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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Beach Boys: M.I.U. Album


1) She's Got Rhythm; 2) Come Go With Me; 3) Hey Little Tomboy; 4) Kona Coast; 5) Peggy Sue; 6) Wontcha Come Out Tonight; 7) Sweet Sunday Kinda Love; 8) Belles Of Paris; 9) Pitter Patter; 10) My Diane; 11) Match Point Of Our Love; 12) Winds Of Change.

Although I completely understand the regular fan disdain for M.I.U. Album, I have never really shared it. Yet on the surface, there seems to be every reason for hating it. With Love You failing to repeat the commercial success of 15 Big Ones, it was hardly surprising when Reprise Records, with which the band was now affiliated, refused to release Brian's subsequent project in the same vein, the much-bootlegged Adult / Child. This sent the band into further chaos, exacerbated by Brian once again retreating into drug asylum. Consequently, Mike and Al dragged Brian to Ma­harishi International University in Iowa, force-fed him some meditation, and, in between the three of them — Dennis and Carl are present only marginally, adding vocals on a couple of the tracks — quickly concocted this certified «piece of product» instead.

With Al Jardine as producer and Mike once again writing most of the lyrics to Brian's melodies (and thus, gaining access to the general «mood» of the songs), M.I.U. Album is a bizarre mix of retro light pop (which mostly dominates Side A) and contemporary light pop (Side B, with a lit­tle bit of contamination). This safeguards the record from being derided as either an «unabashed transformation into an oldies act» or a «cheesy attempt at trendy commercialization» — because it is both at the same time!

That said, at least the retro stuff, per se, is okay. Brian's 'She's Got Rhythm' and the cover of the Del-Vikings' old hit 'Come Go With Me', in particular, open the album with a solid 1-2 punch. Brian even somehow manages to resurrect the good old falsetto for 'She's Got Rhythm' (that's him, right?), and, as simple as the song really is, its melodic structure and vocal arrangements could easily land it into the «second-tier» group out of the band's pre-Pet Sounds years. Basically, so what if they are all fifteen years older and bearded? When the Beatles climbed out on the roof in 1969 and played the six-year old 'One After 909', it's not as if anybody complained.

Further in the band's favor, the arrangements on the retro-oriented stuff are much better here than they were on 15 Big Ones, with less emphasis on carnivalesque pump organ and glitzy brass and more on guitars, pianos, and group harmonies. Hence, a «generic» cover like Buddy Holly's 'Peg­gy Sue', no matter how superfluous, still sounds much more genuine than the butchered 'Rock & Roll Music'. And Brian's «sole survivor» from Adult/Child, 'Hey Little Tomboy', fares much bet­ter with Brian and Mike sharing the lead vocals and its thick instrumental arrangement than simi­lar songs fared on Love You, even if the melody is more nursery-like.

On the down side, every now and then the retro spirit gets officially unbearable — most openly so on 'Kona Coast', which goes as far as to snatch the old vocal hook off 'Hawaii': a direct sequel to a fifteen-year old song that was originally geared towards fifteen-year olds is, on any rational planet of ours, considered «corny», and its «corniness» tends to be infectuous here — the more battered old tricks Mike, Al, and Brian pull out of the dusty hat, the more they embarrass their grown-up audiences.

But this downside does not even begin to compare with the downside of songs like 'Belles Of Pa­ris', 'Match Point Of Our Love', and 'Winds Of Change'. The latter two, in particular, sound like they had been freshly extracted from some musty Top of the Pops show, surmising blue eyes, cowboy moustaches, modestly hairy chests, acoustic guitars, and so much «soul» your brain could easily drown in it. This is the first time the Beach Boys actually start paying attention to «pop fashion» in the 1970s, and I don't like it (big surprise) — I'd much rather hear a hundred new variations on 'Surfin' USA', no matter how hopelessly out of touch with said fashion.

In the big picture, M.I.U. Album was the final blow that destroyed the Beach Boys' reputation, and one from which the band never recovered. Brian could still materialize good melodies, but he was no longer responsible for shaping them out; and, although this record still manages to keep the nostalgic and the trendy tendencies somewhat apart, subsequent ones would squish them to­gether, resulting in all sorts of horrendously tasteless mutations. Yet, on a song-by-song basis, M.I.U. Album probably has more good songs than bad ones, and a «simply good» Beach Boys song, even from their late period, is still worth hearing, liking, and owning. So I would recom­mend a little bit of sympathy for the record.

Check "M.I.U. Album" (CD) on Amazon
Check "M.I.U. Album" (MP3) on Amazon


  1. I quite like this one. It pairs really well on the twofer with LA since they're both similar sounding albums but have different strengths. This one is Al Jardine produced with lots of Mike and Brian. The other is Bruce Johnston produced with lots of Carl and Dennis. Just program the disk to not play the crappy songs on each record and you get a quite solid 50 minute album that features all of the band members fairly well.

  2. Parts of this album were supposedly originally recorded for a proposed Christmas album, which their label rejected; the boys promptly recorded new lyrics for some of the songs, threw in some new (or at least different) material, and submitted the rehashed results as this album.

    I gotta wonder: if the boys really wanted to start doing some simpler stuff in these years (and not all of them did, obviously - this album was the one which sparked Dennis' infamous comment regarding the album's quality and what he hoped it would do to "Mike's meditation"), why did they (Brian, Mike or whomever) insist on doing covers instead of writing more original material? Was Brian that bad off already? Moreover, if they had to do covers, why did they insist on doing covers of really immature material, such as "Peggy Sue", "Chapel of Love", or "Palisades Park"? 'tis a mystery, and a pity; they were capable of much more even now, but they chose to try to chase commercial glory instead of trying to write really good songs.

  3. This weird album is somewhat controversial in the world of Beach Boys. Of course, Dennis hated it and I'm sure Carl found it disgusting.

    The problem was that "Adult Child" was supposed to follow up "Love You" but that album was even weirder and wilder than "Love You." This left Mike and Al to drag poor Brian to MIU to despartely piece together an album. They tried the Christmas route, failed, and threw new lyrics on top of the backing tracks. Including "Peggy Sue" of all things. "Hey Little Tom Boy" was the only song salvaged from "Adult Child."

    It's amazing that the two "commercial" Beach Boys and a half coherent Brian were even able to piece together half as enjoyable of an album. The whole first side is fine, light weight fun. Good lyrics, solid arrangements (a bit bland but not syrupy, just kind of warm) and a sense of (childish) fun.

    The second side is disarmingly weak of course. "Pitter Patter" and "My Diane" are the only songs worth saving here. Naturally, it's a pretty sterile, rather cynical piece of "product" rather than then homespun, weirdo heart felt genius of "Love You" but hey: as far as late period Beach Boys "product" goes its top of the heap.

  4. Anybody interested in "Adult Child" can purchase the mp3's from sites like Legal Sound and another mp3 sites for relatively cheap. They also have "Sweet Insanity."

  5. Re: That last comment. Do not buy Adult Child and Sweet Insanity from Mp3 sites. These albums have never been officially released. Buying these will just give money to the bootleggers. Albums like these are exactly why trading and sharing exist. When (if?) they're officially released, by all means purchase them from legitimate sources. But until then you will only be giving money to people who're making a buck off of others work.

  6. Fair enough. Just stating there are high quality sources of the files available. I'm not sure I trust the downloading source when it comes to these things: shady viruses and questionable files.

    You can also listen to them for free on "Grooveshark" if you're interested. It's where I heard "Adult Child" actually.

  7. If you're going to get bootlegs, don't buy them. There's plenty of places where you can simply download the albums for free. You're not supporting the artist by buying bootlegs, so there's no point. Slight exception for high quality pieces like the Sea of Tunes sets, which was worth buying if only for the incredibly high quality packaging, booklet, and photography.