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The Beach Boys: That's Why God Made the Radio (New CD Review)
PopMatters ^ | 6/5/2012 | John Bergstrom

Posted on 06/05/2012 3:17:58 PM PDT by curth

Heroes [not] Villains

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”.

At the center of it all, of course, has been Brian Wilson. In terms of public portrayal, he has gone from yet another 1960s acid casualty to helpless, exploited pawn in the games of would-be therapists and businessmen, to damaged but ultimately triumphant survivor. Everybody wished for a happy ending for Brian. And, in the last decade, from his 2004 resurrection of Smile to his well-received new material and tours, they seem to have gotten it.

The Beach Boys, however, are another story. It’s surely not so simple, but if Brian Wilson was the hero, his former band, led by Wilson’s cousin Mike Love, has been the villain. Marginalizing the mentally ill Wilson only to rope him back in to ensure record label and fan interest, arranging outlandish collaborations with the Fat Boys, suing Wilson for releasing Smile without them, turning into a casino-bound lounge act, and “Kokomo” are only the most heinous of the Love-led Beach Boys’ crimes.

So this 50th Anniversary reunion of Wilson, Love, and the other surviving ‘60s-era Beach Boys is at once incredible and suspect. It seems like an improbable opportunity to right the ship for posterity, yet it could just as well send the ship sputtering to the bottom for good.

That’s Why God Made the Radio, at least, swings the balance toward the former. This result is not least due to the band’s approach. They didn’t pour the contemporary producers and songwriting hacks into the studio. Wilson produced, and though the list of purported extra musicians is long, they are mostly orchestra players and members of Wilson’s regular backing band. Joining Wilson and lifers Love and Bruce Johnston are Al Jardine, who has not performed with the band since 1998, and guitarist David Marks, an important but oft-forgotten member whose previous album with the band was Little Deuce Couple in 1963. Wilson co-wrote all but one of the 12 tracks, working primarily with familiar collaborator Joe Thomas.

That’s Why God Made the Radio plays out not unlike the late ‘60s/‘70s-era Beach Boys albums, such as Friends and Surf’s Up that belatedly have become cult favorites. It starts off pretty strong, is nearly derailed by a couple untenable duds, and delivers a major Brian Wilson payoff at the end.

After the sweet, ponderous overture “Think About the Times”, the title track and first single is a perfectly likable track whose strong harmonies save it from a plodding arrangement and trite lyrics. Weaker, though, are the songs that directly address the band’s make-up and reunion. “Isn’t It Time” is a perky, sincere doo-wop number, but “Spring Vacation” and especially “Beaches In Mind” are pure cruise-ship fare. “As for the past / It’s all behind us,” Love sings on “Spring Vacation”, “Happier now / Look where love finds us”. Despite those buoyant harmonies, though, it’s tough to discern any real meaning in his voice.

When Wilson stops trying to bring back the good times and just does his own thing, he delivers some gems. The calypso-tinged “The Private Life of Bill and Sue” is a bemused and surprisingly cutting look reality television, and features a classic, soaring, harmony-laden chorus that is as blissful as anything the band have done. Questions about Auto-Tune and studio trickery have inevitably abounded. The Boys, though, most of whom are about 70, can still hit those harmonies like no one else. Only Jardine’s voice retains the spunky, boyish tone of the band’s heyday, but everyone is in tune most of the time, and it sounds natural. Wilson’s croon, thicker and reedier now, is still a wonderful instrument.

That’s Why God Made the Radio‘s real payoff comes in the form of the four-song suite that closes the album. “Strange World” is a beautiful piano ballad complete with Pet Sounds-like tympani and castanets. Jardine carries the ponderous, swooning “From There to Back Again” as the harmonies swirl around him like the sun itself. The final pair of songs is simply stunning. “Pacific Coast Highway” and “Summer’s Gone” are introspective, genuinely sad meditations that reveal the counterpoint to the fun’n'sun banter that’s come before. “My life / I’m better off alone,” sings Wilson on “Pacific Coast Highway”, as the band wish him “goodbye”. It’s a stunning moment, and it embodies the melancholy and ache that have always marked Wilson’s greatness. “Summer’s Gone” is a haunting, touching denouement. “Summer’s Gone,” Wilson sings, “It’s finally sinkin’ in…We laugh and cry / We live and die / And dream about our yesterdays,” as the harmonies and piano and strings weep. For a man whose band is synonymous with the warmest season, the symbolism is striking.

As a whole, That’s Why God Made the Radio is not a top-tier Beach Boys album. But it’s neither a reach nor hyperbole to say this final suite is among the strongest, most affecting music Wilson has ever recorded. It seems right that his old bandmates are a part of it. Rating 7 out of 10 stars = Damn good.


TOPICS: Education; Music/Entertainment
KEYWORDS: beachboys; brianwilson; music; wilson
Currently ranked #1 Bestseller at Amazon.com

On sale at Target for $7.99

Other reviews:

cbs news: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501368_162-57446660/review-brian-wilson-writes-new-beach-boys-album/

usa today: http://www.usatoday.com/life/music/reviews/story/2012-06-04/beach-boys-thats-why-god-made-the-radio/55385752/1

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/05/arts/music/new-releases-from-the-beach-boys-and-alan-jackson.html?ref=arts

1 posted on 06/05/2012 3:18:09 PM PDT by curth
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To: curth
The Beach Boys were good, but Jan and Dean were better.
2 posted on 06/05/2012 3:24:44 PM PDT by reg45 (Barack 0bama: Implementing class warfare by having no class!)
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To: curth

Pretty much major raves in the L.A. Times and in Time magazine as well. It’s a great record. The whole thing is streaming for a limited time on AOL’s music site, “Spinner.” Definitely worth a listen.


3 posted on 06/05/2012 3:25:56 PM PDT by JennysCool (My hypocrisy goes only so far)
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To: curth

Rock on, baby.


4 posted on 06/05/2012 3:29:16 PM PDT by the invisib1e hand (they have no god but caesar)
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To: JennysCool

The song “That’s Why God Made Radio” is excellent, and took me right back to the 60s.


5 posted on 06/05/2012 3:31:46 PM PDT by LS ("Castles Made of Sand, Fall in the Sea . . . Eventually (Hendrix))
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To: wiggen

Ping


6 posted on 06/05/2012 3:32:12 PM PDT by wastedyears ("God? I didn't know he was signed onto the system.")
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To: JennysCool

Thanks for the heads up. I’m listening to it now:

http://music.aol.com/new-releases-full-cds/spinner#/4


7 posted on 06/05/2012 3:34:35 PM PDT by Yardstick
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To: reg45

Had the privilege of spending some time with Jan and Dean back in the ‘90s. Great guys who made some epic records.

Don’t miss this new Beach Boys, though. They really did a beautiful job. The critics who were expecting a “sun and fun” toss-off are surprised they’ve run into one of their best albums, 50 years along.

And, no, I don’t work PR for the Beach Boys! :-)


8 posted on 06/05/2012 3:34:35 PM PDT by JennysCool (My hypocrisy goes only so far)
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To: curth

David Marks back inthe band makes it right. He was close to the family.


9 posted on 06/05/2012 3:35:31 PM PDT by tellw
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To: LS

check out the whole thing on the AOL “Spinner” site, LS. It’s impressive.


10 posted on 06/05/2012 3:36:01 PM PDT by JennysCool (My hypocrisy goes only so far)
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To: Yardstick

wow nice brings back memories


11 posted on 06/05/2012 3:44:02 PM PDT by markman46 (engage brain before using keyboard!!!)
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To: reg45

Linda thought so also...


12 posted on 06/05/2012 3:45:10 PM PDT by bobby.223 (Retired high up in the mountains of the American Redoubt and it's a GREAT life!)
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To: JennysCool
I'm sure I'll buy a bunch. I will reward artists for their talents with my money.

Never met any of the BB's in my rock days. Strange. I seem to have met a bunch of other people, but they were just never around.

13 posted on 06/05/2012 3:51:02 PM PDT by LS ("Castles Made of Sand, Fall in the Sea . . . Eventually (Hendrix))
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To: LS

Which is odd because, well, they got around!


14 posted on 06/05/2012 3:58:50 PM PDT by JennysCool (My hypocrisy goes only so far)
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To: curth

Goingt to see the Beach Boys on Friday in The Woodlands, TX.


15 posted on 06/05/2012 4:01:15 PM PDT by SeaHawkFan
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To: JennysCool
I didn't say that the Beach Boys were not good, after all they recorded more music over a longer period of time.

My iTunes account is downloading slowly, or I'd be listening to that new album by now.

16 posted on 06/05/2012 4:15:05 PM PDT by reg45 (Barack 0bama: Implementing class warfare by having no class!)
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To: bobby.223
Linda?

My sister?

17 posted on 06/05/2012 4:16:50 PM PDT by reg45 (Barack 0bama: Implementing class warfare by having no class!)
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To: JennysCool

Love the Beach Boys and so glad they reunited.

I was lucky enough to sit at the next table to Brian Wilson at a restaurant in the San Fernando Valley around 2006. He was perfectly normal, entertaining his young kids with stories about Walter Mitty and then trying to take over at the piano bar. Sadly, the pianist did not recognize Brian and completely ignored him. Brian simply shrugged and returned to his seat.


18 posted on 06/05/2012 4:33:51 PM PDT by miss marmelstein
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To: curth

The mp3 album is $4.99 at Amazon.


19 posted on 06/05/2012 4:34:49 PM PDT by TopDog2
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To: miss marmelstein

Great story, thank you! You will love the album!


20 posted on 06/05/2012 4:35:02 PM PDT by JennysCool (My hypocrisy goes only so far)
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To: SeaHawkFan

We saw them in Raleigh. They were good.


21 posted on 06/05/2012 5:44:23 PM PDT by TwoSue
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To: Yardstick; curth

Thanks.


22 posted on 06/05/2012 5:56:49 PM PDT by Tainan (Cogito, ergo conservatus sum)
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To: Yardstick

Listening now.
Pretty good.
Thanks!


23 posted on 06/05/2012 6:20:00 PM PDT by mowowie
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To: Tainan

Another heads up. They are scheduled to perform on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno tonight (Wednesday)on NBC.


24 posted on 06/06/2012 12:19:34 PM PDT by curth
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To: curth

I like Cocomo. It is what it is. Don’t know what the critic’s problem is. Probably “too commercial.”


25 posted on 06/06/2012 12:30:58 PM PDT by St_Thomas_Aquinas (Viva Christo Rey!)
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