The Rewind Button: Pet Sounds

The Rewind Button is a group blogging project that I’m participating in. We’re taking on Rolling Stone‘s Top 40 albums of all time and writing our own reviews of them. There will be a new album and review each Thursday.

Pet SoundsI know a bit about Pet Sounds‘ history, but not a lot. And for this edition of the Rewind Button, I decided to forgo any research about it and give it a pure listen. I wanted to hear the songs as someone would for the first time in 1966, without Internet access.

Okay, so if I picked up this album at my local record retailer in 1966, I’d probably be all like, “Whoa, the Beach Boys are trippin’, man!” I’d turn to my friend and say, “Harold, put down that Simon & Garfunkel album. This one has sound effects.” And Harold would cock his ear toward it–he can tell I’m serious, because I’m speaking in italics–and chime in with a “it’s groovy man. The Beatles better watch their back.”

Alas, it’s 2012 and we know how this story ends. The Beatles counter with Sgt. Pepper’s and Brian Wilson goes mad.

For its time, though, it was good (maybe great on certain days). However, it doesn’t hold up for me. For this review, I listened to Pet Sounds about 10 times over the last two days. I often found myself looking at the track list to see how many more songs were left before it ended. Several times I found the music flourishes frustrating and unnecessary.

“After listening to it twice in a row one day, I couldn’t help but notice that I was feeling annoyed and sad,” wrote Dave Lefebvre, another Rewind Button reviewer, on Musicqwest. “It’s funny how something so light sounding can make you want to slit your wrists.”

Lefebvre raises the point that the lyrics are to blame for the annoyance. It’s true, Wilson’s lyrics trend toward the unhappy side of life. And just like with Sgt. Pepper’s music/lyric dichotomy, I appreciate this element on Pet Sounds. I also appreciate the use of call backs on the album. The most predominant one is “I Know There’s an Answer” and “Hang On To Your Ego.” Another one is “You Still Believe In Me” and “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.” While not as overt as “Answer”/”Ego”, there is the same melodic movement in both.

It’s as if Wilson wanted to write an opera, reusing music and lyrics throughout for an overall theme. I’m not an opera fan. I often find it tedious, melodramatic and too ornate. Maybe that’s why Pet Sounds doesn’t sit well with me.

In an attempt to one-up The Beatles, Wilson goes over the top. He tries to pull listeners over to his side of the world. However, I prefer a little restraint with my madness, a little balance to my world. Pet Sounds is too much for me. It overwhelms in its effort to prove its genius.

Please visit these other blogs participating in The Rewind Button project:

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