The Beach Boys: That's Why God Made The Radio (Capitol)

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The Beach Boys: Summers Gone
The Beach Boys: That's Why God Made The Radio (Capitol)

For those who stepped off the planet for quite a few decades, you should know that the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson did too. For him the world stopped around 1968 and since then -- when not sidelined by emotional damage -- he has been reliving and recycling his greatest work created between '65 and '67.

In recent decades he has toured SMiLE and Pet Sounds, and even released two versions of reconstituted SMiLE, that famous lost album.

What many also forget, or diehard fans choose to ignore, is when he did his self-titled comeback solo album in the late Eighties he was recycling his sound even then. For him the high school dance, the car with the top down, the beach (he never surfed at), and the summer days in California are still where he lives emotionally.

So the tragedy of this album by the remaining re-formed Beach Boys (nice to have a Wilson back in the band, though) is we get lyrics about Spring Vacation (which references Good Vibrations), nostalgia for the days of radio (the title track) and the beauty of Daybreak Over the Ocean.

So far, so familiar. 

When Pet Sounds and then SMiLE rolled around in the late Sixties singer Mike Love started to take exception to Wilson breaking the winning formula. He must be delighted by this album then. It is late '65 and Love is "living the dream, cruisin' the town, diggin' the scene . . . spring vacation . . ." 

Oh dear. That has got to embarrassing if he's your grandad up there singing it.

There's also a song, Beaches in Mind, about going surfing and finding "a place in the sun where everyone can have fun". It is truly awful on every level.

Of course the classic BB harmonies -- or at least a new edition of them -- are all here, although every now and again some rockist guitars are plastered in as if to make this more relevant. And there's a song about a couple in reality show . . .

But what you are really getting is an interesting facsimile of classic Beach Boys and you can hear echoes of In My Room, Don't Worry Baby, even Sloop John B.

It isn't until the final few tracks that this album connects with anything in contemporary reality.

On the brief Pacific Coast Highway, Wilson addresses mortality and the passage of time, and the equally wistful Summer's Gone co-written with Jon Bon Jovi has all the emotional resonance of his classic song of loss and emotional change Surf's Up ("Old friends have gone, they've gone their separate ways, our dreams hold on for those who still have more to say.") 

These are almost holy moments, but come far too late to save most of this from being yet another exercise in time-stopped summer fun, and nostalgia for things that Brian Wilson barely knew.

There is more on the Beach Boys at Elsewhere starting here, and Brian Wilson is interviewed here

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Graham Dunster - Jun 5, 2012

Much better to go back and play the Little Deuce Coupe album, chock full of killer songs none of which outstay their welcome.

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