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February 03, 2003



Evidently, albums such as this are suppose to show us the "experimental" side of these bands. By doing this they are suppose to become pure geniuses and show us their broad musical talent. The only decent song on that album is "Wouldn't It Be Nice" which I believe is track 1. I kind of look at the "Yellow Submarine" album by the Beatles in the same light.

But then again, if I understood, maybe I could write for Rolling Stone.


Oh come on- any album with "God Only Knows", "Wouldn't It Be Nice", and "Sloop John B" has got to be acknowledged as a classic by all reasonable people. Sure, the Beach Boys can be a little bubble-gum sometimes, but without them, we wouldn't have so much of the great music of the last thirty years. Take the Pixies and the Dead Milkmen, two of the great bands of the 1980s- their whole musical style was in many ways based on the California beach music of the 1960s. Plus, Brian Wilson set the mold for super-famous rock star bugouts- Pet Sounds is also interesting as a window into his tortured and melodic soul.

Cory Doctorow

You TOTALLY need to read Lewis Shiner's World-Fantasy-Award-winning novel "Glimpses," which explains the entire deal of Pet Sounds and is one of the best novels you'll ever read, besides. Go, read it!


Besides the great singles from Pet Sounds, you have the first incarnation of the album as a whole, meant to be listened to as an entire suite of music instead of a series of 3 minute top 40 songs.

If it wasn't for Pet Sounds, there wouldn't have been Seargent Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band.

Though to be fair, NOT having Pet Sounds would have set the idea of the "concept album" off by several years and could have resulted in the non-release of Roger Water's epic self-pitying tribute to himself, The Wall.

Honestly, I dont think that Pet Sounds is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread, but I'd put it in my top 100.


I dunno, maybe it's all in the context? By most accounts, Pet Sounds was quite groundbreaking in its day. And as noted in a previous comment it actually pre-dated (and supposedly inspired Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band; incidentally, the Pet Sounds liner notes acknowledge inspiration by Rubber Soul...) While that doesn't necessarily argue for you having to love it now, I think it does make a case for it being an "important" pop/rock album, in the sense that it was highly influential. That influence may be harder to see today, since most of us have pretty much grown up with rock 'n' roll. It's easy to forget that the genre's been around for a while!

Just for the record (no pun intended), I think it's a fantastic album. :-)


It's probably one of the first pure pop albums. It's not so much how good it is on its own merits, but how much it has influenced music since then.


For the same reason that a cruddy song like "Stairway to Heaven" is always up in the top 10 of songs of all time. It's become such a staple of these lists that I honestly believe people are afraid to leave it off.

Ok, ok, it's more than that: it's the quality of the production, the focus on creating an entire album with a certain feeling rather than a collection of singles, the introspective lyrics, the layers of instruments, the perfectionism that went into making the thing. It set a new standard for LPs; it had a huge influence on the rock albums of the late 60's and early 70's.

But it's still not in my top 50 (or even my top 100), and I'm not ashamed to say that. :)


Oh, and you might appreciate this review at Pitchfork Media.


"Stairway" rocks. For shame.

As for Pet Sounds, I'm with you. I cannot figure it out. I was always more of a Beatles fan, anyway.


Everything on this album is perfect. It's all about layers. Remove a layer of music (ie, the vocals) and the music is beautiful. Listen to the amazing balance of harmony and melody, the beauty of their voices. It's an album that stands out in time, listening to it today, it sounds as fresh as it did back then.


I do have to agree with Anna about it being a staple, and that maybe people are just afraid to take it off. I don't think Stairway is a cruddy song, but Led Zeppelin has done (much) better.


"The Ocean", "Misty Mountain Hop"... yes, Zep's done better, but let's be honest: "Stairway" is a good song.


I think part of the fuss may be over the production process employed by Brian Wilson (draconian) and the fact that the album was made without any input from his overbearing father. I love the album, bu t I also blame Pet Sounds for the countless glossy pop albums that strive for musical perfection, such as anything produced by Mutt Lange (Shania Twain, Def Lepard).)


Pet Sounds stands as one of the top albums of all time for most of the reasons above. The songwriting and musicianship was excellent, and the layering was sublime. But what put it over the edge was Wilson's work in the production process. For good or bad, this was the first album that really explored the producer/band relationship. It was the first album to put the producer in a position to have as much (or more) input on the final product--the album-- as the band. Wilson's efforts behind the board were pioneering. He created techniques in the booth that are still being utilized today, obtained results on the production of that album that were previously unheard of.

Sure, it's poppy, inoffensive, and arguably bland to many, but for the time... brilliance.

Dave Simard

The main thing you're missing is the social and historical context. That's the problem with reassessing art history (of any kind) because it's not about quality as we see it now -- it's about impact and influence. Elvis, for example, will never mean the same thing to you or me that it meant to well-to-do white kids in the 50's who'd never heard rock before.

To really get Pet Sounds, I think you have to have been a recording artist in the 60's. The rest of us are stupid. We just say it's important because somebody else told us so.


Well, if it helps at all...

I don't think you're missing anything.

Todd Dominey

It's odd you write about this, for I too recently acquired Pet Sounds after years of watching it sit at the top of music critics' "Best" lists and what-not. I've never cared for the Beach Boys, at least, the Beach Boys I thought I knew - the goofballs in island print shirts singing at football halftime shows and the salacious subject matter for The True Hollywood Story. Not only that, but their songs were just too slick and silly.

There is something however oddly magical about Pet Sounds as an album, for much of it is hardly commercial sounding (with a few obvious exceptions), and there seems to be a bright, intense sense of creativity in the songwriting and production that influenced countless future artists.

It's also ironic you write about it after returning from Tokyo, because that album (in addition to the entire genre of bossanova) has had an immense creative impression on Japanese musicians. The entire J-Pop scene is endebted to the work Brian Wilson and Jobim.

michael heraghty

you and me both.
-- m


"Elvis, for example, will never mean the same thing to you or me that it meant to well-to-do white kids in the 50's who'd never heard rock before."

Elvis is the King. Forever.


Try and find someone that has the "vocals only" version of Pet Sounds - it was part of the Pet Sounds box set that was released around five years ago.

I'm not a massive fan of the album (but I like it). Brian Wilson said he was trying to compose (and I'm quoting from memory here), "teenage hymms to God".

After listening to some of the insanely multi-layered harmonies stripped bare with no instruments in the way... you'll probably have at least a small appreciation for what the album is.


Me too, vastly over-rated album! To class it above the likes of Revolver is a joke :(

Michael Moreira

When I was in a recording with my old band, the engineer asked me if I had ever heard PET SOUNDS. I had not, and when I saw a cassette on sale in the record store, I bought it. I didn't care much for it. When I heard it on CD, I begun to slowly realize it was pretty unique. If you can get past pre-conceptions about the Beach Boys, and give it a chance, you might be surprised. I count seeing Brian Wilson doing PET SOUNDS live at the Hollywood Bowl as one the best shows I've seen.


Another place to find out what the critics say about Pet Sounds is the All Music Guide.

I had a similar question about De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising about a year ago. I thought the album was good, but not the greatest thing ever. Some email with a rap historian friend of mine helped clear things up. It's all about the history of the genre and how the record influenced people then and later on.


I've written about this at length already, but the crux of this particular vinyl biscuit is that it's a complete narrative, a love story in song, from start ("Wouldn't It Be Nice") to finish ("Caroline No"), with a vacation ("Sloop John B", already out as a single) thrown in at the insistence of a record label with severe misgivings.

It's not that this had never been done before - the Heartbeats/Shep and the Limelites singles over a period of about six years told an even more coherent story, yet are lionized by hardly anyone - but that it had never been done with such A-level performers: Beach Boys harmonies and L.A. studio pros are about as good as you get.

It is, however, clearly a period piece, and I don't think it speaks to people much younger than myself (I'm knocking on 50) quite the same way, or with the same intensity, that it speaks to me.

Paul McCartney, for his part, says that Sgt. Pepper's was at least somewhat motivated by the desire to outdo Pet Sounds, and I believe it. On the other hand, Macca is even older than I am. :)


It's also pretty amazing to think that Brian Wilson had all those vocals and melody layers and production effects in his head. Sleater-Kinney might rock my world way more than the Beach Boys, but the fact that someone actually thought up "Wouldn't it be nice" just blows my stack.

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