THE BEACH BOYS: SUMMER IN PARADISE (1992)
1) Hot Fun In The Summertime; 2) Surfin'; 3) Summer Of Love; 4) Island Fever; 5) Still Surfin'; 6) Slow Summer Dancin' (One Summer Night); 7) Strange Things Happen; 8) Remember (Walking In The Sand); 9) Lahaina Aloha; 10) Under The Boardwalk; 11) Summer In Paradise; 12) Forever.
Since this album, like its predecessor, is now out of print, and even the few surviving copies are going on Ebay for suspiciously low cash figures, it is clear that even Mike Love, not to mention the few other surviving Beach Boys, would prefer to forget about it like one forgets about a particularly nasty bad dream (to each his own). But history is history: in the digital age, it no longer forgets anything. Besides, the fifty years of penance required for a crime like this are far from over — so take it like a man, Mr. Love.
The most awful realization one can make about Summer In Paradise is that — yes, I know it is very hard to believe, but here goes: The Beach Boys (at this point, consisting of Mike, Carl, and Bruce) were not consciously trying to make the worst pop album ever recorded. On the contrary, they were trying to make an album that would garner commercial success by combining healthy nostalgia, modern production values, and a soulful punch. Had this been intended as a corny self-parody, we would all just laugh and go home.
Granted, time has healed the wounds, and what, in 1992, could only seem the utmost horror to all purveyors of good taste, now comes across as a bizarre curiosity — and by now I mean «when Baywatch is no longer the regular benchmark for trash culture». But it is still worth one and only one listen, exclusively for educational purposes. For starters, the album was almost entirely computer-generated (Pro Tools!), with all the rhythm sections pre-programmed. The only Beach Boy to actually play an instrument on these tracks was Bruce Johnston. The only Beach Boy to actually write songs on this album was Mike Love, and even then he mostly supplied lyrics to Terry Melcher's «compositions». The only other Beach Boy to take an active part whatsoever was Carl Wilson, taking lead vocals on a couple tracks, overseeing the vocal harmony recording process, and adding pathetic «credibility» to the product as a «Beach Boys» creation.
As for the album's general purpose, one look at the tracklist is quite sufficient to understand what was going on. Unfortunately, the titles alone do not let one see the true scope of disaster. To do that, arm yourself with forgiveness and listen to the new «re-recording» of 'Surfing', replete with crashing electronic percussion and muscular Def Leppard-influenced RIFFAGE: a new look for surf-rock, targeted at the recent generation of morons, which, fortunately, was far less huge than could be expected (alas, a whoppin' 10,000 people still bought this record back in the day, heedless of everything). If you need more, a couple blocks down the line comes 'Still Surfing', a nostalgic toss-off that steals vocal harmony lines from several genuine Beach Boys classics and tries to make them serve the idea that nothing much has changed in thirty years. No dice.
Amazing, unbelievably effective lowlights on the album include 'Summer Of Love', on which Mike is impersonating a cocky beach-goer with a little rap chant (the most offensive thing about it is, of course, not the «sexism» of the lyrics, as critics frequently complain, but the utter fakeness of the sexism — at least a guy like Steven Tyler, with all his flaws, still knew how to invite a lady to his «love vacation» in 1992 sounding like he really means it); the title track, which begins like a corny nostalgia trip and then quickly, and for no apparent cause, transforms into an even cornier eco-anthem; and the «reinvention» of 'Remember (Walkin' In The Sand)', which genuinely should rank among the top three or so worst covers ever attempted by anybody — the idea of doing the kind of deed they did to the word "remember" could only come from a mind so perverted that I wouldn't trust the person in question with a baseball, let alone a baseball bat.
As for the not-so-impressive tracks, they are simply forgettable — boring adult contemporary crap, for the most part. The fact that this whole thing was recorded in 1992, at least one year after the grunge revolution, in an age when the long-burgeoning underground scene was finally coming out to meet the masses, just shows how utterly, thoroughly clueless the «Beach Boys» were about the musical scene of the time, judging it exclusively by MTV standards. But that's only half of the crime — then comes the pathetic part, because even by those standards they could not come up with a glossy enough, convincing enough, commercial enough piece of product. What more can be said about an album that hypocritically ends with a cover of Dennis Wilson's 'Forever' — with the lead vocals given to John fuckin' Stamos, the star of Full House? If that ain't reason enough for Dennis to stage a vengeful comeback from the grave, nothing is, and the dead will stay in the ground until the end of time — coincidentally, just like Summer In Paradise. The only consolation is that at least Brian had nothing whatsoever to do with this senseless self-humiliation. Thumbs down — all the way right to the toes this time.