Review Summary: The Beach Boys nu-rave album? No, that would be silly, but inside is an explanation of why in parts this is sonically interesting. Not as dull as it sounds either.
The Beach Boys Love You shatters the myth that Brian Wilson cannot write a bad song. I'm sorry but he can. Take for example Solar System, on which his vocals are uncertain and hesitant, embellished by truly terrible synth noise. The song however also has ace ascending bass and piano phrases on it.
This sums up the album completely. While the substance itself is not that which classics are made of there are some nice sounds. Of course Wilson thinks highly of this album, aided by Dr Landy who encouraged him to write some of the songs. For which to be honest he should be sued for malpractice.
The album opens with salvo of suspiciousness Let's Go On This Way, Rollerskating Child and Mona. The image of the beardy, paunchy band on the cover, combined with the slightly odd lyrical content (high school love songs written by a man in his mid 30s, albeit mentally ill) make this seem like some kind of Brass Eye outtake. The lyrics are the reason someone else wrote on Pet Sounds. However, there is a synth riff on Let's Go This Way reminiscent of Gary Numan's Cars, and on Rollerskating Child there's some nice boxy synth. Mona has a splendidly prowling sax riff worth pointing out too.
Johnny Carson is an odd fish. Not just the man, the song. The song intersperses strange praise of the man with shots at the network and asides on his Vegas act. It also sounds like Laura by the Scissor Sisters. Have they too been raiding charity shops for albums by paunchy men"
Good Time is quietly chauvinistic with odd percussion reminiscent of God Only Knows in it's clippety clop-ness (that's not a word, but if it is it's a good one that rolls off the tongue). The sudden bizarre instrumental outbursts are nice too.
Honking Down The Highway is an excursion into Beach Boys synth-country. Love Vigilante's older brother I suppose. Ace opening line "Honking down the gosh darn highway". The bass, synth and organ are yet again brilliant, but the vocals are quite terrible.
Ding Dang is the most meaningless song on the album, and this is almost impossible. Solar System I've gone into detail on, and two words: Vic. Reeves.
The Night Was So Young, in contrast, is quite ace. The drums sound a bit Stephen Morris in parts, the guitar is pushed far back and makes some interesting noise and the organ's quite nice too. Occasionally a piano stabs away, the vocals are borderline stalker-ish. This song reminds me of nothing less than New Order, strangely enough.
I'll Bet He's Nice has some nice Stereolab-ish synth noises on it, complex and built up. The bass is fuzzy enough, turned up it has a nice speaker distorting effect. The drums towards the end are reminiscent of Blue Monday, weirdly enough. The vocals and lyrics however are quite cloying.
Let's Put Our Hearts Together combines steel drums and fuzzy bass synth with a strange duet between Brian Wilson in full strangled cat mode and some bemused woman. The next song however reaches the Brass Eye heights again. I really hope I Wanna Pick You Up means in the picking up a fallen baby mode, not the other meaning. When he gets to yowling he wants to feed her from a cup, another Joy Division parallel. We're listening to mental illness here. This is the way step inside. It sounds quite dodgy, particularly when he's going on about "patt her on the butt" towards the end, as some descending accordions and pianos with truly surprised harmonies mix.
I could be reading too much into it, but listened to unsure as to it's meaning it's borderline Momus territory here.
Airplane is the highlight to me. I've played it while DJ-ing. It works. There's a strange back speaker hard rock riff that keeps stopping and starting, some squelchy Moogs, fuzzy bass and strange echoey stop start drums. The vocals sing ecstatically about being in the air. There's some loping Farsifa organ on this. Then the synth off Decades by Joy Division pays a brief visit, lost in the audio desert. Or dessert. This album is syrupy enough for that. Then a false ending, 123 count in and a Heroes and Villains ending. Aceness.
Then they ruin it with Love Is A Woman, where Mr Wilson sounds at his worse. There's some nice flutes and bass and Carl Wilson sounding bizarrely like Lou Reed but when hes wailing all over the place it's hard not to laugh. We're a million miles from Caroline No or Surfs Up here.
This album is sonically relevant still, with it's fuzzy bass, squelchy synths and BOING noises, but lyrically and vocally it's appalling. It's bass sound though is pure brilliance, it's keys verging on sublime. The front cover is nice tatty psychedelia. It's likely to only be a few quid too. Think of it as the first Beta Band album, before they were together. Or able to purchase alcohol.