Mike Love - Unleash The Love album review

Love is not the answer

Cover art for Mike Love - Unleash The Love album

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Mike Love tends to be painted as the bad guy in the story of the Beach Boys; the domineering profiteer who’d rather play safe and commercial than accommodate the creative ingenuity of Brian Wilson. “For those who believe that Brian walks on water, I will always be the Antichrist,” he once said.

While the received narrative is both unfair and way too simplistic, Love doesn’t do himself any favours on his first solo album in 26 years. As if he doesn’t quite believe in these songs himself, he’s opted to append Unleash The Love with an extra disc of re-recorded Beach Boys classics (California Girls, Good Vibrations, Help Me Rhonda etc), presumably as a gesture of appeasement.

Nothing can save the album itself, however. Love offers up the kind of unrelentingly tame MOR that makes Christopher Cross look edgy. What’s worse, the lyrics are packed with so many trite clichés that you can’t help but wince, whether he’s wishing for world peace on Make Love Not War (which manages to make room for the Trump-supporting Love to thank the USA ‘and all the folks protecting us very day’), dredging up seafaring love metaphors on Too Cruel or fashioning sappy eco ballads like Only One Earth.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.