Brian Wilson’s troubles during and after Pet Sounds are well documented, and the album beautifully expresses these. He is lost, confused, and a little bit scared. He feels out of place (I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times), misses the comfort and familiarity of home (‘Home, let me go home, I wanna go home’ Sloop John B) and is acting out of character (That’s Not Me). It seems his thoughts are haunting him, echoed in the ghostly singing of You Still Believe In Me and the eerie percussion of Caroline, No.
The lyrics, written mostly by Wilson and Tony Asher, are direct and honest (‘I may not always love you’ God Only Knows). Wilson’s deepest emotions are laid bare for all to see. Relationships are a big worry, with the exhilaration of new relationships turning quickly to pain (‘Love is here today and it’s gone tomorrow’ Here Today). There is a stark contrast between the juvenile optimism of the record’s opener Wouldn’t It Be Nice to the final track Caroline, No (‘Where is the girl I used to know? How could you lose that happy glow?’). The beautiful singing, especially the higher notes reached by Brian and Carl Wilson, melts your heart.
Scattered with familiar, yet out of context sounds, such as bicycle bells, horns, barking and a train, there is a sense of disorientation, reflecting the confusion in the lyrics. The percussion is uneasy too: sometimes delicate; sometimes banging; sometimes not there at all. As well as the unconventional sounds, a wide range of instruments is used – with everything from a ukulele to an electrotheremin to an empty water bottle. These combine in wonderful arrangements to create the ‘pet sounds’ of the title. The two instrumental tracks show these off to great effect, with Let’s Go Away For Awhile drifting us away into a beautiful escape. The harmonies sang by the band are the greatest instruments of them all, and feature throughout the record.
Whereas last week’s album had two stand-out tracks, accompanied by a selection of good songs, every track on this record is amazing in its own right. It’s impossible to choose a favourite. The songs all fit together, sharing musical and lyrical themes, and the album flows perfectly. In its writing, recording and production, the record is innovative and pushed the boundaries of music. Brian Wilson set out to write the greatest album ever, and he succeeded with Pet Sounds.