So, it was with great anticipation, and some apprehension at being let down, that I first listened to this Pet Sounds release. I skipped the mono tracks and jumped straight to the stereo re-mixes. I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing, so I played it back again… and again. It is now two weeks on and I haven’t stopped playing it, back to back, time after time. And although I will no doubt listen to other music again at some point soon, I know I will be able to revisit Pet Sounds any time at all for the rest of my life. It really is eternal.
There will be classical purists who will snort with derision at comparisons between Brian Wilson and the great classical composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. I love classical music too, especially getting to know a new symphony or concerto properly, understanding more with each listen until I almost feel as though I am inside the composer’s head. And I can honestly say that I feel the same way about Pet Sounds too. Although there are many other pop albums which I have taken a while to get into, there are none which I have got into immediately, and then again, and again in so many different, progressively deeper ways. There is just so much going on in these songs! How did he do this with the tools available at the time? In fact, how could anyone do anything like this ever again, even with all the wizardry which can happen in a modern studio?
I could never before appreciate how bands such as The Beatles, Screamadelica and REM cited the Beach Boys as a major influence. Listening to Pet Sounds, it is now so clear. It seems like a distillation of the best bits of many different modern classic albums. And then I have to remind myself that actually this was the pre-cursor to them all. I’m still trying to get to grips with the fact that Brian Wilson did this in 1966!
And this brings me on to the mono mixes. I have seen reviews of this release slating the stereo remixes as being nothing like the original and being a trashing of Brian Wilson’s legacy. However, although I do appreciate that there are differences they are quite clearly the same songs, drawn from the same cuts. And on the contrary, I have found both the stereo and mono mixes to be very complimentary. There are so many moving, flowing melodies in there that often a part which is obscured in one mix jumps out in the other. And then you can appreciate the part in the context of either mix. (So much for me thinking I was not able to appreciate a mono mix – I now know that I could have bought and loved Pet Sounds in mono many years ago.)
So, what more can I say? You might buy and not like it, but if you’re curious and are reading Amazon reviews of Pet Sounds because you’ve heard about it like I did and think it’s your kind of thing, then you’re already on the right track and buy it, buy it, buy it! And even if you’ve stumbled upon this by complete chance, buy it anyway, because although it might not click with you, if it does, then truly you will have found something rarely, profoundly, achingly, joyfully moving.
Brian Wilson took a HUGE gamble in writing music from his soul, and while Pet Sounds has become a bandwagon classic among music fans world-wide, it is a personal listening experience that improves over time. You simply cannot get it the first time around.
The Beach Boys vocals are stunning. At the time of its creation Brian Wilson used the latest 8-track recorders to expand the groups vocal dynamics. This is an important aspect of the band...that is, they were a vocal group rather than a rock group.
Pet Sounds is a shining gem waiting to be discovered. Given that the Beach Boys haven't attracted the most favourable reviews for most of their later careers, this album is a rare example of praise given where praise is due.
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