Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2. Pet Sounds (1966) The Beach Boys




  1. Wouldn't It Be Nice
  2. You Still Believe in Me
  3. That's Not Me
  4. Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)
  5. I'm Waiting for the Day
  6. Let's Go Away for Awhile
  7. Sloop John B
  8. God Only Knows
  9. I Know There's an Answer
  10. Here Today
  11. I Just Wasn't Made for These Times
  12. Pet Sounds
  13. Caroline, No 


My promise to myself when I started this blog was that I would listen to each and every album at least four times before I posted my review. I would give every album four attempts to win me over and persuade me that it deserved its place in this listing. It's been hard and I have to confess that there are albums which have failed to hold my full attention during the fourth listen but I've persevered. Pet Sounds however was a special case.

I first heard Pet Sounds years ago and couldn't understand what the fuss was about. I'd heard people say it was as good as the Beatles' best and I wanted to see what the appeal was. A quick listen left me baffled. I found it a bit dull to be honest; overproduced and with a set of songs that had only one obvious stand out.

When I came to this project I figured Pet Sounds should warrant more attention so I've been listening to it regularly throughout the countdown. I keep putting it on and keep trying to like it. I've listened to it a dozen times throughout the time I've been doing this and please believe me when I say I've been desperate to see the appeal. It's not like I've entered each listen in an antagonistic "How dare someone say this is better than Revolver" frame of mind. I've pressed play every time with a silent prayer to the surf gods that this time they will part the clouds and reveal the attraction. I've wiped out every time.

So I started to get a bit desperate. I got my hands on the four disc box set which is as much attention as any single album needs. It's got the full album in mono and in stereo and features alternate mixes and takes and examines the album every possible way. There's eight different version of You Still Believe Me for goodness sake and I heard them all which means I've heard it in stereo, mono twice, without vocals, without instruments and in alternate fragments. Did it make me like it? No.

I've studiously read everything I could find about Pet Sounds, I know more about it now than I do about a lot of my favourite albums. I've read accounts of its production, appreciations, reviews and analysis. I've delved deeply into every nook and cranny of Pet Sounds appreciation. I tracked down two separate audio documentaries about it including an excellent BBC one which spent a full hour dissecting it track by track in the company of members of the band and production team who talked about the making in intricate detail.

I did all of this in the time leading up to now when I come to write about it. I've immersed myself in the album in the past but I still took the time to listen to this four times before I came to write these words and it saddens me to say that the album that for some is the second best of all time and for others is the greatest, just does nothing for me. I've missed out. The attraction just isn't there.

I can appreciate the fact that God Only Knows is beautiful and a lovely piece of music, but I still prefer it when done by others. Sloop John B however is just deplorably awful. It's interesting how the famous Beach Boys harmonies can move me on something as nice as God Only Knows but make me cringe on something as inherently naff as Sloop John B which as far as I'm concerned has nothing to redeem it. I've always found Wouldn't it Be Nice to be annoyingly sunny and twee. No I can't explain or justify how the Beatles Here Comes The Sun leaves me with a big grin on my silly face but Wouldn't it Be Nice doesn't. I can't tell you why I have two separate reactions and I can promise you that I'd rather enjoy both but I just can't.

As for the rest of the songs on Pet Sounds, I just find them dull. There's nothing there that interests me or moves me at all. Nice voices guys, great band but I'm just not feeling it.

So here I am admitting defeat and shaking my head in wonder at how this album could be considered better than Revolver, Rubber Soul or Highway 61 revisited which are just below it or even better than Workingman's Dead and American Beauty which languish hundreds of places below but to my mind are infinitely better. It's a mystery that for me will always remain unsolved.

So it's with huge disappointment that I sigh and admit I don't really like this album much. It makes me sad that something so great, and I'm not denying its great, has passed me by. It's sad on one hand but on the other hand I can't tell you how happy I am that I never need to listen to that damn album ever again.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "It's slow and dreary and by about the sixth or seventh track it all starts to sound alike."

-Yeah. That's pretty much my reaction right there.

So is Pet Sounds really great? Let me know below.

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