Brian Wilson returns to the Beach Boys for
The Beach Boys
By Will Hermes in Rolling Stone
rian Wilson and the Beach Boys haven't made a record together in 16 years, but their music feels more present than ever. Last year's release of The Smile Sessions, which documented Wilson's unfinished late-Sixties masterpiece, was a major event, as was Wilson's 2004 version of Smile. The group's harmonies echo through Fleet Foxes' chorales and Animal Collective's stoner jams, their soda-pop song forms are borrowed by indie-rock faux-naifs, and their ambitious arrangements hover over work by Jon Brion, Mark Ronson and pretty much any orchestral-pop producer you can name.
That's Why God Made the Radio sounds a little surreal in this context, like a transmission from an alternate, irony-free universe: 12 songs of Turtle-Waxed melodies and startlingly boyish vocals. But there's a shadow hanging over the proceedings -- time, with its sidekicks age and death, issues the Beach Boys seemed designed specifically to dodge.
The album opens with a wordless incantation by Wilson, Love and Al Jardine, with longtime collaborators Bruce Johnston and Jeffrey Foskett (veteran colleague David Marks is also onboard). It's like the start of a church service -- and it leads into the title track, a harmony-robed slow dance about the days before Pandora streamed in our Priuses. "Isn't It Time?" is a similarly Love-struck jam that suggests dancing "just like yesterday" over "I Get Around" hand claps. The record's flashbacking first half is cut with humor and self-awareness. "We're back together/Easy money/Ain't life funny," they sing with a wink on "Spring Vacation," adding, for anyone who would knock their hustle, "Hey, what's it to ya?/Hallelujah."
Wilson seems to take charge on the album's darker second half. "Strange World" confesses to being a little baffled by life. The LP's wordless intro is echoed on "Pacific Coast Highway," with a title recalling late brother Dennis Wilson's "Pacific Ocean Blue" and a vision of the highway's end. "Sunlight is fading and there's not much left to say," sings the 69-year-old Wilson over wistful piano chords, adding, "My life/I'm better off alone." The record ends with "Summer's Gone," an accepting embrace of strings and woodwinds that concedes, "We live, then die/And dream about our yesterdays."
Part of a 50th-anniversary reunion that includes a world tour, That's Why God Made the Radio is, to some degree, a sugary, brand-claiming nostalgiafest. But thanks to Wilson's return, it's also an ambitious statement -- perhaps a final one -- on a legacy that's as much defined by confusion and creative cul-de-sacs as by Pet Sounds. The album is an uneven but deeply touching work by a clearly flowed Great Band -- one that, at its best, always aimed for the heavens, even if it didn't always reach them. * * *
Shock rocker Alice Cooper walks us through
by Chris Nashawaty in Entertainment Weekly
lice Cooper has been in some terrible movies -- and he knows it. "I went into Blockbuster and they had a rack of the '10 Greatest Turkeys of All Time,'" says the singer, 64. "I was in three of them."
Cooper, who became famous 40 years ago with the hit "School's Out" and followed it up with "Elected" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy," is known for being one of hard rock's most theatrical performers. His stage shows have featured a guillotine, an electric chair, and a boa constrictor. Now the self-confessed horror-film nut is appearing as himself this summer in Dark Shadows, a movie reboot of the eccentric 1966-1971 supernatural soap opera, performing at a party thrown by Johnny Depp's vampire hero Barnabas Collins (who in the film describes the rock star as the "ugliest woman I've ever seen"). Cooper says he found director Tim Burton to be a kindred spirit. "We had dinner one night in London and we both knew every point of reference," he recalls. "If he would say 'Suspiria,' I would say, 'Dario Argento.' I see the humor in horror as much as Tim or Johnny does, so we really do fit together." Last summer Depp grabbed a guitar and joined the rocker on stage at London's 100 Club. "I said, 'If this whole acting thing doesn't pan out for you, you can always be one of our guitar players,'" remembers Cooper. "He said, 'You have no idea how many times I would rather do that.'"
Off stage, the man born Vincent Damon Furnier is a golf nut and droll anecdotalist who says he'd love to be cast as a priest or "nerdy accountant." In the meantime, he's happy to reminisce about playing a brainwasher, a murderer, and... the man who raised Freddy Krueger.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
The Muppet Show (1978)
Monster Dog (1984)
Prince of Darkness (1987)
Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
Wayne's World (1992)
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