54 Years Later, The Classic 1966 album sounds just as good as it did the day it was released.
“Who’s gonna hear this shit?” Mike Love, lead singer of The Beach Boys once asked Brian Wilson upon first hearing “Pet Sounds” for the first time. The album, soley written by Wilson, was considered at the time to be a huge artistic risk for the band. Instead of the beach anthems the band was predominantly known for like “Surfin’ USA”, and “Catch a Wave” (Of the 5 band members only 1 of them surfed), Instead, Wilson, inspired by The Beatles and their recently released album titled “Revolver”, began to view an album as a whole body of work rather than a collection of hits. The Result? A 13-Track album focusing on the trials and tribulations of life. Lust, hope, love, loss, confusion, desire, heartbreak, growth, and honesty can all be found within the groves of this record, making it not only a staple in music, but also one of the greatest albums of all time.
The first time I can remember hearing this album was in the car with my father in 2012. The album, one of his all time favorites as well, never spoke to me as clearly as it did that warm June day. On our way to his co-worker’s summer party, we got lost along the way, giving us just enough time (and then some) to listen to the 40 minute album twice.
Starting off strong with the powerful “Wouldn’t it be Nice”, a song about wishing you are older and able to take life into your own hands, Wilson sings “You know it’s going to make it that much better, when we could say goodnight and stay together.” A line, that made my 12 year old self long for the future where I could take my bike out of the neighborhood in the same way my now 20 year old self wishes I could move out of my parents house and get my life underway.
Track 8 “God Only Knows” is another one of my favorite songs from the album. The lead going to Brian’s brother Carl Wilson, where he sings “God only Knows what I’d be without you.” The song, has been praised by many, of which, Paul McCartney of the Beatles, who once called the song the best he’s ever heard. This song to me, represents someone you love so dearly, a parent, child, loved one, that you simply cannot imagine life without. Everything about this song is so beautiful. From the lyrics, to instrumentation, to execution of the vocals, this song is amongst not only the very best on the album, but also in the conversation for one of the best songs of all time.
Rounding out the album is “Caroline, No” the only song on the album that doesn’t feature a single beach boy other than Brian Wilson. The song was sped up to make Wilson’s voice sound younger, and also features his two dogs barking at the end of the album, which he brought into the studio. “Where did your long hair go? Where is the girl I used to know?” Wilson sings on the last track after his love turns out to not be the same person he had once known. The track, a complete 180 from the opener, really brings the album full circle and makes for a nice last addition for the album to leave off at, reminding us that in life, the most beautiful things can sometimes come out of the worst situations.
Pet Sounds is the byproduct of a musical genius. The Beatles may have made the studio a place to experiment, but Brian Wilson took that idea and ran with it. The sounds on this album range from basic instruments like guitars, horns and drums, but hidden in the sounds you can hear empty coke cans, milk jugs, strings of a piano being plucked at from the inside, dogs barking, police sirens, and much much more. This album is a timeless piece of art that sounds just as innovate and exciting today as it did in 1966. While Brian Wilson’s follow up to Pet Sounds titled “Smile” never saw the light of day, he still gave us one of the best recorded albums in musical history. For that I am forever grateful, as this album will receive many more plays on my turntable for years to come.