Can anything else be said about Pet Sounds? Is there someone out there who doesn’t immediately fall into the devastating harmonies and melodies Brian Wilson devised for the Beach Boys to execute on? If there is I can’t convince you, and it’s questionable if I even want to know you. It is timeless, it is endless, and it never fails to lift my spirits and engage my ear and mind on a number of levels. Not bad for an album over 50 years old.
It’s one of the few albums where both the stereo and the mono mixes (particularly the new remasters from 2006, which I believe are the basis for the 2016 50th anniversary edition) are both vital and essential. The CD I own has both, conveniently fitting on one disc. One disc of absolute glory, from the beautiful opening of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” to the lonely and washed out sounds of a train passing by on “Caroline, No.” In between those two songs you can find a treasure of sounds and styles, from the forlorn sigh of “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)” to the more fun pop of “Sloop John B” to all out classics like “God Only Knows.”
Then there’s the incredible production, the way Wilson crafted such intricate harmonies and exotic instruments for pop at the time to give weight and heft to the themes and lyrics put together with songwriting partner Tony Asher. When you think of Pet Sounds you usually thunk about the pop songs, the way the voices pile one atop the other during the hooks. But what about the musical oddness of “Pet Sounds” itself? It’s a little miracle that comes towards the end of the album, using lounge Bossa Nova beats and brass outbursts to construct this fun little instrumental theme. You’d think it was a trifle, but it bears the album’s name so it can’t be disregarded. And the the fact it comes right before the incredible heartbreak of “Caroline, No” just makes that finale even more impactful.
No matter how you slice it, Pet Sounds is something that comes once in a lifetime, something no one can ever emulate, and something no one will ever forget. If you think this isn’t for you I implore you: grab a copy, put on some really, really good headphones, and let it wash over you.
This is the sound of truth in magic.