Week 43 (Just A Band 3)

beach_boys-pet_sounds

Artist: Beach Boys
Album: Pet Sounds
Release Year: 1966

My Perspective

Imma let you finish, but Pet Sounds is one of the greatest music albums of all-time. When I say greatest, I literally mean greatest. In many GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) album lists, Pet Sounds is listed at not #7, not #6, not #5, not #4, not #3, but #2 or #1. That’s right. Top 2. I’m sure there exists lists where it is rated lower, but I haven’t seen it happen in any of the lists that I read. That’s how often it is rated at the top. If Pet Sounds was your classmate, they would destroy the curve every single time. And you would curse them under your breath for being so damn good. On top of that, this year is the 50th anniversary which makes this review even more special to me.

I didn’t grow up during the era of the Beach Boys’ original popularity and my knowledge of their ‘80s resurgence is limited to an episode of Full House and a Tom Cruise movie. So while some grew up with them being America’s Band, I honestly didn’t know much about them until later in life. To me, they were that surfer band with some good songs. Actually, my first real interest of the Beach Boys came in college because of the song, Brian Wilson, by the Barenaked Ladies. Why would they make him the subject of the song? What’s so special about him? A lot, actually. Brian Wilson had an incredible influence on the music industry most notably through his innovation in the recording studio. With his complex and eventful life, he is definitely deserving of further investigation. I’m sure you can find numerous biographical videos on YouTube.

Album’s Star Power

What Do You Have to Say for Yourself? Gold Star
This album is going to make you ashamed that you spent a measly $7.99 on your current pair of ear buds or decided your Apple ear buds were “good enough”. This is one of the most beautifully recorded albums in the history of music. Every time I listen to this album, I am blown away with how good it is. It’s also incredibly hard for me to be tired of it, even after listening to it on repeat for multiple weeks. I still continue to notice new things I hadn’t caught previously. There is so much depth here. The way everything is arranged among the numerous gorgeous layers of traditional and non-traditional instruments makes you wish you had spent more money on your audio setup. Your ear is pleading with you, on every note, to give it the most authentic experience possible. Your ear wants to hear it as Mr. Wilson intended it. Every muddled instrument is an ear tragedy. If this album doesn’t make you into an audiophile, nothing will.

One of my favorite moments regarding Brian’s composition skills is on the second track, You Still Believe in Me, where Wilson creates this absolutely wonderful false ending around the two-minute mark. Everything slows down, gets quiet, fewer instruments are playing as the diminuendo comes to an end. You really think the song is over. Everything is indicating this is it and then he starts it all over again with a new diminuendo but with a bicycle horn added into the mix. This repeats several times as it fades out to the real ending. I’ve never tried to make a list of my favorite false endings, but this song would be in the top 3.

Creepy Pasta Beatles = Gold Star
I want to talk about the Beatles, since they are very much a part of the story of Pet Sounds, since Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the other album in that Top 2 I spoke of at the beginning of this review. Now, feel free to disagree with me here, but when I listen to the Beatles discography (mostly the early part), I often feel like I’m listening to a stalker or somebody with a very screwed up view on what is a healthy relationship. The Beatles’ Run for Your Life is a perfect example of creepy Beatles lyrics. I’m going to warn you that once that stalker mindset kicks in, a lot of their songs feel creepy, including even the very innocent sounding I Want to Hold your Hand. I often imagine the woman in this song being stalked by the singer and is completely unaware of his feelings. Songs like Run for Your Life are in stark contrast to the relationship exploration done by Brian Wilson in Pet Sounds.

Let’s compare it to Here Today by the Beach Boys, which was released within a year of Run for Your Life. Both of them are post-break up songs from the point of view of a man who just came out of a relationship.

The Beatles start their song off with:

Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
Or you won’t know where I am

That’s um…that’s seriously messed up. But let’s compare that with Here Today which focuses on the frailty of relationships:

Right now you think that she’s perfection
This time is really an exception

Well you know I hate to be a downer
But I’m the guy she left before you found her

Lennon is hyper focused on punishing the woman for leaving him while Wilson is even apologetic that he is being a little rain cloud in regards to the new relationship, but he feels the need to warn this guy about the potential heartache that might await him.  Similar situations. Two very different songs.

Connecting on a Fundamentally Universal Level Gold Star
First, I want to explain something about music that I despise so you can appreciate what Wilson has done on Pet Sounds. When musicians do this, I hate it to the point that I wish they would walk away from music forever. I call it “pandering by generalization” although there might be a better term for it. And it basically comes down to taking one of two approaches: write a song about some general feeling/event, but never give any specifics about what you are writing about (the “nuke it from orbit” approach). The second way (the “shotgun” approach) is to take the opposite extreme by including every possible freaking combination out there so that one of them is bound to match up with the listener. Everything is designed to appeal to as many people as possible to sell more music. The artistic value of the songs clearly takes a backseat to moving units. See if you notice it in other music you listen to after reading this review.

What’s the opposite of this? The writer having the intelligence to recognize a universally shared experience and being able to share it through a personal perspective. Wilson’s dealing of relationships and coming of age stories never feel like pandering. They feel like a man sharing his specific experiences with the rest of the world and you just happen to be able to relate to it. Going back to Wilson’s You Still Believe in Me, the song is talking about a very specific aspect of a relationship that many people can relate to, even if the song doesn’t fit perfectly with their own experience. And that aspect is being appreciative of the fact that your partner still has confidence in you, despite your numerous relationship failures. I know I’ve been there.

In Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulders), it’s not even an aspect of the relationship, but a single event of two people embraced in silence. We are getting a very specific moment, but it’s a relatable moment of physical contact trumping verbal communication. Outside of relationships, That’s Not Me covers that time in a young person’s life after going out on their own for the first time. They need to discover who they really are or aren’t. You never feel like he is describing anything, but his own life. However, you also connect with that universally shared moment that everyone goes through as they decide what it means to be an adult after leaving their parent’s house. I have so much respect for Brian Wilson as a songwriter.

Instrumentals Gold Star
Let’s Go Away for Awhile and Pet Sounds are two short instrumental tracks on the album. With the lack of lyrics and vocals, it’s up to the instruments to communicate all of the emotion to the listener. For classical music, this is expected. For a pop album, this is daring. This plays with your expectations and, if it fails to be anything short of amazing, you are going to notice it. You’re also going to wonder why they wasted your time with a sub-par track. Fortunately, neither song does this. Instead, both are beautiful arrangements. In Let’s Go Away for Awhile, the play between woodwind, percussion and strings leave me in awe of the sense of anticipation and optimism that is created. Nothing feels out of place and the acoustic fingerprint of each instrument is complimented perfectly, be it the striking drums, the deep bellow of the woodwinds or the waterfalls that flow out of the strings section. It’s wonderful how the different instruments take turns on who is leading the songs and all without creating a traditional melody. It is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Game of Words = Gold Star
One reoccurring theme I noticed in Wilson’s lyrics is his playful use of words. One example is the word: dream. There are two distinct meanings of dream. One relates to dreaming during sleep such as “You would not believe the dream I had last night. You had wooden teeth.” The other relates to hope for the future such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech.  In Wouldn’t It Be Nice, the singer spends the entire song discussing the hope of his future together with his significant other as a married coupled and all the great things that await them. This is their dream of the future, and the song ends with the lyrics of “Good night ba-baby, sleep tight, ba-baby” until the songs fades to nothingness, relating back to the dreaming you do when you sleep.

Wilson so articulately conveys the importance of dreams with the verse “You know the more it seems we talk about it, it only makes it worst to live without it, but let’s talk about it” It does not matter how much it hurts to want to fulfill our dreams because keeping our dreams alive is the only way we will fulfill them. This astute commentary goes in contrast with the song’s title, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, which implies a simple nicety, like a comfortable chair rather than this ache of young people wanting to grow up and spend the rest of their lives with each other. This only further illustrates Wilson’s playfulness with the English language.

Final Rating

Gold Star Gold Star Gold Star Gold Star Gold Star

Closing Thoughts

Before I leave you, I highly recommend the stereo version of the album because it helps separate the instruments. I listened to both the mono and stereo while listening to the album on repeat. Stereo felt vastly superior. And I would like to stress that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t sit down and listen to this album with your full attention. There is so much more going on here in terms of sound, composition and lyrics. Pet Sounds was a high mark for the music industry, both in 1966 and for all-time, and it deserves your attention.

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Week 15 Review (18+ Only, NSFW)

90125’s fantastic performance in the US in 1983 is likely what kicked the War on Drugs into high gear in the 80’s as Nancy Reagan could only conclude that most Americans were snorting lines of coke off a stripper’s tit and heading to their local record shop to buy Yes’ latest album while their minds were still completely obliterated.

90125album

Artist: Yes {Jon ‘Are You Fucking Kidding Me?’ Anderson – vocals; Tony ‘Keep Piling That Shit On’ Kaye – keyboards; Trevor ‘I am So Sorry’ Rabin – guitars, vocals, additional keyboards; Chris ‘I’m Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today’ Squire – bass, vocals; Alan ‘This Wasn’t My Fault’ White – drums, percussion, backing vocals}
Album: 90125
Year: 1983
Genre: Regressive Shit Pop
Rating: a screwdriver in the eye/5

Worth Your Time? Avoid it like gonorrhea. After a week long infection, I’m considering setting my crotch on fire in hopes of stopping the burning.

Twitter Review: Most people if they had a time machine would stop Lincoln’s assassination or try to kill Hitler. Well not me. Not me, god damn it. I’d get in my time machine and devote every fucking ounce of energy to make sure this album NEVER happens.

Fuck These 3 Tracks:

  1. Our Song
  2. Leave It
  3. It Can Happen

Why It Sucks (abridged):

  • The Lyrics. The forms of ‘to be’ are not an optional part of the English language. When writing the lyrics for Hearts, Yes decided they knew better. The song verbally assaults my ears and intelligence for what purpose I cannot comprehend. It’s not right. It Can Happen feels lyrically inspiring as the Hokey Pokey. Then the ridiculous and over-the-top corniness of the lyrics in Our Song makes me think it better belongs in the 1978 mother of all movie blunders, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, rather than on any album.
  • Who Do I want to be Today? I’d like to make it perfectly clear that I’m not saying to stay away from Yes completely. Not at all. This unholy alliance of Yes is known as West Yes or as I like to call them Shitty Shit Yes. It’s a complicated story, but basically they moved from the UK to LA as they regrouped with new members and fucked it all up. My biggest problem is these guys don’t know if they want to be a pop band or a progressive rock band on this album and this weird horrific Frankenstein’s monster of a creation makes me contemplate pulling a double Van Gogh and shutting down Lt. Morning permanently. I think my best example of this confusion is Changes which has an Indian inspired instrumental intro lasting a whopping minute and forty seconds. Epic, right? Too bad the rest of the song is 80’s pop ballad as they get. It makes no fucking sense. There are countless instances of bullshit like this.
  • Make It Stop. The keyboards on this album are piled on so thick with 80’s cheesiness that you won’t be shitting for weeks. The same thing with the vocal effects. It feels more like a bad sci-fi movie or an art film project turn disaster as the vocals are layered on top of each other to the point of absurdity while moving back and forth between the left and right channels doing their damnedest to instigate the world’s first case of audio-induced epilepsy. I wish the studio engineer would have bitch slapped them back into reality instead of letting them finish making Leave It.

Why This is a Review and not a Suicide Note: The best track on this album hands-down is the dance remix of Owner of a Lonely Heart. Why? Well somebody had the brains to create a remix that was in fact shorter than the original and cut out the third verse completely. Fucking genius! Of course, the remix wasn’t part of the original release but it’s the only reason I didn’t drive my car head on into a wall to finally end my own personal hell once and for all before the week was up. For that three minutes and thirty-one seconds I had a break before the wretched loop that is 90125 starting all over again.

Anything Else: I know this album is loved by many people. It has tons of 5-star reviews all over the internet. I’m not judging you if you like this album. Oh fuck it. I am. What the shit-fuck is wrong with you people? Did the titty coke break your brains and permanently destroy any sense of good taste you had?

Sorry members of Shitty Shit Yes and producer Trevor Horn. I’m sure you worked very hard on this album. But maybe if you listen to it for a week straight, you’ll see where I’m coming from and understand why I finally reached my breaking point. Hopefully, next week will go much better because I won’t survive another week like this.

Please note this entire review was written purely for comedic purposes.  I don’t actually hate the album that much. I thought this would be more fun to read than another ‘it was okay’ review.

Additional Links:

PS Aaron Lewis still writes way shittier lyrics than anybody.