Sound — 5
Time has yet to heal all of the wounds within the surf rock unit, however the surviving members of The Beach Boys were able to momentarily put aside their differences to return to the studio for their 2012 reunion album "That's Why God Made The Radio" and subsequently embark on a summer tour in support of the effort. The seemingly mended relationship between Mike Love and Brian Wilson wouldn't even last for that run, however, when Love announced that Wilson would not be accompanying the band for the tour. Instead of heading out on the road, Wilson would instead enter the studio alongside guitarist Jeff Beck and producer Don Was to begin work on new material. Although that collaboration wouldn't last, either, those initially abandoned sessions would later be resumed with the aid of a complete arsenal of guest vocalists in what would ultimately result in Brian Wilson's first studio album of original material in seven years.
"No Pier Pressure" notably shows Wilson accompanied by fellow Beach Boys members Al Jardine, David Marks and Blondie Chaplin on some songs, whereas others feature collaborations with some of the more readily recognized names in contemporary pop. There's no signs of any apparent intention of progressing forward stylistically to be found here; once you're synonymous for establishing an approach centered around sand, sun and soaring vocal harmonies, one isn't likely to stray from that same sound five decades into their career. These same attempts to rekindle the flames of Wilson's earlier efforts as one of the driving forces behind The Beach Boys result in varying degrees of success, with the majority of songs landing somewhere in the middle of that scale.
"On the Island," a collaboration with indie rock duo She & Him is one of the album's more memorable moments, highlighted by haunting vocal harmonies calling out from the distance. "Guess You Had to Be There" is another choice number featuring country musician Kacey Musgraves, and sounds just like what would expect if The Beach Boys had instead laid their foundations in Nashville, Tennessee, and yet most of these solid compositions are negatively overshadowed by the simply horrid performance found on the sophomore track, "Runaway Dancer." A collaboration with Sebu Simonian from Capital Cities, the song interrupts the jazz-accented multilayered introduction provided by "This Beautiful Day" with a bizarre unification of electronic dance pop and Wilson's distinctive vocal harmonies. When paired alongside such indigenous-sounding numbers as "Sail Away" and "Whatever Happened," the end result is a largely disjointed effort that strays into too broad an assortment of styles to make "No Pier Pressure" an even remotely stomachable listen from start-to-finish.
Lyrics — 6
There are moments where he has some noticeable difficulty reaching those same high notes from his earlier years, however Brian Wilson largely offers a commendable vocal performance throughout "No Pier Pressure." Subsequently, there are plenty of times on the album where these talents are fully put to use ("The Right Time," "Sail Away") and become the center of attention, however it's when we're constantly moving from surf rock to country to house music to indie rock that the vocal harmonies suddenly don't hold their same appeal.
Overall Impression — 5
Brian Wilson's eighth solo album "No Pier Pressure" falls somewhere between a semi-Beach Boys reunion album and a guest star-highlighted collaborative effort, and the end result is a highly varietal compilation of material that rarely works well. As standalone tracks, there are plenty of worthwhile selections to be found here, but as a full-length album "No Pier Pressure" simply falls flat.