PET SOUNDS is the eleventh studio album by The Beach Boys. It was released on May 16, 1966. It was made several months after Brian Wilson quit touring with the group and focused on writing and recording. On this album you can hear various sounds including: bicycle bells, buzzing organs, harpsichords, flutes, electro-theremin, dog whistles, trains, and barking dogs. The music is considered psychedelic rock and baroque pop. The album cover was shot at the San Diego Zoo. I am reviewing here the 2012 re-release of the album on CD on Capitol Records. I prefer the stereo mixes here over the mono as they sound clearer.
The album’s opening song ‘Wouldn’t it be Nice’ was written by Brian Wilson, Tony Asher, and Mike Love. It has a cheerful pop sound to it and longs for blissful matrimony: “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/You know it’s gonna make it that much better/When we can say goodnight and stay together/Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wake up/In the morning when the day is new/And after having spent the day together/Hold each other close the whole night through”. ‘You Still Believe in Me’ is one of seven songs Brian co-writes with Tony Asher. This sleepy song is one of gratitude to one’s partner: “I know perfectly well I’m not where I should be/I’ve been very aware you’ve been patient with me/Every time we break up/You bring back your love to me/And after all I’ve done to you/How can it be/You still believe in me”.
‘That’s not Me’ is a very reflective song coming from a male perspective: “I had to prove that I could make it alone now/But that’s not me/I wanted to show how independent I’d grown now/But that’s not me/I could try to be big in the eyes of the world/What matters to me is what I could be to just one girl/I’m a little bit scared/Cause I haven’t been home in a long time/You needed my love/And I know that I left at the wrong time”. ‘Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on my Shoulder)’ is a very mellow song that takes a romantic turn: “I can hear so much in your sighs/And I can see so much in your eyes/There are words we both could say/But don’t talk/Put your head on my shoulder/Come close/Close your eyes and be still/Don’t talk/Take my hand/And let me hear your heart beat/Being here with you feels so right/We could live forever tonight/Let’s not think about tomorrow/And don’t talk/Put your head on my shoulder”.
‘I’m Waiting for the Day’ is an experimental pop song about falling for someone who is on the rebound: “I came along when he broke your heart/That’s when you needed someone/To help forget about him.../I kissed your lips/And when your face looked sad/It made me think about him/And that you still love him so.../He hurt you then, but that’s all done/I guess I’m saying you’re the only one/I’m waiting for the day when you can love again”. ‘Let’s Go Away for Awhile’ is one of two tracks penned solely by Brian Wilson. This one is an easy listening instrumental.
Two of my favourite Beach Boys songs of all time are up next. ‘Sloop John B’ is upbeat musically and is one of the best story songs ever. It begins: “We come on the Sloop John B/My grandfather and me/Around Nassau town we did roam/Drinking all night/Got into a fight/Well, I feel so broke up/I wanna go home/So hoist up the John B’s sail/See how the main sail sets/Call for the captain ashore/Let me go home, let me go home/I wanna go home, yeah yeah/Well, I feel so broke up/I wanna go home”. ‘God Only Knows’ has a happy sound musically and vocally but conversely is somber lyrically as it puts into words just how attached we get to our romantic partners: “If you should ever leave me/Though life would still go on believe me/The world could show nothing to me/So what good would living do me?/God only knows what I’d be without you”.
Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Terry Sachen wrote ’I Know There’s an Answer’. It is eclectic instrumentally and searches for a remedy for the stresses of life: “They come on like they’re peaceful/But inside they’re so uptight/They trip through their day/And waste all their thoughts at night/Now how can I come on/And tell them the way that they live could be better/I know there’s an answer/I know now but I have to find it by myself”. ‘Here Today’ reminds us that love and heartbreak oft go hand in hand: “You’ve got to keep in mind love is here today /And it’s gone tomorrow/It’s here and gone so fast/Right now you think that she’s perfection/This time is really an exception/Well, you know I hate to be a downer/But I’m the guy she left before you found her”.
‘I Just Wasn’t Made for these Times’ is a wonderful song of discontent and unrest: “Sometimes I feel very sad (3X)/I guess I just wasn’t made for these times/Every time I get the inspiration to go change things around/No one wants to help me look for places where new things might be found/Where can I turn when my fair-weather friends cop out, what’s it all about?” ‘Pet Sounds’ is actually a pleasant instrumental that makes me picture myself lounging carefree on a beach. ‘Caroline No’, a soft song of lament, ends the album: “Where did your long hair go?/Where is the girl I used to know?/How could you lose that happy glow?/Oh, Caroline no/Who took that look away?/I remember how you used to say/You’d never change, but that’s not true/Oh Caroline you/Break my heart/I want to go and cry”.
PET SOUNDS was produced by Brian Wilson. It is considered one of the most influential records in the history of pop music, with the likes of Elton John and Paul McCartney praising it. Rolling Stone named it the No 2 greatest album of all time. On this album you will hear the tight group harmony vocals you expect from the Beach Boys. The songs here though are much more mature, creative, and artistic in comparison to their better known hits such as ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’ and ‘I Get Around’. This album is more of an acquired taste. I’m rating PET SOUNDS 85%. For more info visit: www.beachboys.com and www.capitolrecords.com.