Record labels know best, right? They definitely understand what the people want better than the artists who do all the creative work that lets the label exist. Right?
This album is a classic example of label interference messing with a band or artist’s career. The story goes that Brian Wilson’s big leap forward as an artist – The Beach Boys Today! – just didn’t sell enough, and so the label asked for a more traditional record.
So Brian and the band gave them…well, something stuck in the middle. The album has a bunch of songs which rely on the Wrecking Crew and Brian Wilson’s Spectoresque arrangements. But it also has plenty of songs which return to his/their earlier super inane lyrics. (The best example of the latter might be the risible “Salk Lake City”, which has to be one of the lamer Beach Boy lyrics I’ve ever heard. “Amusement Parks USA” is not much better.) It’s an album caught between two worlds and it’s all the weaker for the fact that listeners can check out their previous album, which fully shows what Wilson and the band are capable of.
Sure, there are two of their biggest hits here and one of them is arguably their definitive song. That’s basically the only reason I bumped the rating up a bit. (I was leaning to a lower rating and really debating it but “California Girls’ really is their most famous song.) Because the content here is mostly really weak and beneath Wilson’s abilities and ambitions. And it seems it exists because the label (and probably management, right?) thought they knew better than the Wilson.
It doesn’t matter how elaborate and sophisticated the arrangements are, it’s clear the material is mostly very subpar. The whole thing just has the feeling of an elaborately arranged stop-gap while fans wait for something along the lines of the previous record.