After the release of The Smile Sessions which included The Beach Boys oft-bootlegged leftovers, and Brian Wilson and co’s unfinished 60’s masterpieces; no one really expected the band to bounce back with another release.
Known for their lush orchestral melodies, the band’s sounds have often been classified as Baroque pop. Incorporating elements of pop, classical and rock music in their music, The Beach Boys are quite popular for their ornate productions and low fidelity musical aesthetic. Rich in layered melodies, sophisticated productions and illustrious harmonies, their latest album That’s Why God Made the Radio features some interesting tracks and quite a few downers too.
That’s Why God Made the Radio toys with the idea of perfection. With archetypal melodies and compelling tonal splits, the album is a struggle between Mike’s sunny compositions and Brian’s grand yet dark themes. While some of the songs had dense structures and intricate melodies, others seemed too retro and dim. The album opens with an elegant cappella Think about the Days that glistened with a web of complex harmonies and a melancholy piano figure.
Though simple in its structure, the song is hauntingly beautiful. Rich in melody, the wordless incantation by Wilson, Love and Al Jardine is vaguely reminiscent of a time when music was all about being soulful.
The title track That’s Why God Made the Radio has a 60’s styled ditty sound that bridges the gap between grand melodies and ‘mid-tempo’ ballads. With striking chord changes and a tempting chorus, the band tries to elevate its sounds through dense musical structures. But, in this particular case, the track doesn’t portray a sincere attempt at making good music.
While Isn’t It Time springs up with vibrant ukulele and piano sounds as the vocal triumvirate of Wilson, Jardine, and Love trade off verses; the romantic number Shelter showcased some exquisite melodies with harpsichord and a playful trombone. With Spring Vacation and Day Break over the Ocean, the band hits an all time low with mediocre sounds and disingenuous lyrics.
The cheesy pop tunes and love-struck jams aptly mar the band’s towering reputation of being a musically progressive group.
Though the first half of the album is a far cry from extravagant sounds, it had its moments with spiraling riffs, intricate chord progressions and some haunting melodic grace.
On the other hand, as the album progresses to the final three tracks — with From There to Back Again, Pacific Coast Highway and Summer's Gone something extraordinary happens. Suddenly, the sounds evolved with wistful melodies and stunning ball ads. As complex harmonic developments glide over a symphonic instrumental sweep, one can’t help but rejoice over the fact that the boys have not lost their mojo just yet. Beautiful vocals, sparse instruments and impeccable melodic lines helped restore some faith in The Beach Boys, after all. The second half of the album is an honest confession — one that usually beckons a higher understanding of life.
Though sporadic, filled with tempo shifts and striking melodies that occasionally lapse into silence; the songs capture the crux of melancholy and boldly present them in a melodious style.
As Wilson croons Summer’s gone, I’m gonna sit and watch the waves, we laugh we cry, we live then die, and dream about our yesterday in the final song; complex rhythms fade away, as the sound of waves carries us into the sunset.
Filled with strings and woodwinds, Summer’s Gone is a befitting end to the 50-year-old band’s rich legacy.