CD: The Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made the Radio | New music reviews, news & interviews
CD: The Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made the Radio
Despite its missteps, this joyless reunion yields a few gems
“We’re back together, easy money”. For anyone feeling a wee bit cynical about The Beach Boys' reunion, that lyric – from “Spring Vacation” – is likely to push them towards full-blown contempt. Although That’s Why God Made the Radio is defined by missteps, it’s worth persevering to the end.
The album reanimates The Beach Boys’ brand to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Given that they formed and released their first single in 1961, it must be the anniversary of the first chart hit, 1962’s “Surfin’ Safari”. Reunited are three originals - Al Jardine, Mike Love and Brian Wilson - and Bruce Johnson and David Marks. All sing but only Marks plays – guitar, on about half the album. Otherwise, the musicians are drawn from Wilson’s live band or are vintage sessioneers (Skunk Baxter’s guitar solo on “Spring Vacation” is spectacularly naff). All but one song is co-written by Wilson with keyboard player Joe Thomas, also credited with “recording" the album. Wilson is credited as producer, Love as executive producer.
The dynamics at play are writ even larger by the single non-Wilson song, the trite “Daybreak Over the Ocean”. Written by Love, it was recorded at his studio with family members and associates who don’t appear elsewhere on the album. Jardine, Johnston and Wilson’s vocals were overdubbed later.
Glutinous nostalgia, both musically and lyrically veering towards parody, is what this is about. “God Made the Radio” to capture “memories from afar”. “Do you wanna turn back the pages?” asks “Isn't it Time”. Wilson probably doesn't. He was all-but destroyed by his own past.
The album opens with the beautiful “Think About the Days” and closes with a trio of gems – one co-written by Jon Bon Jovi – that allow Wilson to breath, the yearning “From There to Back Again” especially so. That’s Why God Made the Radio encapsulates all that’s good and all that’s bad about The Beach Boys. Could it have been any other way?
Watch The Beach Boys discuss their 50th anniversary reunion
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more New music
Veteran folk-protest singer seduces audience with delicacy
Fans-only tribute to a tenacious musical eccentric
Lyrical country meets rollicking cowpunk: Paul Simmonds on writing songs for two very different new albums
Swedish psychedelicists move the hips and spin the mind
Intermittent thrills on third album from LCD Soundsystem-related electro-dance outfit
Dave Grohl's band closes Invictus Games with a seismic blast of energy and goodwill
Rich and nourishing seventh album from American alt rockers
Ethiopian lounge lizard creates a new sonic world
The first of a series of reissues paying tribute to sadly missed pop auteur Scott Miller
A triumphant return for the New York New Wavers
Head-spinning Mongolians, intense Indonesians and bull-roaring locals at the festival building bridges between Finland and east Asia
Passionate, political singer discusses writing, Africa, and her career with the Communards