After the latest implosion in a journey filled with cratered disasters, there are songs by the Beach Boys that I just can’t listen to anymore — in particular “Isn’t It Time” from what once felt like their triumphal third-act comeback, That’s Why God Made the Radio.
When the oxymoronically named Mike Love, who has decided to continue his county-fair version of the band sans Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks, joins in the tune’s nostalgia-flecked theme about rekindled relationships, I want to grind my earbuds to dust.
“Remember all of those things we used to do?” the Beach Boys sing, in a moment now filled with scalding irony. “Remember those nights we spent just you and I — little did we know how the time would fly.”
Actually, based on the nearly unbroken string of dick-move disasters that Love has foisted on his weary fanbase, I guess actually that I should have known. Only Mike Love — tasteless wrecker of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, litigious turncoat against childhood friends and family members, egomaniacal mishandler of a towering pop music legacy — could have so completely screwed this up.
And then have the nerve to blame it on anybody but himself?
When masters of their craft complete something, the work often bears some signature element — some signifying mark: There’s the sharp angles of a Picasso, the fizzy phrasings of Tom Wolfe, Joe Namath pointing his index finger skyward after Super Bowl III. Similarly, you can put Mike Love’s bald pate-obscuring ballcap atop his pièce de résistance: Wrecking the Beach Boys’ long, long, long-awaited reunion.
I really should have known. After all, this is a guy who hated Pet Sounds — until it was subsumed with rock-crit accolades. Now, he can’t stop trying to take credit for it. Who thinks “Kokomo” — an over-produced, starkly reductive dud that he actually did have a large part in creating — belongs in the canon with the best of the Beach Boys music. Whose fun shirt-wearing, California girl-ogling, dirty old man-ship has become the sad, sad caricature that now dogs this once-great band.
Isn’t it time, really, to admit that Mike Love never really understood what made the Beach Boys matter, only how to chase skirts and cash checks? That’s been made utterly clear all over again.
Isn’t it time, finally, to reframe our accepted narrative of the post-SMiLE sessions era for the Beach Boys? They are not just a group that never quite recovered after the loss of their creative mastermind, but also one that was driven further into a premature grave by the tawdry libido and boundless ego of Mike Love.
Oh, I’ll be skipping past “Isn’t It Time” from now on — and heading straight to “Summer’s Gone.”
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