The BEACH BOYS – ” The Albums You Should Own “

Posted: August 9, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Beach Boys

For some bands, it’s an awesome to try and collate what their best album is. For instance Do you prefer Abbey Road, Revolver, or Sgt. Peppers? Siamese Dream or Mellon Collie?. Some bands have a best album that’s hard to debate against. Despite a vast catalogue of 29 studio albums (plus a few legendary discontinued records) and loads of hit singles, there’s a critical consensus that 1966’s Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys‘ is their greatest record, It’s a highly personal work from Brian Wilson that captures him at the peak of his composing teenage symphonies to God. I’m not going to argue with the consensus, For a window of time, they were one of the few American bands that could legitimately rival The Beatles. It’s hard to remember that now, amidst all the legal battles over rights to the band’s name and the tidal waves of sloppily-curated studio session box sets, but for awhile and, yes, even beyond the release of Pet SoundsThe Beach Boys were making albums that were strange and beautiful in equal measure. The great and storied (and eventually released) Smile was supposed to follow that, but was aborted after Mike Love’s objection to it and the label’s demand for a deadline. Brian’s mental health also got in the way.

Their power was in more than just those two albums though. There are hardly any Beach Boys albums that don’t have at least one worthy song,  The Beach Boys have many other worthwhile albums in their catalogue. Here are my favourites from these Californians Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston:

The Beach Boys Summer Days and Summer Nights

Summer Days (And Summer Nights!) ( 1965 )

Often the mark of a good Beach Boys album is how much of it is contributed by the Wilsons, as opposed to the less talented members. There’s plenty of Brian Wilson genius on Summer Days, Of all The Beach Boys’ albums featuring exclamation marks, Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) is the strongest. Released in 1965, it was then a 23-year-old Brian Wilson’s ninth studio album and provided the platform for the complex harmonies and chord structures of overplayed/underappreciated pop standards like “California Girls” and a superior version of “Help Me, Rhonda” that he’d become famous for. It’s an album of high highs, like Brian’s nod to Phil Spector’s signature powerhouse sound on the gorgeous “Let Him Run Wild” as well as equivalent limbo-champion lows.

Summer Days is a borderline surf-rock album (Capitol Records demanded he return to these themes after The Beach Boys Today! failed to sell as well as past records) with a song dedicated to Salt Lake City. The track “I’m So Bugged At My Ol’ Man” is so laughably bad that Brian cited his vocals as “Too Embarrassed” on the album. Also the Carl Wilson showcase ‘Girl Don’t Tell Me’, but it’s offset by Mike Love’s crassness on cuts like ‘Salt Lake City’ and ‘Amusement Parks U.S.A.’.

People like to say that although Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) is the technical predecessor to Pet Sounds, Today! is the true predecessor. I actually disagree. Side B of Today! is undeniable in the development of Pet Sounds, but in different ways Summer Days came closer. (It also has the superior version of “Help Me, Rhonda.”) It came out a month before The Beatles’ Help!, and both of those albums feel similar. They’re both the last album by each band to contain any resemblance to their early material, and both followed by what’s largely considered each band’s first 10/10 classic. Summer Days‘ most obvious achievement is “California Girls,” which is sort of the significantly better sequel to “I Get Around.” Like that song, it’s still fair to call it surf pop, but other than Mike Love’s nasally vocals and the lyrics, this is much closer to the heavily-arranged pop of Pet Sounds. Brian conducting The Wrecking Crew on this one was his greatest musical achievement to date (Hal Blaine’s drumming and the song’s intro are major highlights), and the harmonies in the chorus are transcendental. The Brian-sung, Wall of Sound-inspired “Let Him Run Wild” could fit on Pet Sounds without changing it at all. “You’re So Good to Me” is close too and the a cappella closer “And Your Dreams Come True” is the most psychedelic the band’s harmonies had sounded at that point. “Amusement Parks U.S.A.” is a fascinating one because it kind of sounds like Mike Love fighting to make it “Fun, Fun, Fun” over Brian’s increasingly darker arrangements. The one cover here is of a Phil Spector song, which is a fitting tribute to his hero who he’d eclipse on his next album. And then there’s the great “Girl Don’t Tell Me,” which basically predicts The Shins’ first two albums. It doesn’t have the cohesion of Pet Sounds or side B of Today!, but it’s a collection of some the band’s finest material.

Beach Boys

Friends (1968)

If there’s a most underrated Beach Boys album, it’s gotta be Friends. It wasn’t popular like their early material, and it wasn’t a critical darling like Pet Sounds either. But it’s really just about as good. If Smile had come out and gained success and competed with Sgt. Pepper’s, maybe Friends would be talked about in the same breath as White Album. But the way things played out, you’ll hardly hear it mentioned in the same breath as The Notorious Byrd Brothers. It’s still up the stripped-down, lo-fi alley of Smiley Smile and Wild Honey, but it’s prettier and less quirky. Brian’s unique vision of pop music and the band’s unparalleled harmonies are as intact here as they are on Pet Sounds and Smile, and there’s truly no skippable track.

The harmonies on “Anna Lee, The Healer” are some of the most gorgeous of the band’s career. They’re so full-sounding that you forget they’re only backed by piano, a bass, and the tiniest bit of hand drumming. Mike Love had just gotten back from a trip to India to study Transcendental Meditation with The Beatles and Donovan, so even he was on board with the ’60s counter-culture stuff this time. The closing track is actually named “Transcendental Meditation,” it’s one of the band’s most outwardly psychedelic songs ever, and Mike Love even helped write it. This is the first one where Dennis was a key songwriter too, and his contributions (“Little Bird” and “Be Still”) are both up there with Brian’s. The one-two of opening tracks “Meant for You” into “Friends” is as good an album introduction as any, and this album’s genre experiments are successful too. “Busy Doin’ Nothin’” toys with bossa nova, while the instrumental “Diamond Head” incorporates Hawaiian music. It’s not an album with Brian in the conductor’s booth, but it’s definitely the one where they clicked most as a band.

beach-boys-love-you

The Beach Boys Love You ( 1977 )

Love You was initially intended as a solo debut for Brian Wilson, who provides most of the songs, instrumentation, and lead vocals. It’s an oddity in The Beach Boys’ catalogue – largely played by Wilson on synthesisers, it sounds off the cuff where most Beach Boys records are pristine and lovingly arranged. But it’s a fascinating insight into Wilson’s state of mind in the late 1970s, oscillating between childlike playfulness and devastating insightfulness.

Admittedly, I like Love You more in concept than in actuality, but the story behind it and the weirdness of its existence keep it interesting. After Brian had retreated from much of the band’s writing and recording, he took most of Love You on by himself It hearkened back in spirit to Pet Sounds and “Good Vibrations,” but it was recorded largely with synthesizers before that approach became commonplace. Theoretically, Love You is what Animal Collective and Panda Bear have spent the last nine years doing (though in reality, they’ve bested this album a few times). It’s a total outlier in the band’s catalog, a highly underrated album of the late ’70s, and a rare moment where Brian took control of songwriting during that era. It’s the first must-hear album on this list.

Beach Boys Holland

Holland ( 1973 )

After the underwhelming Carl and the Passions, The Beach Boys attempted to focus Brian Wilson by recording in the Netherlands. Wilson was still troubled, listening obsessively to Randy Newman’s Sail Away during the trip, but he was functional enough to contribute the opener ‘Sail On Sailor’. Carl provides the historical epic ‘The Trader’, and even Mike Love contributes the likeable ‘Big Sur’. It was the last really satisfying group effort from The Beach Boys before the success of the Endless Summer compilation turned them into an oldies act.

After Blondie Chaplin struggled to fit in with the band’s sound on Carl and the Passions – “So Tough,” he ends up being the strongest part of Holland. Blondie takes lead vocals on opener “Sail On, Sailor,” a song Brian had written with Smile collaborator Van Dyke Parks that was given to the other band members (and a few co-writers) to finish. It’s the album’s best song, and remains their most memorable ’70s single.

Some of the Wilson/Parks song cycles also must have rubbed off on Mike Love and Al Jardine, who offer the three-part “California Saga,” one of Love’s finest moments in the band. There isn’t much contribution from Brian on this one, but all the members are on their A game and it’s really a progressive record. There are no throwaways or silly covers or needless instrumentals, and no throwbacks to their early days or misguided hard rock songs. but today it sounds like a gem of that era.

The Beach Boys Wild Honey

Wild Honey  ( 1967 )

The Beach Boys recorded the relatively straightforward Wild Honey at the height of psychedelia. It must have made them look anachronistic when The Beatles were making Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, but it holds up well, with the group handling most of the instruments themselves and Carl recording terrific lead vocals on songs like ‘Darlin” and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Was Made To Love Her’.

This was a Beach Boys attempt at an Stax-inspired album should have been, for all intents and purposes, a bona fide disaster, as there are very few things whiter than suburban boys in matching pinstripe shirts and ’50s-style crewcuts. Instead, 1967’s Wild Honey marks a return to music created in-house by The Beach Boys themselves instead of the complex instrumentalist backings performed by the Wrecking Crew forPet Sounds and Smile. Even though it’s the last album that features Brian as primary composer, it’s cherub-voiced Carl who took the lead on many songs and in many areas of production on the album. The only actual connection to Smile though is “Mama Says,” which is a reworked part of “Vega-Tables.” Sometimes I actually prefer this weird a cappella version.

What Wild Honey lacks in musical complexity, it makes up for in personality on songs like the title track for the most part, his lead vocals help his songs to resonate through clear pop hooks and infectious lightheartedness in ways that no song on any of Brian’s hyper-controlled albums ever could. Even Brian sounds like he’s having actual fun as lead on the deceptively innocent “I’d Love Just Once to See You” and “Here Comes the Night” .

The Beach Boys All Summer Long

All Summer Long  ( 1964 )

At only 25 minutes long, and containing filler like studio banter and an unremarkable guitar solo on ‘Carl’s Big Chance’, All Summer Long is a remnant of the era before the pop LP as an art-form. But there’s a lot of great material here – ‘I Get Around’ was the deserved hit single, but there are also great album tracks like ‘Girls On The Beach’ and ‘We’ll Run Away’.

“The Warmth of the Sun” may have hinted at the balladry of Pet Sounds, but the first time we hear Brian attempting the multi-layered complex pop is “I Get Around.” It was All Summer Long‘s lead single, opening track, and The Beach Boys’ first U.S. #1 song. The song sounded enough like a fun-in-the-sun pop song to fit in with stuff like “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “Surfin’ USA,” but Brian knew it was so much more. The way he brings in the overlapping vocal harmonies in the intro was some of his most complex work to date. And though he had worked with members of The Wrecking Crew before (the group of session musicians who Phil Spector also worked with), this was the first time he teamed with them to give The Beach Boys his own spin on Spector’s Wall of Sound. If you’re making a list of milestones leading up to Pet Sounds, this song is a major one. The album’s title track, “Wendy,” and “Don’t Back Down” are three more stone cold classics of the early era; and “We’ll Run Away” and “Girls on the Beach” are two more of Brian’s excellent falsetto-led ballads. Both of them show how essential the group’s lush harmonies would be to those types of songs in their psychedelic period.

beach-boys-adult-child

Adult/Child  ( 1977 ) (unreleased)

It might be cheating including an unreleased, but widely bootlegged, album in this list, but Adult/Child is a fascinating part of the Beach Boys story. Brian Wilson launched into recording Adult/Child just five days after completing Love You, but instead of using synthesisers, he often utilised big band arrangements, reminiscent of Sinatra. The record company rejected it for being too strange, but it’s no stranger than Love You, and it feels more like a group effort, with lead vocals from all five Beach Boys.

Beach Boys

The Beach Boys

I said in the intro that there are hardly any Beach Boys albums that don’t have at least one worthy song. I’ve mentioned a few highlights on the previous albums, but starting here, every album has a handful of worthwhile tracks. Brian wrote or co-wrote three songs on this one, and horribly dated production aside, you can still hear some of his magic. All three of Brian’s contributions have melodic changes that ever so slightly hint at his better days, and even the songs that aren’t penned by him have those Beach Boys harmonies that still no other band has been able to master. It didn’t produce any real Beach Boys staples and it didn’t break any of the ground that their best releases did, but it’s too straight-up enjoyable to fully hate.

Especially given the sort of ’80s pop revival that goes on today, these songs could be very fashionable right now with a little tweaking. Dev Hynes would probably love to write a song like “Crack At Your Love.”

Beach Boys

20/20 (1969)

This one has an uneven and often disappointing side A, but side B is almost flawless. Side A kicks off with “Do It Again,” an obvious throwback to their early days in sound and song title, which felt like a major regression coming right after the band’s most creative period. Brian co-wrote it with Mike Love, and it’s always seemed like the moment Brian finally gave in to Mike’s three-year-long pleas to return to this sound. Side A also has the hard rocking “All I Want to Do,” a sound that’s never suited them well, and Bruce Johnston’s pretty but mostly-unnecessary instrumental “The Nearest Faraway Place.” At least those are balanced out by Dennis’ quality ballad “Be with Me” and a fine Carl-sung version of The Ronettes’ “I Can Hear Music” (honoring the band’s Phil Spector influence once again). Side B begins with a cover of blues legend Lead Belly, and only gets better from there. The psychedelic waltz “I Went to Sleep” is up there with Brian’s best work and “Time to Get Alone” isn’t far behind. (They were also both reportedly written before the 20/20 sessions, which is not surprising.)

Then comes Dennis’ masterful “Never Learn Not to Love,” which was based on a song given to him by his then-friend Charles Manson (despite Manson being a truly horrific person, it is difficult to deny his musical talent). And they’re less necessary in this context now that The Smile Sessions exist, but the album closes with two of the very best songs from the then-abandoned Smile, “Our Prayer” and “Cabinessence.”

Beach Boys

Carl and The Passions “So Tough” (1972)

This is the followup to their last truly excellent album, and the first to feature Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar. Blondie’s contributions would improve significantly on the next album, Holland , but here his harder rock tendencies feel out of place and often hold the band back. Brian doesn’t take lead on any songs and only contributes a bit of songwriting (including the highlight “Marcella”), but the real star on this album is Dennis. His ballads “Make It Good” and “Cuddle Up” are as good as most anything he’s written.

“Cuddle Up” was written by The Beach Boys‘ drummer, Dennis Wilson, and Daryl Dragon of The Captain and Tennille. “Cuddle Up” appeared on The Beach Boys‘ 1972 album, Carl and the Passions – “So Tough”. It was also the B-side of the single, “You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone”.

Beach Boys Surf's Up

Surf’s Up ( 1971 )

Surf’s Up is a decidedly two paced record. You get divine music from the angels, like the beautiful title track (a Smile leftover), Brian’s ‘Til I Die’, and two of Carl’s best Beach Boys songs, ‘Feel Flows’ and ‘Long Promised Road’, but you also have to sit through atrocities like ‘Take Good Care Of Your Feet’ and Love’s hackneyed ‘Student Demonstration Time’.

The Beach Boys’ released Surf’s Up, and despite the tongue-in-cheek title it was the darkest album the band would ever record. The album cover depicts a nod to “End of the Trail,” a sculpture featuring a broken-down Native American man who, after coming to a sudden halt, is about to plummet over an unseen precipice—given Brian’s all-consuming nervous breakdown within the next two years, the imagery is all too portentous.

Straight from the discordant chords that open the album on “Don’t Go Near the Water,” the album is miles from “Surfin’ Safari” as an early pioneer of prog rock. Carl’s alien and ethereal “Feel Flows” finally connected The Beach Boys to the counterculture more than the album’s Kent State shooting protest jam “Student Demonstration Time” ever could, and the organ-laden “A Day in the Life of a Tree” and the haunting “Til I Die” may just be Brian’s last great compositions. But the real standout is the album’s title track, a leftover from Smile. “Surf’s Up” is innovative, enigmatic and sublime evidence of the woulda/coulda/shoulda run for their money The Beach Boys almost gave the Beatles in 1967.

Beach Boys Sunflower

Sunflower  (1970 )

1970’s Sunflower takes the group’s penchant for sun-soaked melody and applies it more gently on an album that exudes warmth through skilled, elegant production. The Beach Boys’ efforts on the album “in many respects, it’s their Abbey Road a lush production that signaled an end to the 1960s, the decade that gave them creative flight.” There are points when Sunflower is too decadent for its own good ”Tears in the Morning” oozes schmaltz, including a literal accordion solo when Bruce Johnston laments that his wife has left him for Europe—but the album also contains the the undeniably cool shoegazing precursor “All I Wanna Do” and the aching “Forever,” Dennis Wilson’s finest lead vocal contribution apart from his solo work on Pacific Ocean Blue.

The Beach Boys re-focused at the beginning of the 1970s, after signing to Reprise Records. The album went through a troubled genesis – there were enough leftover songs from the aborted attempts to form a bootleg named Landlocked – but the results were strong, a collaborative album with songs from Brian, Dennis, and Bruce Johnston.

After the 1960s ended, The Beach Boys had another creative boost. They weren’t doing weird lo-fi recordings anymore, and they successfully moved past the indecisive 20/20 to write another classic album. An early highlight is Brian’s “This Whole World” that sounded more spirited that he had in a while, and he and Carl sound great singing it together. “Deirdre,” “All I Wanna Do,” and “Our Sweet Love” have remnants of the psychedelic era, and they’re three of the band’s most gorgeous ’70s songs. They also managed to tack on a Smile leftover that never made it on the eventual Smile tracklist, “Cool, Cool Water.” Dennis’ songwriting contributions were becoming more and more important to the band, and it’s actually he who wrote the album’s best song: “Forever.” He must have hung around his brother enough that he picked up a trick or two, because this is the same kind of intimate beauty Brian perfected on “God Only Knows” and “Caroline, No.” Sometimes “Brian Wilson” and “The Beach Boys” begin to feel synonymous, but Dennis wrote enough great songs in their career to make up an album of their own. He’s The Beach Boys’ George Harrison in a way. (And actually, he did make an album of his own: 1977’s Pacific Ocean Blue, which may be the best Beach Boys offshoot album.)

The Beach Boys Smile Sessions

The Smile Sessions recorded 1965-1971, released  ( 2011 )

Smile was Brian Wilson’s ambitious followup to Pet Sounds, but it was beset with difficulties – Wilson became laden with addiction, superstition, and pressure from band mates, and was unable to complete the project, despite the massive success of single ‘Good Vibrations’. While many of the key songs turned up on later Beach Boys albums, and it was widely bootlegged, it wasn’t until Wilson’s 2004 re-recording of the project that there was a template for an official version, and it’s often spellbinding.

The 2011 release of The Smile Sessions finally gave us the 1967 recordings, assembled mostly according to the BWPS tracklist (with input by Brian), and it’s probably about 90-something percent done compared to the way Brian envisioned it at the time. Considering his perfectionism was hitting insane levels at that time, this is a more-than-acceptable version of the album.

Still, the possibilities did, and in some ways still do, remain endless. If Smile came out in 1967, would “Good Vibrations” have turned into an eight-minute song? Or a 15-minute one? Going by the song getting a full disc of outtakes, that doesn’t sound impossible. And would it really have ended up as the last track on the album? Either way, the album as we know it is as amazing as it was always hyped to be. It took what Brian had achieved on Pet Sounds to wildly new levels, it topped anything The Beatles had done, and it quite possibly would have been the greatest album of the 1960s if it had come out then.

Pet Sounds is a perfect album of pop songs, any of which exist as perfect pop songs on their own. But working with Van Dyke Parks, Brian crafted Smile as a song cycle where countless segments were recorded separately (enough to fill five discs on the box set version of The Smile Sessions), intended to be pieced together as one massive statement. (As you may know, Van Dyke Parks put out his own similarly-minded album that same year, simply titled Song Cycle.) Where songs exist that could be considered covers, like Dennis’ haunting medley of “You Are My Sunshine” and “The Old Master Painter” or the segment of doo wop song “Gee,” they’re working within the storyline of the album. The same is true for the instrumentals and the a cappella songs. A few absolute classic pop songs appear — “Heroes and Villains,” “Cabin Essence,” “Surf’s Up,” and of course “Good Vibrations” but even those take on a larger life within the context of the album. What is “Heroes and Villains” without “Our Prayer” and “Gee” leading into it? Or “Surf’s Up” without “Child Is Father of The Man”? And “Good Vibrations” manages to sound even more epic coming right out of “Love to Say Dada.” (“Good Vibrations” is, by the way, the greatest pop song of all time.

I’ll still take certain Smiley Smile and bootleg versions over the ones here. And Brian’s solo piano version of “Surf’s Up” bests the full-band one. That doesn’t actually take away from the album though. Those versions still exist and they’re still great to listen to, but no bootleg could sequence and transition these songs the way Brian could and eventually did. Even if it wouldn’t have been exactly like this in the ’60s. It’s still tragic that Brian’s internal demons and the album’s external enemies prevented it from being released then. But maybe it needed to be this way. Maybe Smile was truly ahead of its time, and it needed to sit in the vaults, slowly become a legend, and finally get a release over 40 years later. Or maybe I’m just buying too much into good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll myth-making. Either way, it’s expertly executed ambition from an artist who’s truly a pop genius.

The Beach Boys, 'Smiley Smile'

Smiley Smile  (1967)

Let’s just get one thing out of the way right now: Smiley Smile isn’t Smile, the much-mythologized magnum opus Brian meant to follow up Pet Sounds with. The album—Brian’s “teenage symphony to God”—was meant to be an auditory journey across America via Van Dyke Parks’ tongue-twisting lyrics and Brian’s soundscape vignettes of American life to, the through-line of classical composition not to replace pop’s intimacy but to reinforce it, linking one personal moment to the next.” After 90 hours of tape and an estimated $50,000 spent on “Good Vibrations” alone, Smile was shelved, and The Beach Boys still owed Capitol a record. Enter Smiley SmileThe Beach Boys cranked out the diminutively-titled album in under two months to meet the record label’s deadline. It was met with critical confusion, and even Carl bemoaned it as “a bunt instead of a grandslam.” And it’s true: Not to mince words, but Smiley Smile is fucking weird, to the point where it’s almost … remarkable? It contains obvious Smile-era standouts like “Good Vibrations” and the poignant Western-themed “Heroes and Villains,” but those are nestled in among the stoner strangeness of lo-fi-produced songs like “Wind Chimes” and “Wonderful.” “Vegetables” features the percussive rhythm of one Paul McCartney chomping celery, and “She’s Going Bald” is a hilarious reminder that The Beach Boys were 100% dudes in their early 20s, Pet Sounds elegance be damned. As far as late ’60s time capsules go, Smiley Smile is a goofy exploration of the new musical freedom The Beach Boys had, even if nobody—including the band themselves—took it too seriously.

Some days Smiley Smile is my favorite Beach Boys album, if Smile would’ve come out in 1967 how the history of pop music would’ve changed because of it. Would it have topped Sgt. Pepper’s?  Would that have caused The Beatles to react the way they reacted to Pet Sounds, causing them to write an entirely different album than White Album?.  I wish Mike Love wasn’t resisting it’s release, I wish the label wasn’t rushing Brian to put something out,  Smile was aborted, it resulted in Smiley Smile, one of the strangest and absolute greatest albums of the strange and absolutely great 1960s. Most of the album was material written for Smile, which would’ve been Brian’s grandest and most ambitious statement to date, instead turned into minimal lo-fi recordings in his home studio. Where “Vega-Tables” had countless musicians on the Smile version, here it was backed by little more than a 2-note bassline.  “Little Pad,” one of the songs that wasn’t written for Smile, has the band laughing while they’re singing. “She’s Goin’ Bald,” based on a Smile track that never made it on the eventual tracklist, has the band pitching up their voices until they sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks. It’s obvious why it flopped as a followup to Pet Sounds, but it’s an endlessly fascinating album that we’re lucky exists. It’s easy to draw direct lines from this to the lo-fi indie scene of the ’90s, or like, Pinkerton. If an album was ever ahead of its time, this one is.

While Smile is absolutely the album it was always talked up to be, I prefer some of the Smiley Smile versions of these songs. This quirky version of “Vegetables” has always suited the lyrics better. And I’ll actually take the more minimal, haunting Smiley Smile version of “Wind Chimes” over the way Brian first intended it. Pet SoundsandSmile are no doubt classics of psychedelic pop, but they’ve never actually sounded as druggy as this album does. If you’re trying to convince a newcomer that the Beach Boys had an edge, sometimes you can’t even put on “Good Vibrations” or “God Only Knows” because people know those songs and never thought about them as psych-pop. But put on the Smiley Smile version of “Wonderful” or “Fall Breaks And Back To Winter” and they might say, “That’s The Beach Boys?” It’s amazing that almost 50 years into this album’s existence, it’s still that shocking.

The Beach Boys Today!

Today!  ( 1965 )

If Pet Sounds is famous for being Brian’s “complete statement” to rival the thematic continuity of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul, then the roots of thier efforts lie in The Beach Boys Today!. It came out three months after Beatles for Sale, which was The Beatles’ first album after Bob Dylan had introduced them to pot. The transition that album makes is undeniable, and likewise Today! is Brian’s first album after being introduced to pot and it’s the first one that you can’t call surf pop.

Side One is run-of-the-mill pop fodder laced with the surf guitar riffs familiar to the group’s early albums on songs like “Do You Wanna Dance?” ‘When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)’, and “Help Me, Ronda,” a standout despite the unnecessary fake fadeouts and the brutal recording sessions it look to make it (hear the Wilson brothers’ father drunkenly berate them and sweet, sweet Al for almost 45 minutes as they try to record the song’s tricky harmonies . But Side Two is where The Beach Boys Today! shines, on which Brian creates a suite of cohesive ballads that turn the band’s attention away from cars, girls and surf to focus on more introspective themes. Brian began to experiment with non-traditional pop music instrumentation,but it’s the second side that’s truly spellbinding, a mini-suite that’s like an overlooked younger sibling of Pet Sounds, with great tunes like ‘Kiss Me Baby’, ‘Please Let Me Wonder’, and the doo-wop of ‘I’m So Young’, It’s a stunning statement from a young Brian Wilson. using French horns and additional pianos, basses and saxophones on confessional tracks like “She Knows Me Too Well” and “In the Back of My Mind” for a stunning departure from the band’s previous style.

beach boys

Pet Sounds’ (1966)

Brian got blown away by the Beatles’ Rubber Soul, and Pet Sounds was his response. He paid the price for ditching their hitmaking formula when Pet Sounds flopped. Now it’s one of the planet’s most beloved albums (ranking Number Two on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest albums). Yet it’s still startling to hear, full of alien sonic details. Especially “God Only Knows,” a song everybody wishes they could sing, although only angels or Carl Wilson could reach the high notes.

beach boys

‘Endless Summer’ (1974)

A whole album of “Fun, Fun, Fun,” stretched out to a double-vinyl portrait of the life and death of the American dream. Endless Summerhas all the early hits – from the joyride of “I Get Around” to the moody gloom of “In My Room.” It cuts off before Pet Sounds, but it still remains their essential anthology – if only because you’re guaranteed not to run into “Kokomo.”

thanks Aphoristic Album Reviews, Paste Magazine

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.