Wonderfully, it's one that completely pays off. Executive produced by Mike Love and actually produced by Brian Wilson, That's Why God Made The Radio might not reach the impossible pop heights of the band's singles from '62-'72, but as an entire album it works together every bit as well as the LPs from their first decade. The time of writing veers from back in 1978 to just the last few months, but if this had been dug out of the archives as a lost record from 1969, no-one would really bat an eyelid.
From the word-free intro 'Think About The Days' to the heartbreaking 'Summer's Gone' (an unlikely co-write with Jon Bon Jovi), the harmonies are crisp, beautifully arranged and have all the youthful vigour of preppy collegeboys in letterman jackets. You wouldn't know this was the work of a bunch of balding old codgers in baseball caps unless you flipped the cover to see them waving at you. The title track is begging to be blared out of your car radio with the windows down. Be it a battered deuce coupe or one of your newfangled hybrids, it'll still sound as gorgeously timeless with the rays streaming through the windscreen.
The lyric sheet is mainly sun, surf and rose-tinted sunglasses. Well, what did you expect? 'Spring Vacation' features the most obvious of many more-than-earned nods to the back catalogue ("Spring vacation / Good vibrations"). But despite the joy of reunion, the absence of the late Carl and Dennis is a sadness which underpins everything here. ("We laugh, we cry/ We live then die/ And dream about our yesterday").
Brian Wilson's writing as a 25-year-old was dripping in the raw nostalgic pain of a man more than twice his age. Now he's pushing 70, it strangely feels like Brian's world has somehow caught up with his songs. That sense of someone wistfully looking back at what was lived and lost, the endless groping at feelings just out of reach ("One day begins / Another ends / I live them all and back again") certainly feels less helplessly tragic than it did when Brian was avoiding his dad, playing in his sandbox or escaping the clutches of Eugene Landy. Though, by the end, it's still more than enough to get us sobbing.
Tracks to download: 'That's Why God Made The Radio', 'Spring Vacation', 'From There To Back Again', 'Summer's Gone'
If you like this, you'll like: Best Coast, Mojo magazine, The Ramones
Watch The Beach Boys 'That's Why God Made The Radio' lyric video below: