July 2024 Reviews: TV & Music

05 Jul 2024


The Beach Boys 

Starring Mike Love, Brian Wilson, David Marks, Al Jardine - Disney Plus • Four Stars

As a rock ‘n’ roll enthusiast, I’m always game to read books, listen to podcasts and watch movies about bands from the 1960s. That said, the eponymous documentary about The Beach Boys was no exception. As a non-parent with no Disney Plus account, I handily borrowed log-in credentials from a friend and settled in to learn more about Brian Wilson’s band—one I admittedly had little knowledge of, other than they created Pet Sounds, an iconic album in pop history. Fortunately, this two-hour film was ready and able to educate me. 

In the early 1960s, the Wilson brothers—Brian, Dennis and Carl—formed a new band with their cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine. With the help of their father, Murry Wilson, the group soon created their first album of “surf music.” At this point, all of us are familiar with the band’s breezy pop songs with smooth harmonies, but for even the most dedicated Beach Boys fan, this documentary will inspire love anew. 

I, for one, had no clue that the late Dennis Wilson, who played the drums, was the unofficial “sex symbol” of the band. Nor did I know Brian Wilson was influenced by the American jazz quartet The Four Freshman, nor that the band was actually rejected by several recording studios before Capitol Records wisely accepted their first record, Surfin’ Safari. (Later, Surfin’ U.S.A., which reached number two on American charts and launched the youngsters into stardom.)

In addition to historic footage and snatches of our favorite harmonious tunes, fresh interviews with Mike Love and Al Jardine are peppered throughout the documentary, plus a few surprises. I was delighted to see Southern pop star and rapper Janelle Monáe on-screen, sharing how the Beach Boys inspired her when she first started to study music. 

Still, I have to say my favorite part of this film is how the story includes the arrival of the Beatles. The 1960s were a fruitful time for music—from the Beach Boys and the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and Simon and Garfunkel—and I sat up straighter to hear more about how Brian Wilson’s band fared, given the stiff competition from John, Paul, George and Ringo. 

Turns out, Pet Sounds impressed the peers of the Beach Boys just as much as later listeners. And if there’s a lesson to be gleaned from this well-made film, it’s that there’s room for all ideas in the creative landscape. 

The Death of Slim Shady 

Eminem, like many rappers, is a polarizing figure. Folks seem to either love him or hate him – and the same thing is true regarding his latest album, The Death of Slim Shady. While a quick internet search reveals posts on social platforms questioning his return, those of us of a certain age have fond memories of this rapper’s push-the-envelope style. That said, singles such as the title track and “Houdini” might be worth the download, just for those same giggles we enjoyed in our best friend’s Chevy Nova circa 1996. 


Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash’s posthumous album, produced by his son John Carter Cash and aptly titled Songwriter, is a collection of 11 original songs recorded by the timeless artist in 1993. Unlike Eminem, Cash is not a polarizing figure; even non-country fanatics like yours truly dig his throaty voice, thoughtful strumming and relatable lyrics. Download “Well Alright” for a story about a chance encounter at a laundromat—but really, the whole album is sure to be narrative genius. 

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