When I was a kid, my first memories of The Beach Boys were of the band of old guys who got made fun of for still touring on their long past hits at their advanced age. Me second memory of The Beach Boys was their massive comeback with the single Kokomo. But even with a new single on the charts, they were still seen as a novelty at best, terrible sell outs at worst.
I’m not sure if public opinion evolved, or if I just started reading better, smarter music writers, but somewhere in the last 20 years, I started seeing The Beach Boys, or more specifically, Brian Wilson being more and more talked about as one of modern music’s great legends and creative geniuses. And whenever Wilson’s genius is bandied about, one album in particular is sure to be mentioned, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.
Listening to Pet Sounds opening with Wouldn’t it Be Nice with the hindsight of the last 40 years, it seems insane that band’s record label apparently hated this record and thought it was too weird and experimental. Not many songs work as a cheesy commercial jingle, an easy choice for any number of movie montages, and just as an amazing, standalone song. But Wouldn’t Be Nice does all those things, without ever seeming overplayed. And it does it all in under two and half minutes.
While a lot slower and more sublte than the Fun, Fun, Fun, and surf obsessed disposable stuff that made the band megastars in their early days, songs here like You Still Believe in Me and That’s Not Me still have the ubiquitous Beach Boys sound. The voices of Mike Love and the various Wilson brothers are so recognisable, and the harmonies are just so perfect.
The long outro to Let’s go Away for a While makes my kind of understand the record label’s reluctance to release this album. It’s lush, and beautiful, and symphonic and elaborate and impressive. It also couldn’t be further from the afore mentioned Fun, Fun, Fun, and surf obsessed disposable stuff that sold so many records in the past.
Sloop John B and God Only Knows… See above comments re. Wouldn’t it Be Nice.
The second half of Pet Sounds definitely veers more toward the weirder, more experimental side of things. But again, that signature Bach Boys sound is still there and still strong enough to break through. So while tracks like Here Today and I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times might not be bite sized pieces of pop, they still have all the ingredients of The Beach Boys at their best. They just use those ingredients in slightly different proportions.
Listening to Pet Sounds with the hindsight of the last 40 years, it seems insane that the band’s record label apparently hated this record and though it was too weird and experimental. For me though, it also suffers a little from its own reputation. Mega hits like Wouldn’t it Be Nice and God Only Knows are just too familiar to me now to blow my mind. And as great as the rest of the album is, I can’t imagine any record being able to live up to the music nerd reverence for Pet Sounds that has bombarded me over the last 20 years or so.