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With anticipation building as the group tours the country once more (though the Pet Sounds lineup is long over) for their fiftieth anniversary, the release of The Beach Boys’ That’s Why God Made The Radio is perfectly timed—in a society that thrives on nostalgia, the Boys deliver nearly a half-century of American pop culture along with their new material. Their first release in sixteen years, in the case of That’s Why God Made the Radio, is sheer fun Americana from beginning to end instead of tapping into the well of innovation they had earlier in the band’s history. Don’t worry; the album is still great cotton candy fun. With original members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine, and fellow collaborators Bruce Johnson and Jeremy Foskett on board, the original sound remains intact while adding new songs to your summer playlist.
In terms of sound, think “Kokomo” over “Good Vibrations”. The first half of the album sounds like it could have emerged from any given album from the past twenty years of the band. However, the last few tracks preserve the concept and the feel of the album and make it worth your time. In actuality, That’s Why God Made the Radio tells a story we’re all familiar with, especially in the context of The Beach Boys– it’s all good weather, sweet harmony, and a little innovation. “Isn’t It Time” and “The Private Life of Bill and Sue” sound classic to the band’s quintessential, squeaky-clean sound synonymous with their earlier work.
That’s Why God Made the Radio was entirely produced by Brian Wilson and executive produced by Mike Love, and the two original band members engage in their classic tug-of-war in terms of content, and it shows in the album. Where Love has a soft spot for the early Beach Boys all-American surfer tunes that rings clear in the first half of the album, Wilson’s darker agenda and past begins to emerge with special prominence in the closing tracks, especially “Summer’s Gone”. “We live, then die, and dream about our yesterdays,” he croons in the signature style. The concept idea is not completely cohesive, giving way to either Love or Wilson’s wills throughout, but the sound and lyricism is solid and does not try and fix what’s already working for the group. They’re not looking to update their sound with this album but rather celebrate it in anticipation of their sold-out, nationwide tour.
On the whole, The Beach Boys are an American institution that should be applauded for their commitment to music during their nearly fifty-year tenure as a band. They’ve maintained an immense fanbase and their heart and soul, Brian Wilson. That’s Why God Made The Radio isn’t a release that’ll make their top works, but one thing is for sure: the fact that this group is still releasing with the inspiration and talent of half a century ago speaks to their talent and the loyalty of their multi-generational fans.