though the care he took with 'feels' in the 60s has been lost; his inflections are pedestrian and aged. The melancholy infusion is gone; the sheer emotion and originality that so impressed critics and sycophants in '66. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful we have a finished product at all; but the subjective layers of the originals flatten the feel and beauty of the new stuff somewhat, they lack a tiny but noticeable degree of emotional range. And the material is so well suited to melancholy shades and browns. Compare, for reference, the versions of Wonderful
, even Vega-tables
, their sheer evocative power.
Also, on PopMatters now, my bit on Dublin fruit and flowers and Moore Street
People in Dublin seem to be congenitally afflicted with the habit of walking into others, thereby making any venture onto a crowded street a thoroughly haphazard and jaunty experience.