Release Date: Jun 5, 2012
Record label: Capitol
Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys haven't made a record together in 16 years, but their music feels more present than ever. Last year's release of The Smile Sessions, which documented Wilson's unfinished late-Sixties masterpiece, was a major event, as was Wilson's 2004 version of Smile. The group's harmonies echo through Fleet Foxes' chorales and Animal Collective's stoner jams, their soda-pop song forms are borrowed by indie-rock faux-naifs, and their ambitious arrangements hover over work by Jon Brion, Mark Ronson and pretty much any orchestral-pop producer you can name.
The recently rebooted ? pop legends’ most engaged, least cripplingly nostalgic album since 1977’s Love You finds Brian Wilson and various surrogates pondering celebrity (”The Private Life of Bill and ? Sue”) and the healing power of harmony, as both musical succor and balm for universal brotherhood. That’s Why God Made the Radio also has the most songs about the beach since 1963’s Surfer Girl; one hazy standout reaches the shocking-to-Brian conclusion that Santa Monica Beach might be part of a ”Strange World. ” When he takes over on lead vocals, Mike Love sings Wilson’s sometimes bleak sentiments sunnily — which makes them ? all the more unsettling.
The Beach BoysThat's Why God Made the Radio[Capitol; 2012]By Alex Phillimore; July 19, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGWhen the surviving members of The Beach Boys spoke of reuniting for a 50th anniversary tour and a new album in 2012, a lot of fans were unsure about how the conflicting personalities of members such as Brian Wilson and Mike Love would interact both on the stage and in a studio environment. However, one spin of That's Why God Made the Radio is enough to suggest that while the band may have had their differences, they can still make engaging and unique music together that sounds remarkably fresh, despite the aging of its band members. In fact, it's quite a humbling observation that The Beach Boys are still capable of making music that sounds as eclectic as ever, and their commercial gravitas makes listening to the radio interesting once again.
The irony of the Beach Boys’ tragedy has made that tragedy all the more painful. For several generations of people around the world, the band’s vey name has been synonymous with good ol’ fashioned fun in the sun, of fresh-faced, pre-Vietnam American innocence. Even their more crestfallen later work was defined by a sweet, nostalgic ache. But the band’s tale of abuse, addiction, mental illness, dubious associations, premature deaths, and ugly lawsuits is by now almost as familiar as “California Girls”.
Plans for the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary tour came together surprisingly quickly, but nothing prepared fans for a full studio album just six months after their official reunion. Further surprises included apparently cordial relations between all surviving members, Brian Wilson in the producer's booth, the presence of 12 original songs on the album, and the complete absence of any attempt to cash in on fond memories of "Kokomo" or Endless Summer or "Do It Again" or "Help Me, Rhonda" -- depending on which generation the band might want to court. That's Why God Made the Radio is as good as it gets for those who love their Beach Boys.
The Beach Boys are all about contradictions. The nicer word would be “juxtapositions,” but let’s just call it what it is. Their carefree early songs about surfing, cars, and girls hid the Wilson brothers’ chaotic upbringing for a time, and were eventually offset by band turmoil and clashing personalities. The term creative differences would be an understatement, no matter how many times a day Mike Love mediated or how many songs they wrote about the Maharishi (a figure who was arguably more contradictory than his most famous disciples).
The news that Brian Wilson had rejoined The Beach Boys should have been greeted with the fervour of a Smiths reunion. That it wasn’t is largely due to the band’s wretched output over the past three decades, including the nauseous ‘Kokomo’. The Boys’ return is being sold as a throwback to ‘Pet Sounds’, and at times that’s tantalisingly close to the truth: ‘Think About The Days’ is a haunting piece of harmony straight from the ’60s, while the title track has flashes of the orchestral pop genius that flowered back in 1966.
If there was ever a fitting time for The Beach Boys to throw in the towel, it was 2011—following the release of The SMiLE Sessions, the landmark, oft-bootlegged leftovers from Brian Wilson and company’s unfinished ‘60s masterwork. Instead, they went in the exact opposite direction: The group’s surviving members (Wilson; vocalists Al Jardine, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston; original guitarist David Marks) built on the momentum of that long-awaited release, reuniting for a 50th anniversary tour. That reunion is nothing short of a pop music miracle: Wilson hadn’t performed live with the band since 1996, and the years since have brought several heavily publicized lawsuits over songwriting credits and usage of The Beach Boys name.
It's easy to be sceptical about the Beach Boys' reunion. Indeed, if you look at the messageboards, diehard fans seem the most distrustful of the lot, which figures: for all the warmth and open-heartedness of the band's best music, if there's one thing being a Beach Boys fan teaches you, it's scepticism. There are only so many times you can be told Brian Wilson has been restored to full physical and mental health, the better to make himself and a lot of other people a great deal of money, before you develop what the Clash called a "bullshit detector", and Beach Boys fans have been told that on a regular basis – and with a great deal of evidence to the contrary – for the last 36 years.
Every band has a choice: break up or get old. Breaking up means no more music. Getting old means making music people will probably stop caring about..
The band are back together, sort of. On paper you’d be justified rooting for Carrie Fisher’s gun wielding character from The Blues Brothers to nip such reformations in the bud. We are all aware how quickly good intentions and nostalgia can morph into franchise raping ventures that leave behind an inflated bank balance, (re)strained relations, and a soiled dynasty.
THE BEACH BOYS play the Molson Amphitheatre on June 19. See listing. Rating: NN As an early member of the Beach Boys, a 15-year-old David Marks introduced the band to the drugs and drinking that would ultimately lead to the downfall of Brian Wilson and his brothers Carl and Dennis. But at least Marks was interested in trying new things, which is more than you can say for Mike Love.
If there must be a new Beach Boys album, and the very existence of this record suggests that someone with scant regard for screwing up a legacy has decreed that there must, then there are few rules that must be adhered to. Songs must include references to the following subject matter: girls, cars, beaches, and surfing – not necessarily in that order. Harmonies must be tight.
THE BEACH BOYS “That’s Why God Made the Radio” (Brother/Capitol) The Beach Boys strive to smile together through “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” the reunion album tied to the band’s 50th-anniversary tour. This album could easily have been a throwaway: the cynical souvenir suggested by the song “Spring Vacation,” on which the group and studio vocalists sing: Good vibrations Summer weather We’re back together Easy money, ain’t life funny. Instead, and sometimes despite itself, it’s a reflection on aging and memory, on longing and mortality.
Hatched in the wake of multiple intra-band lawsuits, That's Why God Made the Radio ebbs and flows the Beach Boys' most cohesive album since 1977's Love You, the final LP that the Wilson brothers – Brian, Dennis, and Carl – collaborated on at a functioning peak. The lyricless "Think About the Days" opens as mission statement, surviving band members emerging with harmonies intact as last Wilson sibling Brian provides a Bacharach-like piano melody to set an autumnal mood. The gorgeous title track, co-written by Ides of March/Survivor founder Jim Peterik, is an unapologetic slice of radio nostalgia, the undertow of impending twilight giving the song even more emotional heft.
What does the world want from the Beach Boys in 2012? Sixteen years since the band's last album, 24 since their last hit and 46 since their creative peak, That's Why God Made the Radio is the album nobody asked for. Yet here it is, with Brian Wilson receiving writing credits on 11 of its 12 tracks no less. Asking a group 50 years into their career, minus two original members, to match a peak as high as Pet Sounds is unfair, so we'll settle for not as embarrassing as the band's Fat Boy's collaboration.
For the first time in 16 years, Brian Wilson records with the band that made his name. Ian Winwood 2012 To British ears of the day, the music made by The Beach Boys could hardly have sounded more magical had it emanated from Narnia. In a time when ration books and homity pie were hardly distant memories, here came this group from southern California – in the early 1960s, itself a mystical place – singing four-part harmonies that referenced hamburger stands, Coupe de Villes, sunshine and surfing.