Brainwashed Review

(This review of George Harrison’s posthumous swan song is edited from a review I originally wrote for my old Angelfire site, probably around 2007.)

3.5 stars

This album was kind of a disappointing experience. Brainwashed just doesn’t, on the whole, really speak to me. There are a couple of nice lines here and there in the non-standout songs, but it’s just not something that moves me. The songs also by and large lack hooks and catchy lyrics.

Judging a posthumous album is always tricky, and Jeff Lynne really ruined the production. It was supposed to have a more raw sound, but ended up sounding rather overproduced. In addition to generally uninspiring, unoriginal lyrics, George doesn’t sound so hot on some of the songs. Although at least it’s not as bad as on Dark Horse, and he obviously was very sick.

The opening track, “Any Road,” is nothing short of excellent. It’s quite easily the best song, and can be read both literally and in a deeper sense, that no matter what type of faith you choose on your journey on life’s road, it will all ultimately lead up to the same Divine.

The next track, “Last Saturday Night,” is pretty boring and unmemorable. I don’t really like this song; like many of the others, nothing much happens. It seems like it’s trying to be in a blues style, but it just falls totally flat.

Next up is “Pisces Fish,” which has some nice lyrics and a somewhat catchy chorus, but just seems flat and uninspiring. Mid-tempo wasn’t a good style for him. It’s honestly hard to distinguish most of these songs from one another, much like the songs on Extra Texture. And yet it also seems that if they came up on the radio or a playlist individually, they wouldn’t seem so dreary, uninspiring, and dull. It’s a shame, since this has some deep lyrics about life’s condition and what it feels like to know you’re dying.

The fourth track, “Looking for My Life,” is one of the standouts. It’s catchier and with more hooks than most of the others, and also deals with matters of the spiritual and making peace with the fact of your impending passing-over. “Rising Sun” also has some nice lyrics, but continues in the pattern of generally uninspiring mid-tempo songs. If Jeff Lynne hadn’t marred the production so much, or if these songs had been reworked into more polished versions, I’d probably like the majority of them more.

“Marwa Blues,” an instrumental, is a really good number. It’s very atmospheric and evocative. He should’ve done more instrumentals besides just this one and “Hari’s on Tour (Express).” And by virtue of having no lyrics, it’s one of the standouts; no boring mid-tempo pace here!

“Stuck Inside a Cloud” has a pretty sound, but seems to go on forever and just doesn’t have very interesting or inspiring lyrics. Like most of the other songs, it’s just boring. “Run So Far” continues on in the same well-established pattern. Honestly, a lot of these songs seem like they belong on an album from another artist, since they’re so out of his usual style. A couple of slower mid-tempo numbers might’ve been okay, but not an entire album full of them.

“Never Get Over You” is kind of better than most of the others, but it’s not up to the standard of the kick-ass opening track, nor does it seem very memorable or classic overall. The cover track, “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” is a pretty fun number, reflecting the love he had for Hawaiian music and ukeleles. And at least it’s not boringly mid-tempo. “Rocking Chair in Hawaii” isn’t at the same dirge-like tempo as most of the other songs, but it’s still pretty slow-paced. And yet again, if only one or two songs had been slow and lacking hooks, overall the album wouldn’t seem so bad and uneven.

The title track comes last, and is one of the best tracks. For once, here’s a faster-paced song with interesting, inspired lyrics and good hooks. I also naturally really like it because it deals with spiritual matters, all about humanity’s search for the Divine and how everyone and everything in society conspires against us from day one, brainwashing us so badly we have a hard time finding our way to the truth and the Divine.

The booklet of liner notes includes a picture illustrating the song, with some of the lyrics, and it’s so embarrassing how at the bottom it says “A voice cry’s in the wilderness.” That’s almost as embarrassing as the blatant grammatical error on the paper sleeve of Dark Horse, “The ‘Lord’ lives in you’re hearts”!

It ends with some very moving Hindu chanting. Finally, a song that goes somewhere instead of sounding as dull as dishwater.

I wanted to like this album, since I’d heard a number of rave reviews. Unfortunately, it turned out that most reviewers, as always, were afraid to be more honest about its shortcomings. In addition to being disappointed by the majority of the songs (a number of them leftovers from years ago), I was also disappointed at the liner notes. They’re mostly just lyrics and a couple of pictures.

Granted, it’s at least a whole other level above Extra Texture, and I do appreciate the difficulties of putting together a posthumous album. At least the songs generally seem heartfelt and genuine, in spite of the deceptive mid-tempo pacing and unappealing overall treatment. Jeff Lynne should stick to what he knows and stop trying to be a record producer.

I don’t hate or dislike this album, but I don’t really like it either.


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