Okay, so I left a 5 star review for the first volume in Hickey's trilogy reviewing the Beach Boys catalogue and much of that review holds for this second volume. The approach and writing style is the same - so if you liked the first book, you'll also like this. I began reading this volume by dipping into the chapters on my favourite albums - Love You and Pacific Ocean Blue (Hickey's review of Love You is superb - accurate, insightful and very funny) - but soon found myself reading the book from cover to cover. Reading the book in this way is a bit like reading a tragedy - or perhaps a bleak comedy. Hickey agrees with the late (and much missed) Ian MacDonald that Surf's Up - the album - is a peak in the second phase of the Beach Boys career (see MacDonald's essay on the Beach Boys in The People's Music), and that Surf's Up - the track - is "the crowning moment of the Beach Boys artistic career". The tragedy is that it's "all downhill from here" ("though to start with the slope is pretty gentle"). There are some great moments of music on that slope, for sure (Love You, POB, and scattered individual tracks), but the direction of travel is undeniable.
People wonder what music Mozart might have written had he lived beyond 35. Reading Hickey's survey, you can't help wondering: what music might the Beach Boys have produced if Brian Wilson had received effective treatment for his mental health issues in the early 70s? What music might Dennis Wilson have made if he had managed to withstand his addictions? What could Carl Wilson have done in his solo career with the right material and collaborators?
But as with Mozart, you have to give thanks for the music which did come. The universe is a better place - more beautiful, more mysterious, more gracious - for the music of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. I sometimes disagree with Hickey's opinions (his comments on Our Sweet Love and Moonshine come to mind), but these books have got me listening to this music again - and I am grateful.
I was very disappointed by Volume 1 and approached Volume 2 with a little apprehension. I've got to say Andrew has got it spot on this time. This is a really good read and deals with perhaps the most interesting part of The Beach Boys career with a lot of enthusiasm and honest opinion. Perhaps too honest at times but the band did put out some dross during this period. The long rambling essays of Vol 1 have gone and some of the reviews are extremely insightful. Bring on Volume 3.
I've bought both of of Andrew Hickey's books on the Beach boys and must agree with the other reviewer that it was very refreshing to have a in depth look at a period of output often critically dismissed. To be honest, I'm not musically minded enough to enough the dissection of notes and semi-tones but I skipped those parts anyway. However Mr H is obviously committed to the boys while still maitaining a critcial stance. Bit harsh on Miu though! I'd recommend this and the other volume to any fan and hope Mr Hickey completes the 3rd vlume soon.
I bought volume 1 by the same author and really enjoyed it. That volume dealt with most of the 'highs' the group have experienced, from 1970 onwards i think most BB fans will agree that the group churned out a lot of 'dross'. The author does not disguise this and is critical when writing his reveiws. I do not agree with all the authors comments but reading the reviews makes you want to listen again to some of the best recordings of this period.It also makes you want to review your own opinions. A must for true BB fans.