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Brian Wilson's Love Letter To Southern California

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Californians like to sing songs about California. Actually, so do non-Californians, just ask the Ramones. Even they know Rockaway Beach is a dump. Call it civic pride or just common sense, a song about the sun shining and the top rolled down is never a bad thing in this town: you can look out the window and sing along about three hundred and fifty days out of the year.

The great songs about So Cal surf and turf are many, and a lot of the best ones were written by Brian Wilson and his various pals years ago. It’s not all he wrote about, of course. The Beach Boys sang about proper foot care, their favorite health food store and the merits of Johnny Carson during the seventies. And he wrote some unbelievably poignant songs about loneliness, betrayal and resignation that will force pain out of your speakers and into your life if you let them.

Since returning to the stage in 1998, he’s released two solo albums that contained their share of pleasant moments, but not much of substance. It was still quite gratifying to see Brian and original collaborator Van Dyke Parks finally complete their surrealist symphony from 1966, SMiLE, in 2004. But he hadn't left much cause for optimism in terms of new work.

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So it’s nice to report that on That Lucky Old Sun (Capitol), he’s started staring at the sun again, and delivered a heartfelt love letter to his homeland. It’s not hard to imagine that digging LA would continue to inspire the elder Wilson, and with co-writer Scott Bennett and his highly qualified backing band, including several members of local retro-pop heroes the Wondermints, he’s finally made the album we've long known he was capable of.