Top 100 Album Review: #2 – Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys (1966)

The Beach Boys Are A Bunch Of Wimps.

Instead of a powerful anthem of 1960s counterculture, The Beach Boys want to hop back in bed and pull the covers over their heads.

Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #2/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

[INTRO]

It’s been far too long since I wrote about music (February 15th, 2020 to be exact).

The reason for the struggle: not listening to albums! I thought when I started my new job that consisted of more driving, it would be natural for me to listen to more music. However, It is much easier to put on a podcast or at most a chillhop playlist to cruise through life letting my mind daydream. I loaded up Spotify with albums and rededicated myself to the project.

WIth a return to this blog’s purpose, I have to throw a stone at goliath and cross this one off my list. I find this album lifeless. Where the Beatles tackled their teenage angst and displacement with power and vibrancy, The Beach Boys approach it with resignment and despair:

  • “This is the worst trip I have ever been onI just wanna go home,”
  • “I wanted to show how independent I’d grown now, but that’s not me.”
  • “I keep looking for a place to fit, where I can speak my mindI guess I just wasn’t made for these times.”
  • “Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray, It might come true.”
  • I try hard to be strong, but sometimes, I fail myself...I wanna cry”
Eeyore, secret member of The Beach Boys.

Every track is a testament to a personal failure or shortcoming. What’s missing are the parts about where, you know, they overcame it. Nope. Instead, we take on toxic traits, become people’s rebound relationships, and wallow in despair.

This gets paired with a dour and subdued musical style. Few songs rise above the level of a Nyquil-induced sleep. It was dangerous to listen to this while driving; I risked the chance of running off the road or taking their relationship advice.

The Beach Boys (not pictured is secret member Eeyore).

[TRACKLISTING]

Wouldn’t It Be Nice2:22
You Still Believe In Me2:33
That’s Not Me2:27
Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)2:52
I’m Waiting For The Day3:01
Let’s Go Away For Awhile2:18
Sloop John B2:57
God Only Knows2:46
I Know There’s An Answer3:10
Here Today2:38
I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times3:21
Pet Sounds2:20
Caroline, No2:16

[BEST SONG: Pet Sounds]

Given what I think about the lyrics and content, it is no surprise that my favorite song was the one that removed the very thing I disliked the most: words.

This instrument has a vibrancy that the rest of the album lacks. It also contains a certain pizazz — it is unique and specific style that is easy to associate with the Beach Boys. Psychedelic beach vibes should have been more front and center for this album.

[SONG MOST LIKELY TO BE HEARD IN PUBLIC: Wouldn’t It Be Nice]

You haven’t made it in the music industry until your music is playing in public spaces such as malls, grocery stores, or Goodwills. Wouldn’t It Be Nice is a fine enough diddy, and if I had to admit, I do enjoy it as a single.

However, when you backup the teenage angst theme with another 10 songs, it starts to wear thin. REALLY THIN. How many times can I listen to about “not fitting in” before my emotional trauma from highschool resurfaces?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older?
Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long
And wouldn’t it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong?

[SONG WITH WORST RELATIONSHIP ADVICE: I’m Waiting for the Day]

The relationship songs cover such ground as being inadequate (You still Believe In Me), a lover who has changed beyond recognition (Caroline, No), or in this particular instance, being in a rebound relationship.

Except the Beach Boys don’t realize they ARE the rebound. Does the singer not think it odd that the new girlfriend is preoccupied with her ex everytime you kiss her? One of the few times they go upbeat they pair it with one of the most obvious examples of being emotionally conned. It makes the oblivious protagonist even more tragic.

I kissed your lips
And when your face looked sad
It made me think about him
And that you still loved him so

[SONG MOST LIKELY TO RUIN A GOOD VIBE: That’s Not Me]

Feeling confident? Listen to this and realize you are nothing.

I remember when I simultaneously thought it would be nice to run away from home to escape but realized that it would be too hard to live that way. I didn’t feel the need to write an overwrought anthem about it, though, did I Brian Wilson?

Had to prove that I could make it alone
But that’s not me
I wanted to show how independent I’d grown now
But that’s not me

[CONCLUSION]

I might have been able to take this album seriously 15 years ago, but I guess the window is closed — songs about moving out of Mom’s basement just don’t slap the same.

Other People’s Takes:

  • Random Record Review: “Listening to it 53 years later it may be hard to understand what all the fuss is about.
  • Mic Drop Music: “Pet Sounds started to form during a difficult time for Brian Wilson. It was the first time he tried to push the band’s sound and themes to new heights.”
  • Bored and Dangerous: “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.”

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