BEACH BOYS -- L.A. (Light Album), Caribou/Epic JZ 35752.
"We're primarily a vocal band," says sometime Beach Boy and producer Bruce Johnston. "That's never gone into enough."
Whether or not that's meant to be an excuse for the latest Beach Boy outing, "L.A. (Light Album)," it is certainly apropos this vague-to-vacuous assortment of rewritten and half-written songs. Most of the vocals are great, especially when, in their best tradition, they pile into five- and six-part harmonies; but it's all so much glittering surface and no thought, like reflected sun on water.
Among the notable cuts: Al Jardine's "Lady Lynda," which steals the melody from a familiar Bach cantata and the alliteration ("Lie, Lady Lynda") from Bob Dylan. Mike Love's "Sumahama," an orientally-seasoned song about a tragic Japanese affair, has something going for it in terms of melody. However, after spending several verses building up the circumstances, Love elects to sing a verse or two in Japanese instead of resolving the plot. "Good Timin'" has the most definitive Beach Boy sound, but even Carl Wilson admits it bears a striking resemblance to "Little Surfer Girl." And the disco-ized, 10-minute remake of 78Here Comes the Night" is just an excuse to sing elaberate "dit-dit-dit-dit" choruses.
Dennis Wilson's ravaged voice, effective on stage when he Cockers through "You Are So Beautiful," is only startling on vinyl.