The Beach Boys released their first single in 19 years earlier this week and they did so to much scrutiny. It seems to be the same criticism every aging band get when they release new work after a lax period. If we take the word of the general public it would seem no one wants any band to reform.
Well, actually that’s not true. Everyone wants their favourite old school bands to reform but no one wants them to release any new material. Unfortunately for the haters, not every musical group can rest on the laurels of their old material a la the Spice Girls.
People seem to be pretty accepting when an artist or band keeps touring and shelling out new tunes. U2 have been together for 35 years, R.E.M. were together for 31 years before breaking up last year and The Rolling Stones have been together for half a century, since before colour television and continue to put out albums and singles.
So there’s a definite double standard; if a band continually makes music, no one says boo. Yet if an iconic group of musicians decide reform after a hiatus, people lay on the criticism. But stranger than the criticism is that people feel like they actually have the right to be critical, as if these iconic bands owe them something.
So, okay; the Beach Boys are probably never going to release another Pet Sounds, but the Wilson clan and co. are pushing 70, so if they think it’s a good idea to pump out some more surfer pop jams about vintage cars and radios who is anybody to tell them otherwise? What more do you want from them?
Wilson, Love and the rotating roster of songwriters that have graced the Beach Boys line-up over the last half-century have given us some of the best albums of all time, amazing harmonies, are responsible for great ad campaigns and an entire genre of music. Isn’t that enough? (The answer is yes).
I’ll admit, for some bands releasing new material post their hey-day doesn’t work. Hell, for most bands it doesn’t work. Guns and Roses’ Chinese Democracy was one of the worst things to ever happen to music. But for every crappy album like Bush’s 2011 release The Sea Of Memories comes a gem like the Pixies’ 2004 single ‘Bam Thwok’.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ll gladly endure – or rather, ignore- some Bush if it means I get some new old classics. So even if the forthcoming Beach Boys record sucks, it’s allowed to. It can be as self-referential and indulgent as it likes.
Why? Because the Beach Boys have already given us Surfin’ USA, Pet Sounds and ‘Kokomo’. We’ve had our fill. Let them have theirs.