December 1965: Brian Wilson listened to the Beatles’ newest album Rubber Soul. Entranced by the album, he was inspired to craft an album full of meaningful songs, not just formulaic singles for commercial success. The spark that ignited that day gave birth to Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. The album marked the beginning of their psychedelic era and exploration of experimental instruments and recording methods. Fun fact: Paul McCartney reportedly heard Pet Sounds and was inspired to write the conceptual masterpiece of a project known as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which debuted just a year later in 1966 (read more on this on Wikipedia). Today the album is touted as the #2 Greatest Album of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine.
While the album is still true to the fantastic harmonies of which the Beach Boys are known, the experimental instrumentation, seeming continuous narrative, earnest and sometimes melancholy lyrics subtly set it apart. The album features a variety of genres, from the chamber pop made famous by the Beatles to staple rock song structures, beachy instrumentals and even a droning sitar make an appearance during the 36 minute run-time.
Pet Sounds is a coming-of-age concept album of sorts. Following the ups and downs of a couple’s relationship, the 13 tracks songs carry the listener from the high feeling of new love (Wouldn’t It Be Nice) to the confusion of distrust (I’m Waiting For The Day) and finally devastation felt when that love ends (Caroline, No). Through the highs and lows, the album still remains an enjoyable listen with the upbeat and dynamic arrangements.
Perhaps the lyrics “Love is here/Today and its gone/Tomorrow./It’s here/And gone so fast” of Here Today define the short trip that the listener takes through the world of Pet Sounds.
Stand out tracks musically and lyrically:
Wouldn’t It Be Nice-It has a fun beat and bright subject matter–perfect for a cheerful album opener.
Sloop John B-This great track is at the end of side 1 and almost feels like a hidden track because it plays right after instrumental “Let’s Go Away for a While”. The song features great trademark Beach Boys harmonies.
I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times-One of two songs off this album I already knew, this song is an anthem for the kids who feel they were born in the wrong decade. It features subtle psychedelic atmospheric effects and background noise coupled with reverbed vocal effects.
I Know There’s an Answer- Probably my favorite track off the record. I love the melody, subject matter, and unconventional structure. The droning sitar contrasts with the tambourine and soaring melody. These elements are what make up my favorite Beatles songs so naturally I loved this song.
Caroline No-This quiet, somber number serves as the album closer reminding the listener that not all relationships end happily ever after. The outro features groundbreaking sound samples of a train and dogs barking.
That is all,
P.S. Check out this hilarious video that features references to Pet Sounds…