Who knew The Beach Boys had a new album of original material out this year?? Okay, a lot of people, I'm sure, but I didn't for some inexplicable reason.
These guys were my very first concert, at about 6 or 7 years old. My mom tipped the wrong guy (we were at a casino concert venue), and got us seats closer to the middle, but father back, instead of closer up. I still remember having an awesome time with her though, even when I barely knew any of the songs and was semi-convinced they were the Beatles (oh the naivety of a child...)
So hear we are, close to 20 years later, and while I wouldn't call myself a die-hard fan, I will always maintain a very special place in my heart for the California sun boys. This is their twenty-ninth studio album, and it just came out a few weeks ago (ignore the date on this post - it was released on June 5th, I'm writing on June 13th, and the post says it's April 27th - I'm playing catch-up like never before!). Of course, the one thing I did know was that this was the 50th anniversary of the band (they're doing a special tour this year, which included Bonnaroo), and this album was made to coincide with that.
What I didn't realize is that this is the band's first album with original material since 1992 - close to around the last time I saw them. It's also the first album since the death of Carl Wilson (1998). Many songs have been formulating over the past 20 years though, and now they're finally listenable to us all.
"Think About The Days" immediately takes us on a very nostalgic path. The harmonies alone are classically Beach Boys, but then the piano goes and adds this whole other element of gentle time travel back in memories. At only a minute and a half long, the tail end is where the keys take it up a few notes, showing that something is about to really happen.
The title track comes next in "That's Why God Made The Radio." If you wanted higher-pitched sounds from these guys, this is not where to find it. While the harmonies are entirely still there, the octaves are just a bit lower to show some age and growth. I love the lyrics though - they're not exactly simplistic, but they do sound like a whole other time and appreciation for music. The song's all about the power of a song in the realm of love. Ever thought about how a song can change a situation completely? Even if just for a moment? That's what this is all about.
Here's a little lyric video they posted:
I'm tempted to call "Spring Vacation" an almost modern song. I mean, there is a clear Beach Boys sound to the whole thing, but the music itself is just a little more 2000's than I've heard ever before in their music. There's some throw back lines to "good vibrations" and summer times of getting back together. Of course this makes for a cute little summer love theme. The guitar is what makes it playable now - the solo alone is so much more today than expected. It's really a nicely compiled little tune.
"The Private Life of Bill and Sue" has got me feeling the island vibes for sure. There's a little breezy island beat and sings of tropical lands all on its own. The lyrics themselves are just this cute story of the life of these two who are so completely blissfully happy and sweet that I think I'm getting a cavity. It's fun though, as far as happy stories go. Good for them, even if the rest of us might not get it.
This is about the point that I hit some kind of lull in the album if songs start sounding extremely similar. I think I'm there as we go in to "Shelter." I mean, yes, it's another beach song about love and getting caught in the storm together. It's by no means bad, but it's by no means keeping me entirely awake at the end of the long day. It's sweet enough, but just doesn't speak enough to warrant caring more.
Man, these songs are exactly what the original fans would be wanting to hear. "Daybreak Over The Ocean" has the old, sweet love quality of purer sweeter times. There's a cool sound in the bridges though, created by just a short rhythm as we break between parts, that takes it in a really cool direction. The only thing I can think to relate some of these harmonies to is 2ge+her on their sweeter (yet still hilarious) songs. Mu summary of this one: the slow dance on live band night on the ocean liner.
"Beaches In Mind" just really knocked it into my head, just in the opening notes, that you do not hear harmonies like this ever - not even in churches anymore. While the song is sort of lacking much thought - which is actually the point - those harmonies are completely where it's at. Man, this is the one you have to play on the way to vacation when it's time to zone the rest out. E-Merce: we need to start a playlist, though I don't think this one'll work for our Canada Day trip. Anywhos, back to those probably actually reading - yeah, drift off to this one. There's just some sweet wonderful sounds of the waves somehow embedded into this, and I don't even care how.
I think we're in for a bit more depth for "Strange World" with that piano lead-in. The hard-hitting drums back that up. But then the lyrics... I mean, it's an acknowledgement of the insanity of this world that we live in, but not letting us get too deep into thought past general love and making it by. Actually, I have to say, this tune is oddly relaxing in that it doesn't had that weight and depth to it. Sort of... refreshing.
"From There To Back Again" sounds too much like how we make fun of my undergrad school's motto. Just the title's words, not the song itself, promise. This one actually sounds much older than the Pet Sounds we used to enjoy. This has an entirely 40's/50's standard feel to it, as it relies almost entirely on the vocals, with very little instrumental support other than a drum in between to fill the sound. There is a piano, but even then, it's almost just for note support. The flute sounds like a voice. This one, in short, is all about the voice, even when the beat does pick up - don't be fooled!
Of course we have a song called "Pacific Coast Highway." This one's the epic song. It's got to do with moving on in your later days, which these guys would know nothing about, right? I like it enough. It is interesting how the emphasis went to the vocals later in this album, whereas the beginning was more impressing with the instrumental arrangements. This shorter number, at only 1:47, is a solemn goodbye into the sunset.
But we still have to finish up with "Summer's Gone." Guh... this is like the saddest journey of a Beach Boys collection I've ever experienced, with still some kind of overlaying happiness no matter what. The clarinet (I think) plays things out softly, as we wave goodbye to a fun summer in the sun, once again, with our Beach Boys. Good lord, this song isn't over yet... At least the ocean waves goodbye.
Added to My Playlist:
- "That's Why God Made The Radio"
- "Beaches In Mind"
- "Strange World"