Brian Wilson is a genius and it's his music that I've emotionally connected with the most over the years. But like many very talented people, he can get lost in his own head. When his epic album "Smile" was finally cobbled together and released after nearly 40 years, it was a breathtaking exploration of what is possible in pop music. I can't imagine what the impact would have been if had been released as originally planned back in the late 1960s. But even today is a personal and ambitious album that sounds unlike anything that has even been created.
And yet, the irony of "Smile" is that it's also an album you won't listen to more than a couple of times. It's art, and not all art needs to be entertaining. But art needs to have some emotional connection to its audience. It can't just be a string of clever tricks, assembled into some vaguely coherent whole. That emotion, that humanity, is the difference between "Smile" and "Pet Sounds." It's the difference between appreciating the skill of an artist and connecting with their art.
This tension between heart and skill is also the biggest problem with the new take on "Twin Peaks," which returned Sunday night after a more than two decade absence from television. The four episodes I've seen so far are often filled with jarring, surreal images and an artistry that shows David Lynch is still in a league of his own when it comes to creating scenes that have a visual impact you can feel in the core of your soul.
But "Twin Peaks" is also a muddled mess of a show. It seems to almost be purposefully slow and meandering in a way that is infuriating to watch. Lynch has always valued production skills over a coherent story. But these new episodes take the storyline chaos to a new extreme and there are long passages of time when nothing of any importance happens. It's just scene after scene of beautifully weird eye candy, interrupted randomly by a line or two of dialogue.
The series picks up more or less where the original run ended, with Dale Cooper (Kyle McLaughlin) trapped in the Black Lodge while a doppelganger controlled by Bob was posing as him out in the real world. Much of the coherent plot that is sprinkled in the new episodes involve the often violent actions of the doppleganger and the increasingly strange efforts of Cooper to escape back into the real world.
There's a mysterious glass box being watched in a Manhattan building, a murder mystery that seems to have been committed by a man inhabited briefly by Bob and some small snippets of scenes featuring a few familiar characters from the original ABC series.
Ultimately, it's impossible to ignore the artistry and unique style of David Lynch, Mark Frost and "Twin Peaks." But way too often, the show is empty calories. Beautiful, haunting and ultimately without a heart.