Picks and Pans Review: The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys
The Boys' first album since the death of drummer Dennis Wilson is also their first studio album since 1980. And it is the first Beach Boys' album that was not produced by the group itself. The new producer in this case is Steve Levine. He is best known for turning out Culture Club records, yet the unexpected combination has resulted in a sound that respects the Beach Boys' style while adding some welcome rejuvenating touches. The Beach Boys have in fact almost been turned into a vocal group; Levine relies on studio musicians, synthesizers and guest-star turns for his backup. Stevie Wonder shows up to do his one-man act behind Carl Wilson's and Al Jardine's lead vocal on the Wonder tune I Do Love You. There's some real magic in this blend of Wonder and the Beach Boys, two of the most original and enduring forces in pop music. The Boys also perform Passing Friend by Boy George and Roy Hay, with Hay filling in most of the instrumentals. There's a nod to the past with California Calling, a standard paean to the Golden State in updated Valley girl language ("And when our favorite surfin' song comes on/We always let 'em know it's Totally Rad'). And Brian contributes two songs co-written with Eugene Landy, who has been his live-in shrink on and off for nearly 10 years. (Their collaboration does not represent a milestone in use of the language: "I'm so lonely/ Really, really so lonely/I wish that you'd come comfort me whoa/I'm so brokenhearted/Since we parted.") For a long time the Beach Boys have profitably perpetuated their '60s sound; this album indicates they are now ready to admit to middle age and turn out something deeper than their fun-fun-fun songs. (Caribou)
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