Album Review: The Beach Boys

that's why god made the radio (capitol records)

I doubt many of us thought that 2012 would bring a new album from The Beach Boys, especially just six months after the announcement of their official reunion. The great thing is, That's Why God Made The Radio isn't an album of thrown together past relics, but a genuinely original work from the boys; the perfect way to celebrate their 50th Anniversary.

Boasting twelve original songs, the band have thankfully not attempted what so many 'comeback' bands tend to do; cash in on the public's fond memories of times gone by and rehashed old material. Instead, Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks have put aside their differences and produced an album that any Beach Boys fan would be proud of. With Wilson stepping back into the production booth, the band sought a little help from regular band arranger, Paul Mertens, as well as Joe Thomas and Jim Peterik on the lyrics.

The album seems to be split sonically into two halves; the first an upbeat feel, including title track (and first single), That's Why God Made The Radio. This half is perhaps the most reminiscent of The Boys' surf pop, harmony-laden sound. Laid back, uplifting and effortlessly singable. Isn't It Time, is an album highlight with elements synonymous with their late 60's releases, Friends and Wild Honey. Beginning with a ukelele, simple bass-line and vocals, the track carries a pleasing lilt while voices playfully "doo-bee-doo" in the background. Wilson and the band sing about dancing "the night away", before referencing 'Good Vibrations' during the ultra cheesy Spring Vacation.

The Private Life Of Bill And Sue is an odd track detailing the lives of a fictional couple, over the backdrop of a tropical-sounding accompaniment. Shelter introduces the second half of the album, signifying a more reflective theme of time passing and life ending; a real contradiction from the previous bunch of upbeat songs.

Daybreak Over The Ocean is Mike Love's turn in the spotlight. The heart-felt rendition combines long lost love with another tropical feel; interesting rhythms and instrumentation as Mike croons, "Bring back, bring back my baby". From There To Back Again ticks the ballad box on the record and is based around Al Jardine's still impeccable voice. Some have dubbed the song as The Beach Boys' best ballad since the sixties - you can decide for yourself.

Pacific Coast Highway finds Wilson at his most vulnerable on the album, full of emotion and perfect harmonies. At just two minutes long, the track is a brief but beautiful glimpse at the band at their best, "The sun is fading and there's not much left to say", and as the last line of the song, "goodbye" hangs in the air, we are led into the closing track, Summer's Gone. With co-writer, Jon Bon Jovi, credited on the track, Summer's Gone is deeply symbolic of The Beach Boys' current reflective viewpoints, with tender lyrics and melancholic chords and harmonies. The final verse reading: "Summer’s gone / I’m gonna sit and watch the waves / We laugh, we cry / We live then die / And dream about our yesterday".

For most, That's Why God Made The Radio will be more than a pleasant surprise. Since it's release earlier this week, it has already received high praise, being called the best Beach Boys record in 35 years. Now, alone, that's pretty impressive, but I think the real achievement is not only celebrating fifty years in the industry, but to have produced such a credible and genuinely brilliant twenty-ninth studio album. Not many bands can say that...