I’ve been sitting on this album for far too long. That’s Why God Made the Radio is the 29th album by the legendary Beach Boys. Reunited with master songsmith/producer Brian Wilson, That’s Why God Made the Radio was my most anticipated album of the year. Which is why it pains me to say it’s not very good. The problem is too much has changed for The Beach Boys to fully collaborate again. On one hand you have Brian Wilson still exploring experimental pop music and then you have Mike Love who still wants to sing about driving around and hanging out at the beach. It’s like no one can agree on what a 21st century Beach Boys’ album should sound like, so it suffers.
There are several shimmering moments on this record, but they’re easily forgotten in the grand scheme of things. The album opens with a darkly beautiful acapella piece, but it’s misleading as the rest of the album is fairly conventional. The title track has some excellent harmonies but the song itself isn’t much to rave about. It seems strange to hear someone in this day and age singing about the radio. Of course many of rock and roll’s early greats were raised on the radio. It’s just that the concept feels so dated and in-turn presents a group of musicians who seem out of touch. The following track “Isn’t it Time” is the closest to what I envisioned for a new Beach Boys record. It has the unique arrangement of a late 60s Beach Boy track while still feeling new. Still it feels overproduced and a little too squeaky clean for me to love it. Speaking of squeaky clean how about the song “Spring Vacation”? This is a song so heinous it should be put to death. I’d imagine a cornball rocker like this from Rascal Flatts, but The Beach Boys? I blame this on Mike Love.
Conceptually, I’m exhausted from hearing this band sing about the beach. I get it! They’re The Beach Boys! They have a lot of songs about the beach! Sing about other things! Look at Pet Sounds that explored a lot of different feelings and ideas. There’s just something unnatural about listening to 70 year old men singing about hanging out at the beach. It’s like they’re trying to recapture their youth instead of learning to move forward.
I like the fact that The Beach Boys reunited. It shows they’ve patched up their differences. But did they need to record another new album? No, not really. Maybe if they had just done one new song, or some kind of experimental suite… But no, that would be too daring. I still love The Beach Boys with all my heart, but let’s just hope they make the right decision and retire the name before they become a further parody of themselves.
Favorite Tracks: “Isn’t it Time”, “That’s Why God Made the Radio”, “Think About the Days”