In their prime, the Beach Boys were two separate bands. One band was led by Brian Wilson, studio scientists pushing the limits and expectations of what pop music could be. The other band toured, playing incredibly simplified, stripped down versions of what the studio band had created. Personnel overlapped between the two groups, but conceptually they were almost two separate entities. GospelbeacH demonstrates the yin and yang of live versus studio on Another Winter Alive.
GospelbeacH is led by Brent Rademaker, of Beachwood Sparks fame. The band features a cast of Los Angeles musicians creating spacey pop reminiscent of 1960s classics. But where bands like the Beach Boys, or anyone produced by Phil Spector, were defined by dense, almost overwhelming production, where a track might seemingly have 22 cellos all playing the same note, GospelbeacH is just as intricate, but in a much smaller way. Spector had his Wall of Sound, but Rademaker is more like the clockwork of a watch: precise and complex, but also impossibly scaled-down.
Another Winter Alive is unreleased outtakes from the band’s 2017 Another Summer of Love and live versions of songs from Another Summer and 2015’s Pacific Surf Line. Album’s like these tend to appeal to serious fans, rather than the casual one looking to get into a band. And while to a certain extent that holds true here, it’s an interesting experiment to hear how GospelbeacH completely deconstructs their deliberately-constructed studio work.
The outtakes are surprisingly strong. They weren’t included on Another Summer for some reason, but it certainly wasn’t song quality. The album kicks off with Neal Casal’s “Freeway to the Canyon.” Casal plays with GospelbeacH, so it’s a tribute to a colleague. Casal’s original is powerful electric guitar-driven country, where GospelbeacH sweetens the country sound, with backing vocals, organ and a wild guitar solo.
The other studio tracks pay homage to Los Angeles bands. “Runnin’ Blind” with its electric piano sounds a bit like the Doors’ “LA Woman.” “Change of Heart” has a Cars beat but Tom Petty-esque vocals. However, it does not sound like the different Petty track of the same title.
The live tracks, recorded in London, are much more stripped down than their studio work, not even featuring any drums. With the reverb removed from the vocals, and with the acoustic guitars and piano, GospelbeacH begin to sound like the Grateful Dead (in a good way; not in a relentless jammy kind of way). “You’re Already Home,” from Another Summer is folky in its studio form but becomes straight-up pure folk performed live. “California Steamer” is much more piano-driven live, almost sounding like a show tune.
Another Winter Alive will appeal to GospelbeacH fans who either want to hear some live or unreleased tracks. Anyone new to the band probably doesn’t want to start here unless they’re interested in hearing how a studio-centered band reinvents songs in live settings. It’s almost a tale of two bands.