1001 Albums: Pet Sounds

#61

Album_61_Original

Artist: The Beach Boys

Album: Pet Sounds

Year: 1966

Length: 35:57

Genre: Pop Rock/Progressive Pop/Psychedelic

“Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true
Baby then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do
We could be married
And then we’d be happy

Wouldn’t it be nice

You know it seems the more we talk about it
It only makes it worse to live without it
But lets talk about it
Wouldn’t it be nice”

 

From one giant album to another. How perfectly timed that Pet Sounds was placed directly after Revolver on this list. Was it pure coincidence or strategically placed by some madman? We will never know. I’ll let the conspiracy theorists figure that one out.

I was happy that this one followed The Beatles because I was looking to hear something that actually deserved all or most of the praise it got. It’s funny, fans seem to really be butting heads over which was the best. Was it The Beatles’ Revolver or The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds? No one can seem to agree and it’s the never ending battle between Beach Boys and Beatles. It doesn’t help that the two were constantly trying to one up each other, producing albums that were better and better, blurring the lines of who was actually better in the end. Historically we all know The Beatles were able to handle the pressure much better than Brian Wilson could. They did have their internal conflict and eventual break-up, but that’s no where near the sheer insanity that became of Brian Wilson, who suffered his incredibly famous meltdown during the Smiley Smile sessions. He was one hell of a madman whose pursuit of musical integrity caused him to go clinically insane. Poor guy.

But before getting to that point, Brian Wilson produced what is also considered one of the greatest rock albums of all time: Pet Sounds. You may have noticed that I stopped referring to them as The Beach Boys and am only mentioning Brian Wilson. Simple reason. After getting his first of many nervous breakdowns, Brian Wilson took on the role as leader and primary songwriter and started creating the albums practically by himself, with the rest of the band just being guided to follow his vision. Here he took on more of a dictatorial role, making sure his vision and only his vision were followed. Although Smiley Smile is the clear work of someone whose gone completely insane, Pet Sounds seems to be where his insanity matched his artistic integrity.

It’s worth noting that if you’re a big fan of their earlier work then you are going to be in for one hell of a shock with this album. It’s completely unlike any of their other work. Continuing the path they started with The Beach Boys Today! Brian Wilson distanced himself even further from the surf rock, beach themed music that originally made them famous and decided to delve deeper into an art rock sound, practically setting a standard (Alongside The Beatles) in the music industry and even grabbing a little taste of Psychedelia mixed into it. He definitely went all out with this album, including odd arrangements that had never been heard before and a whole array of instruments including flutes, harpsichords, organs and some unusual choices of dog barks, Coca-cola cans and Bicycle bells. This is also the first instance of the electro-theremin being included on a rock album, an instrument he would perfect in subsequent releases.

Brian Wilson took a page out of the Phil Spector handbook and used the Wall Of Sound technique here. I’m proud to say I recognised it almost immediately and got really excited about it. I won’t go on to explain what it is because I already did a good job at doing it in my Phil Spector review (which did you know that Christmas album was Brian Wilson’s favourite?). So I won’t bore you with the details, unless of course you really want to know, then just go check out The Christmas Album. I’m not giving you the link, don’t be lazy. Brian Wilson really seemed to master the technique in this album, with every instrument blending together seamlessly to the point that it just creates a sound that you can lose yourself into without being distracted.

Ok, Ok, I understand, I’m kind of just listing a sort of generic check-list of what makes the album so great. Everything I’ve said has already been said to death by hundreds of people already. Absolutely nothing new that you probably haven’t heard already. That was one of the things I struggled with when writing this post. I didn’t really know what to say that hadn’t already been said before. I mean, it’s one of the most talked about albums out there. It’s almost impossible to really give a fresh perspective on it all when everything that can be said about it has already been said. Almost makes it useless to even attempt writing about it to begin with. Knowing this it makes it kind of surprising that it almost fell into the cracks of musical history as it was practically overshadowed by the release of Revolver. I’m glad people took a second look at it before discarding it.

Ok, so what do I really think about Pet Sounds? My Revolver post kind of went on trying to understanding why it was considered the greatest album of all time it only makes sense that I’d start questioning this one too right? RIGHT?!

Well, yes and no. No because I didn’t want to make a repeat of my last post and yes because it makes for an interesting viewpoint. So what did I take away from this grand spectacle?

Well, Brian Wilson created this as a response to Rubber Soul, trying to top it. On that account I say he succeeded with flying colours. I would even go as far to say he created an album that’s tremendously better than Revolver. But I may be a little biased on that point since I do like The Beach Boys way more than The Beatles. I remember the first time I listened to this album, I was completely blown away by its production and left feeling incredibly satisfied musically. This being my third time listening to it, I did feel the magic wore off a bit. I do miss the days of faster Beach Boys music as this does feel like it can drag on a little a times. But when it hits, it hits hard. Right from the beginning when you hear the classic notes of Wouldn’t It Be Nice, you;re set into the right mood and ready for the experience. Also, I just really love that song. It has been perpetually stuck in my head since I first heard it at the age of 12. I don’t think I will ever not love that song and the day I don’t will be a very sad day. Throw in a classic like Sloop John B and you know you’re in for something great.

Brian Wilson also seems to have done something truly spectacular with the harmonies here. They have already proven on previous records that they’re masters of the harmony, but here he manages to create something that is truly chilling and haunting. Accompanied with the music, the blend of vocals creates an atmospheric harmony that transcends your ears into levels I didn’t even know existed. I couldn’t believe what i was listening but it truly was something magical.

Ok, so I know the album itself can feel a little repetitive musically. The whole album does have a very uniform sound to it and it all feels like each individual song is really part of a whole in the grander scheme of it all. That’s because this was a concept album, not lyrically or thematically (Although themes do recur throughout) but musically. Brian Wilson set out to create an album that had no filler songs. An album where each song could stand on their own yet come together to create a full entity. That’s really what Pet Sounds is all about at the end of the day. Songs that work like puzzle pieces to create a full image. You can’t have the whole if you’re missing just one and I feel that none of these songs can really be removed from the album. It’s as cohesive as it can get and I think Brian Wilson succeeded in reaching his goal.

The album is definitely not for everyone, especially if you’re going in expecting classic Beach Boys. I know for myself, I did find myself not really getting into some of the slower songs but they never really hit a low point for me. The highs are super high and the lows are still pretty high, which is as good as any album can get really. It’s really an album I’d put on if I was in the mood to just get lost to the music. it’s an experience all right and it’s one that’s definitely worth the ride, even if you’re not into that sort of the thing.

 

Song of Choice: Wouldn’t It Be Nice

-Bosco

 

Advertisements

1001 Albums: The Beach Boys Today!

#52

Album_52_Original.jpg

Artists: The Beach Boys

Album: The Beach Boys Today!

Year: 1965

Length: 28:54

Genre: Orchestrated Rock

 

“When I grow up to be a man
Will I dig the same things that turn me on as a kid?
Will I look back and say that I wish I hadn’t done what I did?
Will I joke around and still dig those sounds
When I grow up to be a man?”

 

I’m back! After a good ten or eleven days down in Orlando, Florida, skipping and dancing in Disney World, I have returned to my little home in Montreal. Left the heat and back to the cold. Was a well-needed vacation that was long overdue. I feel relaxed and decompressed and ready to take my first steps into the scary unknown of what life has ready for me… to a certain extent.

For the most part the trip itself was great. Disney was a blast as usual and Universal Studios was way better than I remembered it (plus it was the first time I got to experience the Harry Potter world, which has a big fan, was one hell of an experience). There were downsides to the trip. I got sick and had indigestion and acid reflux for most of the week, which just made me feel uncomfortable. Thankfully I had half the days where I felt fine, but the other half of the time I was bloated or puking, which wasn’t fun. But a mix of the intense heat, huge crowds and fatty-fried foods definitely didn’t help at all. Seriously, what’s up with the Americans and having everything fried… anything I ate I felt like I gained ten pounds, plus don’t get me started on their huge portions. Usually I can eat a meal to myself, but these portions were so big my dad and I had to share almost every supper.

This was roughly the fifth time I went to Disney in my life and I learned quite a few things from this trip:

  1. I can drive for six hours straight without stopping (We drove from Montreal to Orlando, which for those wondering was a 25 hour drive. My dad and I took shifts and drove straight through).
  2. Kids don’t experience the magic as they used to. Every line I was in, most of the kids were glued to Ipads, playing games, instead of taking in the wonder of Disney and all the attention to detail in the decors. Was really sad.
  3. The Fast Pass system sucks major dick. It’s the worst. Every line-up was about three hours long because there were so many people using fast-passes. It made no sense. The system is fucking flawed and they need to fix it. Universal was just as crowded and the longest we waited for a ride was 60 minutes. The way it worked was, they’d let almost the entire fast-pass line in and then about 10 people in the regular line… no wonder the regular line was three hours long. Fast Pass should be a privilege not the norm and it really ruined the whole experience. Fuck the Fast pass.
  4. Some people really suck. From cutting in line to meet their family members at the front, to not having any control or discipline on their children who either are a) not paying attention to what’s around them (one kid sneezed all over my arm and as completely oblivious to it and didn’t apologize or anything and another kept climbing on top of the railings despite the workers constantly repeating not to climb on top of them. You think the parents care? of course not). Some just have no decency or respect. We did a ride that was incredibly intense. They warn you about fifty times before entering that you should keep your focus ahead of you otherwise you will get disoriented and the intense g-force can make you sick. DO people listen? Of course not. One person riding with us broke all the rules and got super sick on the ride. That’s fine, people get sick. What does he do? When the ride is done he just plants himself right in the exit, puking into a little bag. I understand your sick but you could have easily moved tot he side instead of blocking the exit, inconveniencing everyone with your sickness. It’s not like there wasn’t any room to move out of the way. There was all the room in the world.
  5. My dad and I love the Dinosaur ride a little too much. We did it about five times, three of those were straight in a row. We loved it so much we got really into it and over played our reactions, which made for one of my favourite ride photos I’ve ever done:

17903756_10158594205830158_5837248795460058666_n.jpg

Take a wild guess which ones we are.

I know it sounds like I have a lot of negative things to say about this trip, but believe me it was way more relaxing and fun than I’m making it seem. It’s just easier to talk about the bad.

I could go on about this trip for a long time, but I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about music and albums. Something I missed during my trip. Last time I wrote I mentioned the decision I was going to make concerning my blog during the trip. I decided not to work on it and just focus on my vacation. As we drove back down, I was looking forward to getting back to listening to the 1001 album list, especially since The Beach Boys was next on the list.

I love The Beach Boys. I really enjoy their music. I Get Around is my jam, to the point that I actually green screened myself into their music video. Don’t believe me, check it out for yourself:

 

I couldn’t wait.

Would you believe my disappointment when I heard this album, though? Yeah, I was disappointed. This wasn’t The Beach Boys I loved or enjoyed. Of all the Beach Boy albums to choose… this is the one that shows up on the list? They had such huge hits when they were a surf rock band, any of those albums would have been great. Actually, I find there’s a huge lack of Surf Rock on this list in general. What gives? Why no love for Surf Rock?

So yeah, I didn’t like this album. I found it relatively boring as far as The Beach Boys go and I could easily skip it for the most part. Side A was rather enjoyable and I found had the strongest material off the album, but side B… I just found myself tuning out. It didn’t help that the music itself started to blend together and I sometimes thought I was listening to the same song again.

But before I get sent to the guillotine for not liking this album I will talk about what is good about it. For this I’ll need to conduct a little history lesson. So, pull up your chairs kiddos, it’s time for Beach Boys Music History!!

YAYYYYYY!!!

This album marked a stylistic shift for The Beach Boys. They decided it was time to move on from their Beach Party Music and start maturing as artists both musically and lyrically. They went away from their usual songs about cars, girls and surfing and went into deeper topics of heart-break, relationships, adult-life and growing up. No longer were they the teenagers of the waves, now they were young adults and growing up fast. A lot of this was supported by Brian Wilson’s decision to retire from touring and focus purely on song writing and producing.

Brian Wilson was famously known for his breakdowns and his mental instability. This was probably the first instance of one of his famous nervous breakdowns. Having lost his mind from travelling way too much and being over stressed with touring, he had a massive panic attack and decided it would be best to focus purely on the music. It shows here because he definitely got more complex with his arrangements, incorporating way more instruments and using The Wall Of Sound technique that inspired him so much (remember when I talked about this in my post on Phil Spector’s Christmas album? No? Well, check it out for yourself: https://boscosmodernlife.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/1001-albums-a-christmas-gift-for-you/).

This also marks a more mature Beach Boys, who come across as much older than their previous albums talking about various topics like protecting their younger sisters (Don’t Hurt My Little Sister), contemplating their own ageing (When I Grow Up To Be A Man) and dealing with heart-break and relationships (Please Let Me Wonder, Kiss Me Baby, She Knows Me Too Well). They still manage to keep a flavour of their old style with song like Do You Wanna Dance and Dance, Dance, Dance but for the most part what really separates this album for their previous efforts is that this one comes across as more honest and sincere. Brian Wilson took most of the writing efforts and he really lets himself go, opening up his mind and spilling out what’s going on in his head, leaving himself in a slightly vulnerable state to the listener. It was a side of The Beach Boys nobody had seen before and people enjoyed being able to see this side of them. It really adds a layer to the songs that they didn’t quite have in their previous efforts and allows for a more engaging and meaningful experience as you listen and relate to The Beach Boys rather than bop to their music.

The album also ends in a rather peculiar way, not with a song but with a candid, informal interview. You get to hear them talk about the food they just ordered and laugh and chat about a show they just played. I was so confused I had to double check to make sure this was actually part of the album and not just some bonus track in a deluxe edition. To my surprise this interview is actually part of the album, which is rather odd as it really takes you out of it, not sounding or feeling like the rest of the album in any way… yet I somehow found it ended the album rather nicely, which just adds to it’s peculiarity.

That being said, I still didn’t enjoy it, but at least I can recognize the albums strengths. This was a mark in Beach Boys history and is a good look to what’s to come (Do I hear the sound of pets?).

Also, to answer your question… yes, I do want to dance. Thank you.

Song of Choice: When I Grow Up (To be a Man)

-Bosco