The last time Brian Wilson participated in a Beach Boys record, Culture Club was king and the pop genius worked at the behest of his evil shrink. So it is not surprising that the group’s 29th studio album is a vast improvement. Take that with a grain of sea salt. Like so much of the post-’60s Beach Boys catalog, the brilliance can sometimes get lost in a sea of generic pop. By my count, five of the 12 tracks on “That’s Why God Made the Radio” are skip-worthy. Not unlistenable, but simply not special. The good news begins with the title track, a retro-pop ballad with beautiful harmonies, and “Isn’t It Time,” a catchy rocker that reminds us how much Al Jardine’s voice matters, particularly with the 1998 death of Carl Wilson. The album’s final, four-song suite is worth the price of admission. This is melancholic Brian at his best, lonely, feeling his mortality and unafraid of baring his soul. And the harmonies remind us that nobody can sing like the Beach Boys, even now. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “From There to Back Again”
The Beach Boys play the Bank of America Pavilion on June 26.