The Beach Boys: Still Giving Good Vibrations

It seems like the Beach Boys are always right behind the Beatles.

The Beach Boys remain one of the most iconic groups in music history. With their smooth vocals and laid-back vibes, tunes like KokomoGood VibrationsLittle Deuce Coupe and countless continue to feel like timeless glimpses into the innocence of Americana. Now, with the release of The Beach Boys on Disney+, the group finally gets their due with a solid look at their development and growth as artists over time.

CALIFORNIA – CIRCA 1964: Rock and roll band “The Beach Boys” perform onstage in circa 1964 in California. (L-R) Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, Carl Wilson, Brian Wilson, Mike Love. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Still, one can’t help shake the comparison with the Beatles. Having released the doc mere days after the definitive re-release of Let It Be, Disney+ seemingly (and, perhaps inadvertently) puts the two films in direct contrast to one another. In doing so, while The Beach Boys is an excellent look at the history of an often-overlooked supergroup in its own right, the film still feels like it’s missing a beat.

Now streaming on Disney+, The Beach Boys is a delightful celebration of one of the key musical groups of the past century. Led by the incomparable Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys rose from humble beginnings to personify the California dream. In the new doc, we are treated to all-new interviews with Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and many more as they unpack the impact of the band and the ways that their stardom affected their family.

1964: Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson of the rock and roll band “The Beach Boys” sing around a piano . (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

In every moment of the film, the Boys feel earnest and honest in their evaluation of their highs and lows. After all, when they began, their ‘surfer vibe’ felt like it tapped into the pulse of the day’s youth. However, in the decade of change and social responsibility that followed, their laidback approach began to lose its lustre from a generation looking for answers. Conversations surrounding mental health, drug use and the changing times are fascinating looks into one of the most riveting periods of the 20th Century.

Yet, one of the best aspects of Beach Boys is its willingness to sit within the family aspect of the group. Beginning within the Wilson family, the Boys bring with them all the drama and support that comes with working with siblings. Each one of them expresses their deep affection for one another, even if there are moments where they seem to wonder themselves what went wrong. Tensions surrounding the ‘genius’ of Brian Wilson feel as though they stem as much from their blood relations as they do with their band relations. Hearing the pain left in the wake of their father feels authentic. In general, there’s a sense of earnestness between them that arises, highlighting the damage that has been done and the desire to repair what’s been broken.

LOS ANGELES – 1966: Singer and mastermind Brian Wilson of the rock and roll band “The Beach Boys” directs from the control room while recording the album “Pet Sounds” in 1966 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

But, when one compares The Beach Boys to Jackson’s refreshed Let It Be or his superior doc-stravaganza, Get Back, one can’t help but feel like this doc comes up short. Whereas the Beatles films allow the viewer to gaze into the creative process, Beach Boys takes a more standard approach of exposition. Instead of showing us how it’s done, they decide to tell us and, somehow, that leaves the viewer looking for something extra. (Again, I fully admit that it is unfair to compare the two films directly yet their proximity to one another makes it feel inescapable.)

Even so, like the band itself, one simply can’t underestimate the impact of The Beach Boys. Strictly speaking, this is a solid doc about one of the most beloved groups in music history that taps into their love of harmony and tensions as a family. But, one can’t shake the feeling that wouldn’t it be nice if there was a little be more.

The Beach Boys is available on Disney+ on Friday, May 24th, 2024. 

Leave a Reply