In a way, “Keepin’ the Summer Alive”’s album cover may paint a better picture of the album then I ever could. The image of The Beach Boys in isolated stasis in a bubble surrounded by a rapidly changing world may be the single most potent image you could attach to this project.
Seventeen years after “Surfin’ USA” and 14 years after “Pet Sounds,” The Beach Boys probably should have thrown in the towel by this point. Familial tensions were at an all-time high, with Dennis Wilson refusing to record any more of the album after only having played on one song. Brian Wilson was in and out of the hospital with addiction issues but the label still expected his full participation. All these issues contribute to an album that serves more as a tragedy than as feel-good beach music.
I sat down with a crack teams of mathematicians this week and after lengthy calculations we found that the word “summer” is spoken 44 times within the first 4 minutes of the album. This means summer is said, on average, every 5.45 seconds.
If there’s one thing everyone knows The Beach Boys loves, it’s summer; but this feels more like an imitation of their past love than an expression of it. In fact, this entire affair really resembles Winter depression and introspection more than the cheery days of Summer. Glimpses of this old magic can be seen on the older recording such as “When Girls Get Together” but it never feels joyful.
I didn’t want to not like this album. I wanted to sit down and think about all the waves there are yet to be ridden and sunscreen yet to be sprayed. In the end this album reminded me that those summer days are fleeting, a numbered amount of something which will run out one day; just like the amount of good Beach Boys albums.
If it makes this any less sad, I saw Brian Wilson at the Hollywood Bowl last year and he sounded incredible; so in the end this wasn’t really the end. But really, the Beach Boys couldn’t keep the summer alive.