Band: The Beach Boys
Album: That’s Why God Made The Radio
Released: June 5th 2012
Our Verdict: Spin like crazy – it’s FANTASTIC
It’s been a good sixteen years since The Beach Boys got together and recorded something new. Law suits between one another have dominated their landscape during those years, and many would call the band dysfunctional, but they are together again, disputes put aside (for a time anyway), to celebrate the 50th anniversary of what has become a Southern California culture with an anniversary tour and a new studio album, with NEW material.
With the death of Dennis Wilson (1983) and Carl Wilson (1998) the band will never be the band it was in the sixties but with Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and the “lost Beach Boy” David Marks as the core line-up, it is as close as dammit we’ll get. And from giving the new CD a spin, we’ll take that thank you very much.
Before we even play it, the CD is filled with promise, with tracks titled which give the impression of nostalgia, such as “Think About The Days” and “Summer’s Gone” and tracks that hark back to the Southern California culture we have loved for so long, “Pacific Coast Highway” and “Daybreak Over The Ocean”. The song writing credits are mainly Brian Wilson and Joe Thomas (who produced Brian’s second solo album “Imagination”) but there is one song where the credit is just Mike Love, which is nice to see. The musicians involved in the backing and instrumentation are predominantly from Brian Wilson’s own touring band which is another good sign. Produced by Brian Wilson and executive produced by Mike Love, we settle in for what we hope is a harmony filled treat.
The CD opens with a smooth, lush, harmony filled short track, “Think About The Days” which is a great opening teaser of what is to come. No words, just harmonies and a solitary piano. This one has a bit of “Endless Harmony” about it, a song about Brothers, Friends and Cousins from the Keeping The Summer Alive album released in the early 80’s…..
Next up, the first single released from the album, and one that is getting a lot of airplay in the UK (particularly on BBC Radio 2), the title track, “That’s Why God Made the Radio”. Brian Wilson’s vocals are very prominent here and the harmony is amazing. We can pick out the voices of each of the band and each time we hear it we hear another layer. The lyrics are easy, and at times forced to rhyme such as “lift up my antennae” but it is extremely listenable. They are indeed “spreading the love and sunshine to a whole new generation”.
Track three is “Isn’t It Time” which has a similar beat to, “Crack At Your Love” from the 1985 album. The more we hear this, the more it grows on us such that it is now one of our favourites. The song starts with Brian Wilson on vocals with the bass vocal from Mike Love and then Al Jardine joins in….. and in the middle, a lovely falsetto from Jeff Foskett (himself a member of the Beach Boys band in the 80’s). A lovely rhythm to this one.
“Spring Vacation”, with the lead from Mike Love, is a bit of a cheesy song when you consider the lyrics in terms of the band’s history and their reunion tour…. “long as we can all stay together…..as for the past it’s all behind us…..singing our songs is enough reason…..some say it wouldn’t last……all we can say is we’re still having a blast….we’re back together…..easy money…….” This is another that worms its way into your musical veins and you can’t help but sing along.
The fifth track is “The Private Life of Bill and Sue”, lead from Brian Wilson, all about a reality TV couple, with a brilliant, catchy chorus which has a real Rio Grande/Mexico feel to it, some great percussion and vibes in the backing and a lovely bit of bass saxophone too.
“Shelter”, again with the lead from Brian Wilson, includes a fantastic shiver down your spine falsetto from Jeff Foskett, a member of the Beach Boys band in the 80’s and a key member of Brian Wilson’s current band. His vocals can be heard throughout the album, but they really do stand out on this track. Love it.
“Daybreak Over The Ocean” is a Mike Love composition and it is his vocals that are the prominent ones here as he takes the lead, and admittedly took a bit of time to grow on us. But the seed was planted, and although we wouldn’t say it was one of our top tracks from the album, it is certainly one that evokes images of the beach, and waves breaking with the rumbling of the cymbals, and the acoustic guitar giving a calmness and tranquillity about the whole song. This is probably the best song Duglus T Stewart has never done!
Track eight, “Beaches in Mind” is (for us anyway) the weakest track. We feel it’s quite 80’s influenced, with the organ and the drum beat, and although we don’t dislike it, we just don’t feel it’s up there with the rest of the tracks.
“Strange World” evokes many memories from our trip to LA last year, with the references to Santa Monica Pier. The intro has a great full drumbeat, some lovely percussion with the castanets, and we really like the string arrangements too. The added touch of the bicycle bell was cute! To us it sounds like Scott Bennett’s contribution on “Midnight’s Another Day.”
The final three songs on the album are a suite of divine perfection. “From There To Back Again” has Al’s strong vocals to start, and as the song progresses, the backing harmonies just wash over you. The flute adds a touch of Sunflower’s “At My Window” and works really well. With Brian’s vocals half way through, and then a change in tempo, a bit of whistling, this is a strong track which we like a lot.
More memories of our LA trip flood back again with “Pacific Coast Highway” a short piece, with some lovely harmony, flute, and a bit of cello and violin too really adds a lot to the song. The album closes with “Summer’s Gone” which is a great final song. The more we hear this the more it impresses. The vocals are just wonderful, each part blending in perfectly, and you can almost see the sun setting on the West Coast and the winter approaching as the song fades to the sound of waves and rain.
Our only gripe is the lack of liner notes. The CD insert gives only the lyrics (and writing/recording credits) and even then they are in tiny white text which is at times very hard to read against the backdrop. A wasted opportunity we felt.