Trust me, I was as surprised as anyone else when I read that The Beach Boys were getting back together and not only going on tour but also recording a new album. The band has had some serious problems over the years regarding Brian Wilson’s distance from “The Beach Boys” and Mike Love’s need for money building to the point of touring a releasing material as “The Beach Boys” when everyone knows that the group’s strong point is Brian Wilson, who’s had a massive comeback over the past nine years with his reinvention of SMilLE and subsequent solo albums that have put Brian back on top.
That’s Why God Made The Radio brings in the original members of The Beach Boys for the first time since 1996, and the results are better than expected compared to some The Beach Boys’ material that has been pressed over all the years, but only a few songs on this new album add up to the very underrated material that Brian Wilson has been putting out over the past ten years.
“Think About The Days” is a near perfect opener, bringing SMiLE’s “Our Prayer” to mind with nothing but harmonies, something that can only be done to such scope by a group like The Beach Boys. The harmonies have always set The Beach Boys apart from other groups (not even Cosby, Stills, Nash and Young can match these guys) and they still have the vocal chops to pull it off on these songs. The title track is a perfect example of this, and while the lyrics are very trite, they work in this context and many of the lyrics that run through the album can be forgiven.
Of course, there’s a set of lyrics about The Beach Boys’ getting back together on “Spring Vacation” that even mentions “Good Vibrations” (although nowhere near to the effect of Brian Wilson’s “Going Home”), and “Isn’t It Time” have a very reminiscent set of lyrics about turning back the pages and doing things like they used to. And great thing about some of the tracks are the that things are done like they used to, with many songs having the same sense of innocence and sunshine that The Beach Boys’ earlier singles had.
And while I can sit here and offer praise for many of The Beach Boys’ efforts on That’s Why God Made The Radio, there’s a handful of moments that are almost as cringe worthy as anything made during The Beach Boys’ eighties period, and it’s mainly thanks to Mike Love.
Mike Love is the same guy that had issues accepting Van Dyke Park’s lyrics for “Surf’s Up” if that tells you anything. Love is allowed to sing several tracks in the middle of the album, and it nearly ruins the experience. “Daybreak Over The Ocean” is a very regrettable song that brings “Cocomo” to mind, and shows Love is nowhere near the singer of Brian Wilson. Sure, most of the songs on That’s Why God Made The Radio are quite cheesy, it gets to be the wrong kind of nostalgia on tracks like “Daybreak Over The Ocean” and “Beaches In Mind”.
The final four songs are near perfect and bring back the greatness that The Beach Boys were able to achieve in the sixties and seventies. “Strange World” comes like a odd update of Sunflower with some big drums and very lively vocals from Brian Wilson (who shows himself to be the highlight of the album with every vocal somehow outshining his bandmates). “From There To Back Again” is a ballad that has some great nostalgic lyrics while the the music falls somewhere between Pet Sounds and Surf’s Up. “Pacific Coast Highway” is more like a Brian Wilson solo track with lyrics about wanting to go home and wanting to live alone can only be sung by someone as singular as Wilson, and while song does have a few cheesy moments, it’s a very short and honest moment that fits in perfectly.
“Summer’s Gone” is a great way to close out the album, with Brian Wilson singing out the ending of the season. The song might be too slow and strike some as cheesy, but it’s one of the better songs that The Beach Boys have put out in the past thirty years.
That’s Why God Made The Radio puts The Beach Boys into a spot I nevert thought they would enter into again, a group that knows how to put together a set of songs that range from mediocre to very strong. Sure, Mike Love’s moments should be unforgivable, but there’s still no denying that there’s plenty of songs here that show that The Beach Boys still can put aside their differences and make a handful of songs that rank with their best songs of the seventies.
Rating: 6.3 out of 10.