By David Beard
The Beach Boys
That’s Why God Made The Radio
The Beach Boys’ newest studio album, “That’s Why God Made The Radio,” is more than good. It is, in a word, phenomenal. It is not by any stretch better than the group’s earlier works, like “Pet Sounds,” “Smile” or “Sunflower.” Nor is there any way to make up for the absence of the late Dennis Wilson or the late Carl Wilson. But it is a very strong musical statement that will stand the test of time.
“Think About The Days,” written by Brian Wilson and Joe Thomas, is a lush harmonized primer for the album. No actual lyrics – just an Al Jardine-led interspersing of vocal beauty.
The album’s first single, “That’s Why God Made the Radio” is perhaps the most Beach Boys-like, pop-oriented recording on the collection, but it is not the best cut on the album.
“Isn’t It Time,” written by Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Jim Petrik, Larry Millas and Joe Thomas, reaches back in time and feels a bit like a track that would have fit nicely on The Beach Boys’ 1985 self-titled album. Its funky hand-jive vibe works well with Brian, Al, Mike and Bruce taking turns on vocals.
“Spring Vacation” is pure fun, and it’s really just a simple nod by the group to themselves. Love is in great form, and the entire group sound great together singing “Spring Vacation, good vibrations, summer weather, we’re back together … Easy money, ain’t life funny … hey, what’s it to ya … Hallelujah.”
“The Private Life Of Bill And Sue” has a very hooky background vocal under Brian’s lead, and it may prove to be a sleeper hit.
“Shelter” is essentially five songs in one; it features stunning vocals from Jeffrey Foskett.
Mike Love’s “Daybreak Over The Ocean” utilizes the master created by Love several years ago, with additional vocals from the group. This choice doesn’t cheapen the listening the experience.
“Beaches In Mind,” written by Brian, Mike and Joe, is another track that hearkens back in time to something you feel as though you’ve heard before, but you haven’t.
“Strange World” carries a strong Spector-esque, “Pet Sounds” vibe throughout.
Then, there is “From There To Back Again” and “Pacific Coast Highway.” The latter, sung by Brian, includes the refrain “My life, I’m better off alone … my life, I’m better on my own.” The former, “From There To Back Again,” sung by Al, will take you back to the group’s formidable years around the “Sunflower”/“Surf’s Up” period … pretty high accolades for a new Beach Boys recording. Wait until you hear this one; just when you think the song has come to end, it will pull you back in.
“Summer’s Gone,” the closing track, is written by Brian Wilson, Joe Thomas and Jon Bon Jovi. Sonically, it tugs at the heartstrings and carries the emotional emphasis of “Caroline, No” from “Pet Sounds.”
With the exception of Mike Love’s “Daybreak Over The Ocean,” every other track includes a Joe Thomas writing credit, giving this release a very polished, adult-contemporary feel. Is that a bad thing? If getting emotional and feeling nostalgic when listening to these 12 tracks is a bad thing, then I’m among the guilty.
The credit has to be acknowledged across the board here. When you hear Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, David Marks and Jeff Foskett together, it will take you back to a more innocent time. “That’s Why God Made The Radio” proves The Beach Boys treasure the past as much as they do the present.