TS: The High Llamas vs The Beach Boys (no, really)

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Brian did it first/=better

Brian wrote melodies that stick, and respected the idea that short pop song structures maintain the listener's interest more often than not.

I discovered non-hit Beach Boys when a copy of Endless Summer was dumped on me in 1987, which was well before the indie-rediscovery of them. Let Him Run Wild still floors me. Near tears each listen.

Shakey Mo Collier hit it OTM upthread:

[[[Really all O'Hagen does is ape a very, very narrow slice of the Beach Boys' bizarrely varied ouevre (specifically "Let's Get Away for Awhile" and the like), stick some vintage synth blippy-bloopy sounds over it, and repeat ad nauseam for 50-minutes. There is way WAY more to the Beach Boys than just tropical-vacation orchestral 60s pop...]]]

Some like blippy-bloppy sounds though; I do to some degree. No hatred over that. But I see more depth and layers in the Beach Boys catalog.

New Thread: Endless Sumner...

PappaWheelie (PappaWheelie), Wednesday, 4 May 2005 18:00 (fifteen years ago) link

Sorry. xpost Shakey...

PappaWheelie (PappaWheelie), Wednesday, 4 May 2005 18:02 (fifteen years ago) link

for one thing, the Llamas and the E6 bands never, EVER achieved anything close to the super-complex vocal harmonies that is the Boys' main sonic hallmark. In most cases, they didn't even bother trying (how much of the High Llamas catalog is instrumental, 75% at least...?)

I won't bother arguing that Wilson is overall a better orchestrator and, more importantly, melodically inventive composer than O'Hagen. Certainly his songs are fucking catchier.

x-x-xpost

Shakey Mo Collier, Wednesday, 4 May 2005 18:06 (fifteen years ago) link

People were into them, I'm not saying that. But the boom or resurgence or whatever you want to call it happened after O'Hagen and those Elephant 6 dudes were way deferential in interviews and things.

For the most Beach Boyish E6 song, check out "Marking Time" on Dusk at Cubist Castle. It's a great, great song, and sounds like a facsimile of Smiley Smile Beach Boys.

Saxon Holt, Wednesday, 4 May 2005 18:06 (fifteen years ago) link

She would like to buy a little pad in Hawaaii...

PappaWheelie (PappaWheelie), Wednesday, 4 May 2005 18:10 (fifteen years ago) link

High Llamas instrumentals make up only about 25%, but point taken. (Actually, O'Hagan once said that his goal was for people to finish listening to a High Llamas record and not be able to recall if there were vocals or not.)

jaymc (jaymc), Wednesday, 4 May 2005 18:16 (fifteen years ago) link

well mission accomplished then!

Shakey Mo Collier, Wednesday, 4 May 2005 18:21 (fifteen years ago) link

Actually, O'Hagan once said that his goal was for people to finish listening to a High Llamas record and not be able to recall if there were vocals or not.

A lofty goal! And I think, for the most part, one that was successful.

Johnny Fever (johnny fever), Wednesday, 4 May 2005 18:24 (fifteen years ago) link

Shakey, my main point should be that this is a comparison that I regard as no more than a curiosity and to the extent that it has risen to the level of 'debate'(with the errant main thrust of determining whether or not O'Hagen is 'living up' to Brian's vision) its become oppressive and clouded way too many listening experiences to the HL's detriment(it could also be that I'm a sore loser, yes). Fact is, I melt into some of the slower HL compositions in a way that wouldn't even occur to me while listening to Pet Sounds or Smile(Brian's more contemplative moments tend toward the meandering and whiny and punchdrunk; there's always at least a little snap and purpose if not playfulness to the HL's meditations) and rejoice in 'God Only Knows' like very few songs on earth(and the BB are more catchy /= you win), and I'm happy leaving it at that.

tremendoid (tremendoid), Wednesday, 4 May 2005 19:10 (fifteen years ago) link

Some High Llamas songs feels academic to me in a way that the Beach Boys never do.

jaymc (jaymc), Wednesday, 4 May 2005 19:12 (fifteen years ago) link

Sean O'Hagan is OK, and makes very pretty music at times. Occasionally, it may also be very boring though.

I have nothing much against High Llamas, but O'Hagan is no match to Beach Boys

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Wednesday, 4 May 2005 20:17 (fifteen years ago) link

Sean's a good arranger but he can't write songs for shit, frankly

A Viking of Some Note (Andrew Thames), Thursday, 5 May 2005 02:19 (fifteen years ago) link

At their best, the High Llamas sound like the band the Beach Boys could have become. The bits of the Beach Boys that sound like the High Llamas (so to speak) may be a narrow strip of their overall work, but they also happen to be the Beach Boys at their most beautiful.

Japanese Giraffe (Japanese Giraffe), Thursday, 5 May 2005 11:27 (fifteen years ago) link

I already hear the procession of torch-bearing townsfolk...

Japanese Giraffe (Japanese Giraffe), Thursday, 5 May 2005 11:27 (fifteen years ago) link

Beach Boys, as Sean O'Hagan can't sing for toffee. This is a small but important detail.

O'Hagan was approached by "Brian's people" to do some stuff for the Beach Boys in the mid-'90s. He went to LA; first thing he saw was Mike Love bearing down on him asking if it were true that all Englishmen were "faggots." Exit O'Hagan stage left quicksnap.

Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Thursday, 5 May 2005 11:51 (fifteen years ago) link

agreed, i saw o'hagan in london recently, his voice is about average for a footballer singing in the bath. which is fine, but when you're comparing him to carl wilson, then you have a problem. i mean, i imagine carl wilson could sing falsetto in key.

debden, Thursday, 5 May 2005 12:36 (fifteen years ago) link

Sean O'H lives in Peckham you know!!

This is important!

I have never heard the High Llamas though, although I am a very big fan of Microdisney. So he gets pretty much carte blance from me.

Lucretia My Reflection (Lucretia My Reflection), Thursday, 5 May 2005 12:49 (fifteen years ago) link

I do like Gideon Gaye but this is largely for sentimental personal reasons to do with Maida Vale, the summer of '94, etc. - more Abbey Road than Surf's Up, which I think works to the record's advantage.

Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Thursday, 5 May 2005 12:52 (fifteen years ago) link

O'Hagan was approached by "Brian's people" to do some stuff for the Beach Boys in the mid-'90s. He went to LA; first thing he saw was Mike Love bearing down on him asking if it were true that all Englishmen were "faggots." Exit O'Hagan stage left quicksnap.

-- Marcello Carlin (marcellocarli...), May 5th, 2005.

!?HUH?!

I never heard that about Mike Love. I guess there's more reasons to dislike him.

99 der leuft balloonnnss, Thursday, 5 May 2005 19:28 (fifteen years ago) link

the correct response would of been to say "'cor blimey, guv'nor!" and pinch his ass.

Shakey Mo Collier, Thursday, 5 May 2005 19:59 (fifteen years ago) link

O'Hagan was approached by "Brian's people" to do some stuff for the Beach Boys in the mid-'90s. He went to LA; first thing he saw was Mike Love bearing down on him asking if it were true that all Englishmen were "faggots." Exit O'Hagan stage left quicksnap.
-- Marcello Carlin (marcellocarli...), May 5th, 2005.


!?HUH?!

I never heard that about Mike Love. I guess there's more reasons to dislike him.

-- 99 der leuft balloonnnss (dododod...), May 5th, 2005. (later)

Yes, told in a 1997 Uncut feature w/ Brian on the cover. We have Sean O'Hagen's squeamishness to thank (in part) for never getting one last record out of them. I mean, as a huge fan of the Beach Boys, it must have come as a great shock to him to learn that Mike Love was actually a jerk.

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Thursday, 5 May 2005 20:59 (fifteen years ago) link

Sean's a good arranger but he can't write songs for shit, frankly

There are a few cases of him managing to write good songs. They are called "Checking In, Checking Out" and "Giddy And Gay", both brilliant songs.

But generally, you are kind of right.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Thursday, 5 May 2005 22:13 (fifteen years ago) link

i dunno, i think the whole premise of this thread is a bit unfair. like "luna vs. the velvet underground". OBVIOUSLY, the latter band is going to emerge victorious. but that doesn't mean that the High Llamas/Luna/whoever are totally worthless. the high llamas are quite clearly working off of a template set in place by Brian Wilson, just like Luna is working off of the VU template (generally speaking--i know these bands have plenty of other influences). But what the hell--personally, i'd put Gideon Gaye up there with anything the Beach Boys have done, just like Penthouse is up there with anything the VU did. The High Llamas aren't innovators--that's where they fall short. But they've made some pretty beautiful music. and for what it's worth, I quite liked the live show they put on when they last toured the states.

tylerw, Thursday, 5 May 2005 22:51 (fifteen years ago) link

fifteen years pass...

Love the High Llamas. Sean O'Hagan is a wizard. The more of his (and Cathal Coughlan's) songs I chord out and present on a website I've been building - COUGHLANOHAGAN.COM - the more I see just how great O'Hagan was and remains (as well as his songwriting partner from Microdisney, Coughlan).

weirwrite, Saturday, 23 May 2020 06:43 (one month ago) link

I've loved O'Hagan's music for a long, long time. In fact, it was one of two reasons why I launched a website around his music https://coughlanohagan.com/.

weirwrite, Saturday, 23 May 2020 06:46 (one month ago) link

knobhead

thomasintrouble, Saturday, 23 May 2020 17:41 (one month ago) link


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