Saturday, August 28, 2021

Pet Sounds Of Summer


Now that it’s nearly over I’ve finally figured out why it hasn’t seemed a proper summer: not enough pet sounds. No, not the barking and meowing kind, the woofer and tweeter type. Specifically, Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys masterpiece that audiophiles have been talking about reverentially for 55 years.



You're halfway through the album when you hear it — a heavenly harmony of instruments that features a harpsichord, organ, bass clarinet, string bass, sleigh bells, and a wonderful French horn. This is the intro to God Only Knows.

While the music itself is the output of The Wrecking Crew, the legendary session musicians, the rest of it is pretty much the sole creation of Brian Wilson who by all accounts was a musical genius, albeit sometimes a drug enhanced one. The album’s title is acknowledgement of that fact; it has nothing to do with actual animal noises but refers rather to the fact that Brian could hear sounds in his head that only dogs could hear.

wilsonBrian Wilson

The story of Pet Sounds is the story of art versus commerce, youthful optimism versus adult cynicism and the independent spirit versus the mundane status quo. It’s also a story of tremendous courage. In 1966, 23-year-old Brian Wilson hijacked the Beach Boys, a multi-million-dollar industry consisting of his two brothers, cousin and childhood friend, to give voice to the sounds he heard in his head and the emotions he felt in his heart. The result was an album that had leading musical figures struggling to match his technical innovation, lyrical depth and melodic genius. Half a century later, it’s questionable whether anyone has. - RS

It isn’t the carefree fun, fun, fun music about cars, surf and girls that previously made the Beach Boys synonymous with summer. What it is though is an artfully themed summation of all your youthful summers, especially the sadness of young, failed love and it’s attendant anguish and growth.

The album is an uncomplicated but masterful piece of music that reverberates unless you’re comatose. Paul McCartney has admitted that the album reduces him to tears. And he acknowledges that he’s long admired Wilson’s musical wizardry. Was Brian a genius? I suspect it depends who you ask but it is clear he was imbued with audio powers beyond the mere mortal, most likely enhanced by drug use.

I suggest you not focus on the “genius” aspect of it and even ignore the fact that it is an album recorded in mono that sounds like stereo – which is, objectively, quite a feat. Just enjoy it for what it is: a melancholy, melodic, poignant, painful and true set piece from our youth. Oh sure, there will be a few snobs and snots out there claiming the album is overrated; some people just like to be a contrarian. That’s okay, their loss. It’s a great album full of simple but heartfelt lyrics and amazing harmonies. Sometimes a song is just a song.

While my name isn’t Caroline I sure can relate to the “ where did that girl go?” part.  I especially love this version, complete with some of the hiss and pop that made those old vinyl days of rock and roll real. Going digital leaves a lot behind.


If you’ve listened to Pet Sounds before, listen to it again. If you haven’t, listen to it today, and discover that the best of the Beach Boys has nothing to do with the beach — it’s in that piano introduction of "You Still Believe in Me," that beautiful chorus and wonderful French horn at the end of "God Only Knows," and that train from "Caroline, No." Acknowledge the band's true legacy in the wistful, heartbroken sadness of Pet Sounds. – Vox

P.S. Just an unscientific observation: most women I know like this album, but men - real men, not the metrosexuals of ruined generations - absolutely love it.


Caturday bonus: Music for Cats


Please be safe out there, especially those of you in harm’s way this weekend.