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The Explorers Club: Freedom Wind

If The Explorers Club sounded exactly like Joy Division or Gang Of Four, the band would get ripped apart by folks so bloated on a decade of post-punk necrophilia that the mere mention of the word "angular" is enough to bring up a throatful of puke. Fear not: There are about as many angles in Freedom Wind, The Explorers Club's debut, as there are in the padded room reserved for Brian Wilson. Bluntly put, Freedom Wind sounds exactly like a Beach Boys album. More precisely, it sounds like elements of Pet Sounds and Smiley Smile reshuffled slightly and then wrapped in even more elements of Pet Sounds and Smiley Smile. It's all there: every cloud-piercing whine, every ebb of gently lapping organ, every dollop of creamy echo. Even the vocal distortion used to rough up the Charmin-like harmonies of "Honey I Don't Know Why" is something Wilson simply forgot to do the first time around. But here's where things turn tricky: Should such a blatant case of reverse engineering be applauded? After all, this isn't easy music to make or record; in fact, Freedom Wind is a pretty dizzying technical achievement. Frankly, the album is beautiful—wholly, deeply, and truly. Which leaves the ultimate verdict up to those who have strong opinions, one way or the other, on The Beach Boys and the concept of originality. If it sways the jury, though, let it be known that on the last half of the album's last song, The Explorers Club suddenly and inexplicably morphs into Paul McCartney circa Let It Be. Is that what the next album is going to sound like, guys?


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