Archive for the ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio Track-by-track’ Category

That’s Why God Made The Radio Track-by-track XII: Summer’s Gone

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

It would be a very Brian Wilson thing to want a song called Summer’s Gone, and to keep the song for over ten years until the Beach Boys were back again. And for a group known for celebrating the good times to possibly end their studio album career with a reflective song looking at the passing of those times.

If Pacific Coast Highway is rumored to be inspired by Dennis Wilson’s passing, then there is some sense in this being inspired by Carl’s passing, and the realisation of being the last Wilson standing. It also dates back to the original Joe Thomas sessions, with the interesting, some may say, incongruous, additional involvement of Jon Bon Jovi.

Unlike the previous two tracks which dazzle in their movement between different motifs, Summer’s Gone has a more conventional song structure, with a single pace and melodic structure. This is not to say the standard has dropped from the previous two songs, but more that you need to listen very carefully -unlike many of Brian’s songs which soar melodically, this one digs deep and slowly into one’s consciousness.

The immediate parallel is Caroline No, the only other Beach Boys album closer in a similar league. Whereas that song ostensibly dealt with the end of a relationship, this one deals with the end of lives or at least the passing of the summer of one’s lives. And that aching final “Caroline No” in that song, which is one of music’s greatest moments and the final realisation of irrevocable change, almost fifty years later as Brian sings “summer’s gone, it’s finally sinking in”, we have another aching, and possibly even deeper moment.

Ultimately however, the song is cyclical, and that is why this song is maybe the “downer” that it first may appear to be. Just as “one  day begins, another ends”, summer will be back again. The summer of our lives may  end, indeed our own lives are transient, but the waves rolling against the ocean at the song will always be there, and will always inspire us. And indeed, the music of the Beach Boys, from the teenage joy of Surfin’ Safari to this stunning song, and back again if you so wish, will always be there for us as well.

That’s Why God Made The Radio Track-by-track XI: Pacific Coast Highway

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Pacific Coast Highway proves that length doesn’t matter – in somewhat less than two minutes and barely fifty words, we get a pocket symphony that mirrors the very depth of the ocean in the title.

It reminds me of Scott Walker’s On Your Own Again, another astonishing, short song of loss. Of course, another invocation is right back at the other end of the Beach Boys’ canon – Lonely Sea.

It has been mentioned that this song has been inspired by the passing of Dennis Wilson, whose life and death was so connected with the Pacific. But overall, the song continues the contrast between beauty and loss, as the singer is inspired by the beauty of a sunset drive on the Pacific Coast Highway, while reflecting on life and losing someone. The realization that “I’m better off alone” is somewhat chilling, but at the same time, maybe you can sense that Brian realizes he needs to find strength in himself, rather than being used by others, after the passing of his close family.

The overall tone of the song is melancholy, but as with the previous song, there is hope, nay joy in the beauty of the track. The end is just about the perfect marriage of musical and lyrical imagery; the sunset on the coast, the stunning melody line, the closing harmony.

It’s a stunning song -following From There To Back Again, the best one-two punch on a Beach Boys record since ‘Til I Die and Surf’s Up. And the knockout blow is still to come….

That’s Why God Made The Radio Track-by-track X: From There To Back Again

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

If the first nine tracks of That’s Why God Made The Radio simply show that the Beach Boys have moved from Summer In Paradise territory to something like Holland, the tenth track takes us to the ultimate highs of Pet Sounds.

In simple terms, From There To Back Again is at least the best Beach Boys song since ‘Til I Die. Indeed it belongs in the same universe as In My Room, Warmth Of The Sun, God Only Knows, Caroline No, Surf’s Up, Break Away and ‘Til I Die– songs that are amongst the greatest creations in any art form, and the reason why Brian Wilson needs to be revered as one of the greatest American artists in any genre.

Late in his seventh decade, almost drowned by a flood of water under the bridge, Brian Wilson has come back and showed his mastery of the pocket symphony and the ability for melody, harmony and words to come together perfectly.Remember this is one of the songs written new for the album.

The last three tracks all have an ineffable yin and yang of beauty and loss in them. From There To Back paints a picture of the beauty of Pacific Coast, a reflection on time gone past, surely tinged with regret, and a longing to reach out and be with someone special. The second section, fittingly sang by Brian himself,  seems to reflect on that flood under the bridge, the highs and the lows, with the intriguing line “the consequence of the wine” which could be interpreted as the negative impact of certain substances on people’s lives -even so, the magic of the song is that there are a lot of interpretations and ability to personalise the song.

The final section is wordless but brilliant – a wonderful melodic break with whistling by Al. It seems to reflect some sort of hopeful break, and as with many of those “perfect” Beach Boys songs, leaves one with a positive feeling even when reflecting on a lot of pain.

A word on Al Jardine  – it is clear from this year’s reunion that we have missed Al from the Beach Boys (he was pretty much missing on Summer In Paradise). Aside from his solo album getting some exposure and demonstrating Al’s talent, he is key to vocal and musical mix. His vocals on this song have been widely praised, and rightly so.

And finally, a personal reflection. It’s been a time of a lot of personal turbulence for me, and like so much of the music, listening to this song is a healing experience. I may not be in California, and it may be winter here, but driving along the Cape Peninsula Coast, blasting the song out, is a cathartic and wonderful experience. I’ve certainly personalized the beauty and loss in this song, and I know it speaks to many of you as well.

That’s Why God Made The Radio Track-by-track IX: Strange World

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Strange World is a bridge between the fun-in-the-sun of Beaches In Mind and the emotional-laden and wonderful trio of songs that ends of the album – a “John The Baptist” song in a way.

We’re might still be at the beach, but instead of the good times, we see the “uninvited who’ve lost their way.” The track invokes an unsettled world, where people are looking for love and security in a place where things aren’t always what they seem.

The protagonist finds some security in his/her love, which seems to help make some sense of the strangeness out there, but there is still a sense of unease, and a world that will never make sense.

Musically, it’s a solid tune and production, with the lovely touch of a bicycle bell that hearkens back, whether consciously or not, to You Still Believe In Me. Overall, it’s a lovely, quirky Brian Wilson tour, with the additional layer of lovely Beach Boys harmony, and a prophetic entrance to the even greater glories of the next three cuts.

That’s Why God Made The Radio Track-by-track VIII: Beaches In Mind

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

I was challenged in the comments section of this blog to be more forthright in my opinions, so here goes: I think this is the weakest track on the album. Which is not to say it is unlistenable, but simply undistinguished in the exalted company of much of the rest of the album.

Similarly to Spring Vacation and Isn’t It Time, the track tries to invoke the good times from the past, but doesn’t quite have the melodic quality of the previous two to make it truly memorable. However, the hook is still good enough to stick in the head, and it does provide a final, innocent trip to the beach before we start moving into the deeper territory of the last third of the album.

That’s Why God Made The Radio Track-by-track VII: Daybreak Over The Ocean

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

S0 we’re the Web Page For Mike Love, reviewing what is effectively a solo song by Michael Edward Love, and the only track on That’s Why God Made The Radio not co-written by Brian.

It’s probably not coincidental that the Mike solo compositions on Beach Boys albums are mostly pretty decent, and in the case of Big Sur, sometimes rather nice- it may have something to do with Mike writing from his heart, as opposed to doing something that fans might expect. Daybreak is more in the pretty decent camp; it’s a slow nostalgic ballad with a fairly memorable melody. It might be one of the weaker tracks on the album (for me, not the weakest), but it fits in well with the overall mood of the album and certainly doesn’t make one lurch for the fast forward button. Remember, Mike Love is a Wilson once-removed!

That’s Why God Made The Radio Track-by-track VI: Shelter

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

With a beautiful tune, and a universal sentiment, Shelter is a very good song. It would have been a standout on some Beach Boys albums, and on many other records, but here it is only top of the second tier.

The vocal interplay between Brian and Jeff Foskett that reminds one of the classic early Brian/Mike duets, but with Brian now in a reversed role. The production is possibly a bit too AOR, and a more “classic” Brian touch may have taken this to the top rung. But if this is the sort of tune Brian is bringing out as his standard, happy days are definitely back!

That’s Why God Made The Radio Track-by-track V: The Private Life Of Bill And Sue

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

This might be my longest blogpost title ever. And the title certainly promises much, as does the premise of the private life intrusion of reality television. Ultimately, it slightly under-delivers, being one of Brian’s Latin flavored songs (other examples being Mexican Girl and Oh Mi Amor), which are amongst the lesser of his recent opuses.

Having said that, it’s an exceptionally catchy track, and still one that with the right promotion and video, could have hit potential. It’s not a grand slam, but it’s not a bunt either.

That’s Why God Made The Radio Track-by-track IV: Spring Vacation

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

This track has taken a bit of flack for the possibly less than poetic lyrics and the possibly cynical phrase “easy money.” Indeed, this may have been one of the tracks that one could have dreaded, having seen the tracklist.

But never judge a book by the cover, or a song by the title. Spring Vacation is a great pop tune, and an instant singalong, and the lyrical theme of unity in strength is hardly controversial.

Ultimately, pop music isn’t about the the lyrics alone, but the way the combination of melody, rhythm and lyrics makes you feel. And with the simple joys expressed by this song, it’s a singular success.


That’s Why God Made The Radio Track-by-track III: Isn’t It Time

Monday, July 16th, 2012

The third track and second single from That’s Why God Made The Radio is one I will always associate with my California trip and the shows that I saw there. I heard it during the soundcheck of the Berkeley shows, and then twice at the actual shows that I went to. In both cases, the audience reaction was as good as any of the classic hits, because…this is a classic hit.

Written by the same committee as the title track with Mike Love an additional member, Isn’t It Time may not be the strongest song on the album from a pure musical perspective. But with the eternal theme of kindling old flames, the vocal interplay between the different lead vocalists, compelling rhythm and catchy melody, it’s an almost perfect pop song.