Archive for the ‘Pet Sounds Track-by-track’ Category

Pet Sounds Track-by-track III: That’s Not Me

Friday, March 11th, 2016

This track takes a further step from the idealised romantic world of Wouldn’t It Be Nice into the real world of being an adult and coming to terms with the dichotomy between independence and belonging to someone. And although the singer acknowledges the importance of proving he could make it alone, ultimately he comes back to the need to be loved and accepted and that “what matters to be is what I could be to just one girl.”

Musically, there is a lot going on as well with more changes of pace and exotic instrumental sounds. Pet Sounds may not be known as a great guitar album, but there are some wonderful sounds that are extracted from rock’s core instrument that add to the atmosphere of this outstanding song.


Pet Sounds Track-by-track II: You Still Believe In Me

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

You Still Believe In Me slows the tempo down and brings an almost spiritual quality to the early part of Pet Sounds – you can hear as the melody soars ever upwards, especially in the astonishing harmonic break at the end of the song, which once again shows that Brian was going beyond normal song structures.

Lyrically, one still has the faith in the perfection of love, but this track brings in a sense of reality -people make mistakes and you need to forgive and believe each other. The track is not as widely known as the opener, but is a standout on the 1973 In Concert album, and has achieved more fame with the greater appreciation for Pet Sounds over the ages.


Pet Sounds Track-by-track I: Wouldn’t It Be Nice

Friday, March 4th, 2016

As we get closer to the “big 50”, it seems to be a good time to look closer at each Pet Sounds song. I’ve done this before in 2008; so this will mostly be a recycling of a 2008 series of posts.

The opening track of Pet Sounds is a well-known to most people; it provided an upbeat and hopeful start to the album. If Pet Sounds is all about young adulthood and realising that love and life are more than just a game, Wouldn’t It Be Nice has an almost pre-adulthood naivete to it in it’s idealisation of love and marriage.

Musically, it is “fast” enough to have been a USA top 10 hit and something of a 60s classic. However, there is also more than enough here to realise that we at the beginning of an album that will “re-define” what pop is about. The most powerful feature of the song is the changes-of-pace which are always engaging and exhilarating. We also have Brian’s ability to use exotic instrumentation -something which Nelson Bragg noted in a recent radio interview was an important part of his genius. On this track, accordions are featured strongly. All of this is melded with a strong melody and harmony, and Pet Sounds has a powerful kickstart.

Pet Sounds Track-by-track XIII: Caroline No

Monday, June 1st, 2009

God Only Knows may be the perfect song, but the end song of Pet Sounds may just trump it for me in terms of musical and emotional resonance. I’ve already analysed Caroline No (to death..) in an earlier post, and more than two years after writing that post, I would still come back to the song as possibly my favorite by any artist at any time.  And that’s not just because it has trains on it. It is still a song that can bring me to tears, and remind one that for every shattered dream, every heartbreaking disappointment, there are still things of incredible beauty around.  

Pet Sounds Track-by-track XII: Pet Sounds

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

If Pet Sounds, the track, is Brian’s mind set to music (and remember, this is Brian’s pet sound), then the one word that comes to mind is restlessness. The album’s other instrumental, Let’s Go Away For Awhile evokes an escape into a peaceful paradise, this track seems to be a restless run away from something or somebody. This is probably due to the piece’s origin as a James Bond type theme (even called Run James Run) but it also fits very well into sense of confusion, reflection and loss that marks the rather down end part of Pet Sounds.

Musically, it s notable for the innovative percussion that really drives the track- and the piece really came alive when Brian performed this song -well, Brian’s band did, with Brian able to sit back and enjoy his creation really take wings.

Pet Sounds Track-by-track XI: I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

It may be a sugar-coated pill, drenched in harmony and melody, but the eerie theremin is an indicator that this is one of Brian’s most angst-ridden songs. I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times can be seen as a summary, not only of Brian’s life, but of anyone who feels they operate on the outside of what seems to be currently hip and acceptable. In a way, it is symbolic of Pet Sounds less than stellar chart performance and these sense that the group should have stuck to cars and surfing.

The crux of the song comes in the sense of alienation and betrayal when the singer notes “where can I turn when my fair weather friends cop out.” The deepest pain is in the knowledge that this is a battle that needs to be fought alone, and we have moved along way from the spiritual togetherness of God Only Knows.

Of course, Brian was ahead of his times and the belated critical and even commercial success of Pet Sounds is testament to this. Aside from the first use of theremin in rock music, the multi-layered harmonies and mournful melody make this an important part of Brian’s overall canon, and indeed, gave the title to the 1995 documentary on his life.

Pet Sounds Track-by-track X: Here Today

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

The descent after the idealism and spiritual love of God Only Knows into reality and heartbreak continues with Here Today, a song that sets out in pretty clear terms the reality of love after the sunshine and flowers phase, and that for every new love, there is usually at least one broken heart somewhere. The Beach Boys are known for their “noises” on the early songs- studio chatter and noises that can be heard on the final mix on the song, and this song has some of the most obvious of them, especially during the instrumental break. The resulting effect makes the song sound more “realistic” rather than sloppily recorded.

The other main feature of this song is the highlighting of one of Brian’s key techniques during this “genius” phase -the tempo changes and use of distinct sections of the song. This also fits in very well with the “mixed” feelings that this record evokes.

Pet Sounds Track-by-track IX: I Know There’s An Answer

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

The most controversial track on the album- many people know it by the original and alternative title on Hang On To Your Ego, and it was even covered by Frank Black of the Pixies under that name. Apparently certain band members didn’t like the  ego loss theme and possible implicit drug use associated with it. 

In it’s released form as I Know There’s An Answer, the track works on a number of levels. First of all, it’s a great pop song with an additictive melody. Secondly, it showcases the lead vocal talents of all of Al, Mike and Brian, with the trademark changing of lead vocal that the listener hardly even notices which is a featute of the band. And at a lyrical level, it highlights the loneliness and alientation of the writer – he wants to connect to others around him, but those people have their own problems and insecurities. There is a simple truth in the song – we can’t rely on others to find our own answers, but this song also foreshadows the descent into loss and loneliness that marks the last part of Pet Sounds. It’s a comedown after the bliss of God Only Knows, but maybe it is also reality creeping in.

Pet Sounds Track-by-track VIII: God Only Knows

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

It was during one of the September 2007 That Lucky Old Sun shows that I realised one of Brian’s fundamental problems. He had just performed God Only Knows to a standing ovation and it made me think – Brian had written the perfect song at age 23 -surely everything else after that would be a let down whatever happened?

Of course, we know that Brian did a lot after God Only Knows, including the recent and succesful That Lucky Old Sun. But God Only Knows has an undefinable quality that must make it surely one of the greatest composing achievements from the human race. It transcends rock, pop, classical and any other genre and invokes the deepest part of all of us – deep, unconditional love for another person and possibly an even deeper spirituality. The arrangement, with the french horn and the “clip clop” sound is completely removed from the rock and roll archetype.

All the elements work perfectly together -Carl’s aching vocal is one of key parts of the song, as is Tony Asher’s lyric and those harmonies from heaven. It may have been brave for Brian to incorporate “God” into the title of the song, but there is real sense of an inspiration from Someone above.

Brian may have not topped this song -and nobody probably has in the subsequent 43 years, nor will anyone probably in the next 43 years. Maybe it’s a glimpse of heaven; maybe it’s the sum of all our hopes and fears, but it is a simply brilliant song, and that isn’t opinion. It’s a fact.

Pet Sounds Track-by-track VII: Sloop John B

Friday, May 16th, 2008

When I first went on the internet and connected up with Brian and Beach Boys related goodies, one of the hot debates was whether Brian really wanted this song on Pet Sounds. There were lots of reasons given on both sides of the debate, but here’s a reality – Sloop John B is on Pet Sounds, including the versions Brian has done in concert.

Having said that, it is my least favorite track on Pet Sounds, but that is also like saying mint chocolate is my least favorite type of chocolate – I would still eat it in a snap! 🙂 The strength of the track is the powerful harmonies and the showcasing of the band’s vocal prowess -what is also interesting is that it ties in with SMiLE and That Lucky Old Sun in using traditional/historical songs as an integral part of a major original work. And while the track may be seen as an “entertainment”, there is a definite sense of alienation and not fitting in that almost foreshadows the latter part of Pet Sounds.