The Beach Boys were my band growing up, hell they are still my band. By that I mean I lived and breathed The Beach Boys in my childhood, they were a part of my youth as much as crazy Christian summer camps, my first dog Scruffy, and my old house in Cochrane.
I was not prepared for “Pet Sounds” which still sounds like the first legitimate album I ever listened to. The Beach Boys, more specifically their leader Brian Wilson was always about how his music sounded, he kept the lyrics usually written by someone else simple. I never had trouble understanding what a Beach Boys song was all about, as opposed to my other musical hero Bob Dylan who could be as cryptic as anyone could get. The lyrics to a Beach Boys song always sounded secondary, it was the music itself that stood out, that was what made it so great to listen to.
My first impression of “Pet Sounds” was “this is weird” but also “I kinda dig it”. It didn’t sound like The Beach Boys, but at the same time, it did sound like them. It also didn’t sound like any other artist. “Wouldn’t it be Nice” sometimes feels like the greatest pop song ever made, it’s hopeful, optimistic, but also kinda bittersweet. My opinion of “God Only Knows” has never changed, which is basically my favorite opening and closing of any song ever. Then there is “Don’t Talk (Put your head on my Shoulder), “You Still Believe in me”, “I know there’s an Answer” and “I just Wasn’t made for these times”, each one feeling like a swan song to the teenage life. Later I purchased the “Pet Sounds” box set, with separate tracks showing just the harmonies that went into the songs, and then just the instrumentals. You get to hear Brian Wilson working in the studio putting it all together. The Box Set has become a classic of its kind and was even used as inspiration for the Brian Wilson film “Love and Mercy” which is a wonderful look at his creative state of mind as he was making this album.
I feel like I’ve been ranting all about “Pet Sounds” through all of this entry without having much of a point. Suffice it to say it is my favorite album, it’s the only album I think I ever became obsessed with, I loved hearing how it was put together, I love how original and unique it still sounds today compared to all other pop albums. But mostly I guess I love how it makes me feel when I put it on. It hits that emotional sweet spot reserved for only the best in pop music. Brian Wilson kinda imploded afterwards although he and the Beach Boys went on to make some pretty great music and albums, but “Pet Sounds” felt like they were reaching for something really special and got it, not many artists could say that. I would recommend “Pet Sounds” to anyone, I find it’s best consumed on a nice summer night, no one else around, and it’s just you and the music. Take 36 minutes out of your day and listen to this masterpiece, it’s really what pop music should always sound like.