The Beach Boys' latest album, That's Why God Made The Radio, was released on June 5th, 2012 and I feel like I can write a really good review of the album now.
Mike Love and Bruce Johnston had the Beach Boys touring band and Al Jardine was doing his own thing too. At that time almost all of the Beach Boys were involved in some sort of legal dispute about song writing credits or royalties and David Marks was writing "The Lost Beach Boy".
I don't think any of the Beach Boys were thinking about the year 2012 and how they were going to get together and make a new album and tour. In fact, I am positive none of the Beach Boys knew that would happen.
But look now! How dumb was I to think that the Boys didn't have it in them? Because they do have it in them to make great music.
The main things I want to impart about this album is 1. It might be the very last 2. Every member of the Beach Boys has an incredible voice (even at age 70) 3. It makes me feel very strongly.
I have always loved the Beach Boys' ballads the most and fortunately the album has plenty of moving ballads and even begins with a short ballad called "Think About The Days", a masterpiece conjuring up the vibes from the 1968 album "Friends" and the opener from that album, "Meant For You". The song has incredible vocal harmonies by all of the members of the band and instantly proves how incredible they still sound together. When I first heard this song I was finally able to breathe, thinking to myself - "This is going to be good!"
Second, the title track, "That's Why God Made The Radio" acts like a new anthem for the band. With trademarked vocal harmonies and key changes, it's easy to tell that this will go down in the list of best Beach Boys songs. Very upbeat. The music video for this song is also quite nice with a quick cameo by the Boys.
Third, the song "Isn't It Time" begins with some Ukelele chords and more uplifting vocal harmonies. I truly love the happiness of this song and hearing the Beach Boys perform it live during their tour lit up my life. This one is a really upbeat, fast-tempo tune.
The fourth song on the album is a huge stand out. "Spring Vacation" is an organ and guitar driven pop rocker that screams to have the late Carl Wilson singing it. When I hear Brian sing "Hallelujahhhh" I can hear Carl's voice. This song also has a great breakdown and solo at about 2:10 that brings me back to the solo in "I Get Around". This is A+ pop song writing, executed by the finest singing band America ever had.
The fifth song, "The Private Life of Bill and Sue" is unfortunately the weakest song on the album mainly because of the lyrical content and Parrothead influenced music (I hate Jimmy Buffett). I think re-writing the lyrics to "What would I be without me and you" would have made this song 50% better.
The next song, "Shelter" makes up for the previous song with its powerful chorus and early 60's influenced backing vocals. The chorus is sung by Jeffrey Foskett and gives me chills down my spine. This song reminds me a bit of "The Little Girl I Once Knew", with the way the song goes quiet for a second before the chorus begins. This one is a little bit more experimental in its structure than the rest of the songs on the album, so I give it extra points for being interesting.
The seventh song, "Daybreak Over The Ocean" starts with some very huge vocal harmonies and then moves into a verse that reminds me of "Kokomo" with Mike Love's singing and the percussion used. It's basically a nice island jam. However, this song is far superior to Kokomo and features a really nice guitar/marimba solo at 2:30!
The next song, "Beaches In Mind", begins with more HUGE vocal harmonies before a powerful drum beat arrives, similar to the beginning of "Do It Again". This is a really nice surf rock song and even has some cool talk box parts in it (remember Frampton Comes Alive?). Overall, this one isn't my favorite cut on the album, just because I don't like rockers, so ignore me.
The ninth song on the album, "Strange World" begins with some great Elton John inspired piano followed by Brian Wilson singing about how strange the world is. The vocal harmonies on this song are so fantastic. The music in this song feels like a really fantastic soft rock song from the 1970s (think Ambrosia's "How Much I Feel" mixed with "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John). This song is just a tiny bit slower than the last two songs and brings back that emotional feeling that I expect from the Beach Boys.
The last 3 songs on the album are considered part of a suite and they are EASILY the best 3 songs the Beach Boys have done since ...1971. It feels like I am listening to the B-side of "Today" or even "Sunflower" or "Pacific Ocean Blue" by Dennis Wilson. These 3 songs are just fantastic and will eternally be some of my favorite songs of all time.
They just hit EVERYTHING right with the last 3 songs. The vocals, the tempo, the melodies, the subject matter and they sung it from the heart (Murry Wilson would be so proud!).
"From There To Back Again" begins with a piano playing quarter notes (like Surf's Up) with Al Jardine singing and a flute riff reminiscent of "She Says That She Needs Me" off of Brian's second solo album. The vocal harmonies remind me of the sorrow of "Warmth of the Sun" but so much more tender. The song is about asking your loved one to just forget about the arguments and sit down at a nice Pacific Coast getaway and listen to your favorite songs. The ending of this song also has this OUTRAGEOUS whistling solo and a beautiful string ending.
The next song, "Pacific Coast Highway" begins immediately with some perfect 4 part harmonies and more piano quarter notes and flute riffs with Brian singing the lead. This song is a pure ballad and they do it big with a string section, similar to the song "Golden Slumbers" by the Beatles. This song is really just a quick transition into the highlight of the album.
"Summer's Gone" is the 12th and final song from "That's Why God Made the Radio" and the obvious emotional centerpiece of the album. When Mike Love "fired" Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks from the Beach Boys a couple weeks ago he quoted Summer's Gone as proof that he loved his band mates, but I just can't be sure. The song can only be compared to "Caroline, No" because of its extreme beauty, tempo and woodwind sections. There are also brilliant vocal harmonies and string moments that give me chills. The song remembers the old days of the Beach Boys, almost wordlessly paying tribute to Carl and Dennis and evoking the magical feeling of when they were still around to entertain us. It's very clear that this might be the very final moment that this legendary band ever shares with us and its hard not to feel sad.
"Summer's Gone" is emotional, chilling, sorrowful and beautiful. I don't know if it will ever be possible to top this moment and the many factors that went into creating it. The first album with all of the surviving Beach Boys together in 27 years, the first GREAT album in 35 years, the first reunion in decades, the band breaking up again, an uncertain future, an unforgettable past. It all feels so alive on this record; Brian, Al, David, Mike and Bruce.
I don't know if "That's Why God Made The Radio" will make me laugh or cry in 10 years, but I do know it will always make me feel passionately. Thank you to the Beach Boys and everyone involved for making this record. It truly means a lot to me.
1. "Think About the Days"
2. "That's Why God Made the Radio"
3. "Isn't It Time"
4. "Spring Vacation"
5. "The Private Life of Bill and Sue
7. "Daybreak Over the Ocean"
8. "Beaches in Mind"
9. "Strange World"
10. "From There to Back Again"
11. "Pacific Coast Highway"
12. "Summer's Gone"
BUY IT NOW