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Beach Boys Find Easy Money; Patti Smith, Dexys Return

June 06, 2012

Beach Boys

The cover of "That's Why God Made the Radio," the 50th anniversary album by the Beach Boys. The LP reunites the surviving Beach Boys for vocals, with instruments mainly played by Brian Wilson's backing band. Source: EMI Capital via Bloomberg

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Beach Boys got back together to do it again, singing of fun fun fun in an endless summer of surf, sun and California girls?

The veterans -- boys sounds grotesque -- have reunited for a 50th-anniversary comeback “That’s Why God Made the Radio.” It’s a recycling of song ideas and titles that have been running around the airwaves and in Brian Wilson’s head for decades.

“Spring Vacation” is typical, promising to stir up good vibrations (again). They harmonize “some said it wouldn’t last -- all we can say is, we’re still having a blast.”

Their motivation may be clearer in the song’s gleeful lyric “we’re back together, easy money, ain’t life funny.”

“Think About the Days” is a gem and at least three tracks sound like outtakes from “Surf’s Up” or “Sunflower.” Most of the instruments are played by Wilson’s regular backing band. This recording isn’t in the “Pet Sounds” league. Still, it’s no disaster.

Rating: ***.

Devotees of blissful dream pop -- a fusion of bittersweet melody with filmy soundscapes -- should turn to the similarly named Beach House.

The U.S. duo’s “Bloom” is a stunning suite that mixes heartbreak with joy. Seagulls and waves of strings segue into the surrendering closer “Irene.”

Rating: *****.

The title track of Patti Smith’s “Banga” raves with the punk power of her earlier “Radio Ethiopia,” as her long-term collaborator Lenny Kaye thrashes his guitar.

“April Fool” is better, unexpectedly tender. Is Smith mellowing at last? No way.

“Banga” is her first album of new material since 2004. It’s also her best since “Gone Again” in 1996, which paid tribute to her late husband and Kurt Cobain. (“Twelve” in 2007 was a collection of cover versions, while she also published the memoir “Just Kids” in the intervening years.)

Rating: ****.

“One Day I’m Going to Soar” is the first in 27 years from Dexys, the shambling U.K. band led by Kevin Rowland.

“Attack, Attack!” Rowland barks as “Now” leads the assault. The CD tells of a man who lost love, money and respect before clawing his way back -- much like the singer himself.

Rating: ***½.

Garbage was once a cutting-edge act. That was the 1990s. As before, leader Butch Vig smothers the sound in grungy guitar riffs with Scottish singer Shirley Manson squealing on top.

If you love acts like Husker Du or Sugar -- or any of Garbage’s earlier efforts -- the new “Not Your Kind of People” will press your pleasure button.

Rating: ***.

Beth Ditto is in fine voice on her band Gossip’s fifth collection, “A Joyful Noise.” Trouble is, she’s all dressed up with nowhere to go and little new to say this time. Production by Brian Higgins and some catchy choruses don’t save her.

Rating: **.

What the Stars Mean:
*****      Exceptional
****       Excellent
***        Good
**         Average
*          Mediocre
(No stars) Poor

The Beach Boys are on Capitol, Beach House on Sub Pop and Garbage on Sony, with Patti Smith, Gossip and Dexys all on Columbia. They’re out in the U.S. apart from Dexys, on import from the U.K. and released in America on June 12.

Information: http://dexys.info, http://garbage.com, http://www.beachhousebaltimore.com, http://www.thebeachboys.com, http://www.pattismith.net and http://mitrd.gossipyouth.com.

Download fees vary across services. The albums are priced from about $12 in the U.S. and 9 pounds in the U.K.

(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Jorg von Uthmann on Paris arts, Jason Harper on cars and Rich Jaroslovsky on technology.

To contact the writer on the story: Mark Beech in London at mbeech@bloomberg.net or http://twitter.com/Mark_Beech.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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