Whenever asked the eternal question: The Beatles or The Stones? My answer is always, “Snitch please; The Beach Boys are much better than those hacks.” They made the catchiest pop music of all time with their surf infused harmonies before going on to make more profound music. Then mastermind Brian Wilson retired from touring and later dropped out of the band, not to be seen or heard from until he finally dusted of the abandoned Smile album and even managed to tour behind it. And just in time for their fiftieth anniversary, Brian reunited with his cousin Mike Love for a reunion album and tour.
Did we really need a new Beach Boys album? Probably not, but the group recently released That's Why God Made the Radio and it pretty much sounds what you would expect a Beach Boys album would sound like five decades later. Where their early records celebrated the exuberance on teenage youth, surfing and chasing girls on the beach, the new collection of songs is a mellow look at retirement with your toes in the sand and maybe a grandkid or two running around. None of the new songs are as catchy as their early hit singles (or even as catchy as Kokomo) or as profound as anything on Pet Sounds but the harmonies are still tight, the songs will put a smile on your face, and will probably get massive rotation in retirement home. That is if grandpa can figure out how to download it from iTunes, get it on his iPod, and then get it to play on the docking player you bought him for Christmas.
That’s Why God Made the Radio gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
If we were playing the old Remote Control segment Dead or Alive and Bobby Womack came up I may have actually had guessed “dead.” Even after he showed up on the Gorillaz song a couple years ago I may have just assumed that it was vocals from a track I was unfamiliar with. But as it turns out Womack is very much alive and released his latest album in over a decade. Gorillaz’s mastermind Damon Albarn produced The Bravest Man in the Universe and brought his electro-beats that he used for his own band. Unfortunately sometime this distracts from Womack’s voice which has aged into a creepy haggered sound that does not need all the bells and whistles behind it Albarn adds. Even more distracting is the appearance from Lana Del Rey (presumably recorded in the month and a half between when she went from internet phenomenon to laugh stock) who’s voice does not mix with Womack’s at. The album is at its best when the studio magic is pulled back and it is just Womack and a solitary instrument like the acoustic guitar on Deep River. Love Is Gonna Lift You Up is the only overproduced on the album that did no made me wish I could hear an acoustic version of it. It is not hard to wonder how much better the album would have sounded if Rick Ruban had produced the comeback instead of Albarn.
The Bravest Man in the Universe gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
When you hear that Neil Young is singing kindergarten anthems like Clementine and This Land Is Your Land, you would probably think it is some lame sketch concocted by Jimmy Fallon. Nope, Americana is Neil Young singing these songs and other big among the Cub Scout set but adding some of the original darker verses routinely dropped out when sung by the youth. Much like the older Beach Boys album, Americana sound just like you would expect Neil Young singing campfire ditties with Crazy Horse (their first new album together in almost a decade) backing him up would sound. The sing-a-long choruses are there in-between fuzzed out guitar solos, some veering dangerously close to sounding like a Fallon parody. As weird as it sounds on paper, it probably does not even raking in Young’s top five weirdest albums. Do not fret Crazy Horse fans, after this album, Neil continued to work with them on new material they are writing.
Americana gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.