Greetings, Glancers! At the time of writing this, the Northern Ireland Covid Shutdown Summer 2020 Special is drawing to a thunderously dull close. It’s currently pissing down outside, and the prevailing colour all around is GREY. What better way to chase away the grey blues than with a dose of sun, sand, and summer, courtesy of The Beach Boys? I know I haven’t been a huge fan of the albums I’ve listened to so far, but I still love most of the singles that I’m aware of, and maybe this record will include a few golden oldies to bring back the warmth to my bones. I realise this will probably make no sense when I get around to publishing, but in truth, it’s always kind of grey, dull, and wet here. What do we have here?
‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ is exactly what I’m talking about. The Chuck Berry intro quickly morphs into a song which just reminds me of the Popeye & Sons show I used to watch. Nostalgic, melodic, light-hearted, sunny, and fun – exactly what I think of when I think of The Beach Boys.
‘Don’t Worry Baby’ opens like a summery Motown song. I don’t recall hearing this. But I instantly like it – it again has that quintessential Beach Boys tone and feel. Great chorus harmonies, lovely all around. The chorus sounds like it was ripped off by – was it McFly – It’s All About You song.
‘In The Parking Lot‘ follows the harmonic, summery style where the previous song left off. Then it takes off at a charge for a whipping verse. There’s another 50s Rock influenced guitar break in the middle, then it switches back to the slower pace to close.
‘Cassius Love vs Sonny Wilson‘ is a mess. I’m not sure why this is on the album. I’m sure hardcore fans love this, but it’s pretty cringy for everyone else. It’s like a compilation TV episode, except featuring snippets of all their big hits. This would be a much more fitting B-Side or novelty extra, but absolutely has no place in the middle of an album.
‘The Warmth Of The Sun‘ is a slower ballad, but retains the harmonic style of the opening tracks. The transitional notes between words in the vocals, sometimes they don’t land and feel whiney. Musically, there’s nothing adventurous here and feels like the band is on auto-pilot. Still, it’s very nice and inoffensive, but you’re not going to remember it, and it’s the first example on the album of things feeling samey.
‘This Car Of Mine‘ means they’re back to singing about cars again. Sure, there are mentions of cars in earlier songs on this album, but this is more overt. It’s a basic 4 bar rocker, mid paced, nice harmonies. Nothing special in the melodies, the lyrics are atrocious, but they sound earnest.
‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love‘ is a cover, obviously. I love the original – it’s one of those classic golden melodies. This offers some assorted varying percussion and a range of harmonies so that the song is different enough from other versions you’ve heard. It’s not as good as Frankie or Diana’s versions, but it’s decent.
‘Pom Pom Play Girl‘ has a few temp changes and pauses to try to change things up a little. There’s a loud handclap accompaniment to the guitar solo, the lyrics are silly – at this point we can expect the lyrics to be, not the most intelligent, but they’re apt for every juvenile subject they cover. It’s another fine, but forgettable song.
‘Keep An Eye On Summer’ starts with a slightly dreary choral section, it’s definitely reminiscent of decades earlier than the 60s. Unusually, it feels more like a Christmas song than anything Summery. The guitars take a different faster strummed approach. It’s too sleepy for my tastes and lacks a killer hook, plus the lead high pitched vocals line should have been re-recorded as it’s not the cleanest and not 100% on pitch, especially when the key changes at the end.
‘Shut Down Part 2‘ is the title track, and surprisingly not part of a prog album. If there was a Part 1, I’ve already forgotten what it sounded like. It has a silly countdown, a huge horn which sounds like, well, a car horn, then it becomes an actual song. Or possibly an instrumental song. See, the thing about this and a lot of Beach Boys music is that they’re just picking their riff and then playing it in four bar scale repetitions. That was of course the hallmark of 50s rock, but once again it makes this band sound dated. Think of the other bands who were musically innovating in the 60s – I previously believed The Beach Boys were part of this group but based on everything I’ve heard so far there has been precious little innovation or invention. This is a simple, quick jam, nothing more.
‘Louie Louie‘ is a cover, – they’ve done two instrumentals and have run out of ideas so are dragging out a cover. To its credit, I guess, it’s quite different from the original. You can make out the lyrics at least. The vocals sound like they’re taking the piss, other than that it’s just an unexciting cover.
‘Denny’s Drums‘ closes the album, and it’s another pointless instrumental. To make it worse, it’s a drum solo. Fine if you’re into drums, not fine for anyone who isn’t John Bonham. I mean, as far as drum instrumentals go, it’s perfectly okay. But it’s not anything anyone will ever choose to listen to more than once.
We started out with a banger, and gradually go worse, eventually descending into the creative void of covers and instrumentals. At this point for me the band is very much a singles band. I’m still waiting to hear anything which makes them the supposed rivals of The Beatles in terms of creativity, and they’re barely more than a boy band who happen to be able to play their instruments and once or twice an album make a pretty tune. I get there will be people who love this – mainly people who bought it at the time and are already predisposed to love it, but I’m saddened that the band isn’t turning out to be the big musical revelation I hoped it was going to be.
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Fun Fun Fun. Don’t Worry Baby.