Sounds almost like a country-rock interpretation of their own early-60s hits, with absolutely breathtaking harmonies that prove that Brian wasn't the only gifted composer in the band. But what is that instrument in the background, a mellotron, perhaps? Great lyrics: "Have you ever been down Salinas way?/where Steinbeck found the valley/and he wrote about it the way it was in his travelin's with Charlie."
To be honest, I have little idea of what this song is about, but it certainly sets an intoxicating mood - rather intense and dramatic, but very cool. It's a sprawling, majestic pop song, opening gently with a faint trumpet solo and a picked guitar, and then building up nicely with strings soon after the vocals come in. The chorus is simple and catchy, and the orchestration is lush and beautiful, and the vocals are tender. There is a nice cinematic instrumental section in the middle, with some nods to Burt Bacharach. I don't get the impression this is the most coherent song ever, but there are poignant moments lyrically, such as 'You know that when we met, there were fireworks in the sky...sparkling like dragonflies', set against the moody chorus. It feels kind of nice to be really enjoying a new, 2001 song for once. The new album is really quite good. There are some duff songs, but overall I'd say it deserved better reviews than it received.
Update, ok, I've now figured out this is about the Clinton/Lewinsky furore. I guess I'm just not primarily a lyrics person...
from Rings around the World, available on CD (Epic)