Early on "That's Why God Made the Radio," the new Beach Boys album released earlier this month, comes "Isn't It Time," a breezy pop song bursting at its seams with the group's instantly recognizable vocal harmonies.
"The world is changed and yet the game is still the same," sings bandleader Brian Wilson. He could be singing about dancing with his favorite girl, but it's also an apt line for California's most famous surf-rockers' current state.
Time has passed, but the Beach Boys' most famous trademarks — layered, larger-than-life singing, and sunny lyrics that longingly nod to fleeting summer love — remain intact.
After celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band, the Beach Boys announced a reunion late last year, with plans of an original album and international tour, including a stop Friday at Merriweather Post Pavilion. It could have been an easy cash-in, with the band members — Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks — lazily riding the waves of nostalgia to a fat paycheck.
But anyone familiar with Wilson and his meticulous methods knew "Radio" would not be a commemorative victory lap, but something more ambitious. During a conversation prior to the album's release, Love said the album came together easily.
"It's not like anything has been lost in terms of ability from Brian's side — stretching those harmonies, while the rest of us naturally gravitate to the parts we sound best in," Love said. "We're not trying to prove anything but we're happy to have the opportunity."
For the short-spoken Wilson, now 69, reuniting the group after years of ups and downs (including his own mental health and drug issues, stretches of estrangement from the band and, in 2005, a lawsuit from Love to Wilson over alleged brand misuse that was eventually dismissed) was a practical decision, even after he considered retirement in 2011.
"I like the guys and they're all great singers," Wilson said. "I wanted to do something with my time."
If Wilson is the band's quiet, behind-the-scenes mastermind, then Love is the group's mouthpiece. There were concerns that Love and Wilson would have trouble keeping their previous tiffs in the past, but after talking to them together, they seem as in-tune as the gorgeous harmonies they're still creating.
"I'm kind of outspoken at times and sometimes I've been mischaracterized," Love said. "All I can say is Brian and I co-wrote some darn nice songs together and it's going to be a thrill to go out on a stage."
This past February, the world saw a preview of the reunited group playing live. With the help of Maroon 5's Adam Levine and Foster the People's Mark Foster, the Beach Boys performed "Good Vibrations" at the Grammy Awards. Love said the performance a home run.
"We had nothing but positive feedback from the Grammys," Love said. "It was a thrill to see the audience as eclectic as it was. John Legend was grooving. It was awesome."
Armed with a new album and renewed band camaraderie, the Beach Boys seem eager to tour the world, even if their on-stage stamina isn't what it used to be.
"We're all pushing 70 so we're not going to be quite as jumpy as we used to be," Love said. "But it's a blessing to get back together."
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