"Mirage" was the first single taken from Siouxsie & the Banshees' first album, 1978's The Scream, and while it's not as uncharacteristically poppy as the group's debut 7", "Hong Kong Garden," it's still about as close to accessible as the group got in the early days. A tightly wound song built on John McKay's slashing, distorted guitar and a pounding, prominent drumbeat (the sort of near-tribal galloping beat that Kenny Morris' replacement, Budgie, would do much better on later singles like "Spellbound" and "Fireworks"; Morris simply wasn't good enough a drummer to impart the kind of urgency this song requires), "Mirage" builds a forward momentum underneath Siouxsie Sioux's yowling vocals, which obscure bassist Steve Severin's lyrics to the point that only occasional words and phrases are decipherable.
By 1965, Brian Wilson's professional and personal lives were in such a state of constant panic that it was almost inevitable that he would turn to readily available forms of rock star relief. While his self-medication (and underlying mental illness) would ultimately render him into a poster boy for an imaginary DARE campaign, the early, merely marijuanic phase of his regimen yielded a brief but vivid string of almost absurdly gorgeous pop masterpieces. While a couple of these are permanently stamped into the forebrains of all radio listeners over a certain age ("God Only Knows," "Good Vibrations"), some remain almost unknown. Which brings us to "Wonderful," found on the Beach Boys box set, and remade a few years ago as part of the Don Was hagiography. It is a curious, brief (2 minutes) tune, austere in production (harpsichord and vocal) but staggeringly rich in harmonic interest. The melody evokes pure serenity and has no noticeable roots in any previous American pop style. Van Dyke Park's lyric is typically insane; what little one can make of it seems to dovetail with Wilson's growing religiousity, yet feels entirely physical, even pagan -- a sort of boy-loves-wood sprite nature idyll making the first movement of a really great ballet with set design by Maurice Sendak. Or something.
available on CD - Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys (Capitol)