Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Beach Boys: 15 Big Ones [Brother/Reprise, 1976]
This is their best album since Sunflower, which is their best of this decade. Brian is aboard, if not in charge. But Sunflower or Wild Honey it's not. The oldies idea isn't itself the problem. But except for "Palisades Park" and "A Casual Look" the choices might have been more inspired, and the playful, goofy vocal intensity of the black music covers of their youth is often missing. I can deal with the Maharishi stuff by now--it simply underlines the group's public transformation from super-normals into harmless eccentrics--but never again should they commit an I-love-music song. In the current example, rock evolves from the Gregorian chant, an idea I do not consider a harmless eccentricity. B