wed 23/07/2014

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

The Beach Boys' "That’s Why God Made the Radio": worth persevering with to the end

“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?

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Watch The Beach Boys discuss their 50th anniversary reunion

 

Comments

The song quoted here, Spring

The song quoted here, Spring Vacation, was clearly also written by Love. The lyric follows his mantra of "all the bad stuff is in the past" which he repeated in interviews. His tough-guy attitude shows in the line "Hey what's it to ya." But Brian Wilson provides a little balance and illustrates the creative tension behind some of the best music they created, when he sings the next line - "Hallelujah." Now it's a year later and Love is complaining that he was not able to sit alone with Wilson and write songs again. I'm torn about whether that would be a good idea or not.

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