25. The Beach Boys – “Pet Sounds”

Sometimes the universal adulation for an album is so unrelenting that I eventually buckle under and buy the thing. This album is one such item. If I were playing the Rich List and was given the “greatest albums of all time as voted by ____ magazine”, I’d pick this first (unless it was a shooting mag, in which case I’d probably go for something by Ted Nugent).

beach-boys-pet_soundsThe kudos for this opus seems to spring from its ahead of its time status. Well, I don’t live in 1966, and indeed reside in a world of stereo sound, samplers, effect pedals and the like. As such, don’t see what all the fuss is about.

There are a couple of catchy, well-written pop songs on here like Wouldn’t it Be Nice and God Only Knows. Most of the remainder of the album leaves me cold and a little bored. And Sloop John B is just horrible!

Ultimately I like my sugary pop a little more energetic and haphazard. This thing sounds like it was recorded, shined, polished and then shined again. Alas, it appears I am a Philistine… (or ahead of my time?)

File under: Good for credibility, but not the CD player.

12 responses to “25. The Beach Boys – “Pet Sounds”

  1. Read up on the history of this album, and music in general at that time, and it will help you get it.
    First time I heard Pet Sounds I didn’t get it either, but I was only about 15 and thought guys could only listen to aggressive rock. A few years later I listened again and started to understand where this album was coming from. For less polished BB stuff, try their early 70’s albums.

  2. Mark, I do appreciate the historical significance of the album, but unfortunately that doesn’t make it a more pleasurable listen for me.

    History≠Joy I guess…

  3. Unrelenting Tedium

    Sometimes overwhelming adulation does raise your expectations to the point where they are near impossible to meet. If you want an example with the historical context removed somewhat try the stitching back together of the long shelved “Smile”. All the good bits were released elsewhere and the sum total sounds like a plinky-plonky nursery rhymes of a mad man…which it was. I wish to disclose that i am fond of the beach boys so giving Smile a kicking comes from wanting to like it.

    But even more intersting than my own navel is the point and counter-point raised here. Only after I like an album can the historical context enhance my enjoyment…and enhance it, it surely does.

  4. This site is becoming addictive. I have to concur on Pet Sounds. After years of being told it was one of the all time greats, I bought it more out of interest of knowing it was the album by which The Beatles decided to rethink their approach to the studio and delivered Sgt. Peppers. Listening to it I kind of got what some of the fuss was about but also was a tad let down. To me it just sounded like the Beach Boys I knew and thus a little uninspiring.

  5. You’ve lost me on this one Roo Boy! The genius of Pet Sounds is not just in being ahead of its time, but being what it is. It is essentially an album of incredibly complex songs about alienation. Yes its got beach boys harmony, Dennis Wilson’s quire-boy vocals, and quite a few songs that you know every word to. That doesn’t detrect from the fact that beach boys harmony was great when they did songs about surfing and driving, Dennis really does hit the high notes, and normal people like beach boys songs. Add to that the orchestral arrangements and experimental sounds that actually did work, and you have a masterpiece.

  6. I used to laugh at pals who were huge fans of The Beach Boys and rolled my eyes when they suggested I give their “seminal” album a proper listen. Many years later, I bought Pet Sounds (at $9.99 from the bargain bin in JB Hi-fi) because the theme tune from “Big Love” (Chloe Sevigny, yeah!) kept going round in my head. Gave the whole album a good listen and had to agree with my pals that it is “ahead of its time” even though I don’t “live in 1966”. But I have not bought another Beach Boys album since.

  7. I guess I’m lucky. I discovered PET SOUNDS back in 1976, at age 12, before it was being flogged as one of the all-time greats. I was already familiar with the group from all of the hits on ENDLESS SUMMER, but PET SOUNDS was something else entirely. Musically and thematically and emotionally, it was exactly the right album for me at the right time. I truly can’t imagine having been able to navigate adolescence without it.
    Musically, there’s so much happening here, but for me it’s more of an emotional and spiritual thing. Either you get it or you don’t. I got it then, and I still get it now.

  8. Sorry, folks – I don’t know if I’m supporting you or arguing, but YOU HAD TO BE THERE. With mindless trivial music that was all around at that time, this album made you jaw drop with its complexity. Yes, listening to it on my $12,000 stereo today isn’t the same and knowing what we now know, you can’t understand it in context – and it sounds like “so what?”. If you want to get close to understand a bit, listen to a Dave Clark 5 album first, then A Hard Day’s Night, then some Herman’s Hermits AND THEN listen to it. You’ll then understand…

  9. I agree with Andy H, you need the context, I’m only 20, but I understand the context, cause I eat and breathe 60s rock, blues, pop, etc.

    I definitely wasn’t made for these times.

  10. Beach Boys kick ass. This album is right up there with Dark Side of The Moon By Pink Floyd and The Beatles Abbey Road as one of the greatest albums. No piece of crap format radio crap can hold a candle to this…Amen

  11. I had heard the album a number of times growing up because my dad has the cd, but never really “got it”- it all seemed pretty slow and boring. I recently started listening to it again due to boredom with rap and shit that I usually listen to. At first I could only listen to like Wouldn’t it be Nice and stuff cause it’s catchy. Now I can’t imagine listening to it in pieces and it’s one of the few album’s I’ve heard that you can listen to from beginning to end (more or less)

  12. No, it’s not about context (although that helps). I agree with the poster who said, “either you get it or you don’t” although I think many among those who don’t will get it if they stick around. There is a brilliance here that’s not relative to the times. Wouldn’t it be nice; God Only Knows, and yes, even Sloop John B. sound great today and if you don’t hear it, well, sorry for what you’re missing.

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