impact of a shatteringly evocative novel, and by God if this little record didn't change only the course of popular music, but the course of a few lives in the bargain. It sure as hell changed its creator, Brian, who by 1966 had been cruising along at the forefront of American popular music for four years, doling out a constant river of hit songs and producing that tough yet mellifluouis sound that was the only intelligent innovation in pop music between Chuck Berry and the Beatles.
Previous Beach Boy albums were also based on strong conceptual images, the dream world of Surf, wired-up rods with metal flake paint, and curvaceous cuties lounging around the (implicitly suburban and affluent) high school. It was music for white kids; they could identify with the veneration of the leisure status which in 1963 was the ripest fruit of the American dream. It wasn't bullshit, you could dance your silly brains away to "Get Around" or "Fun Fun Fun" if you felt like it.
But "Pet Sounds" . . . . nobody was prepared for anything so soulful, so lovely, something one had to think about so much. It is by far the best album Brian has yet delivered, and it paradoxically began the decline in mass popularity that still plagues this band. It also reflected Brian's preoccuapation with pure sound. In fact, the credits on the new edition of "Pet Sounds" read: "This recording is pressed in monophonic sound, the way Brian cut it." It's a weird little touch. The tone of it is so mythologizing it sounds as if Brian were no longer among us.
The love songs of "Pet Sounds" begin with the gorgeous theme of frustrated mid-Sixties blueballed adolescence, "wouldn't it be nice to stay together, hold each other close the whole night through? . . ." That question lays the entire premise of the album immediately in front of us. "You Still Believe In Me," with Brian's lovely harpsichord playing, carries the affair a little farther, through and past indescretion into the reconciliation of "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)," sung in Brians' wrenching, melting butter falsetto with the gentle lyrics of Tony Asher, Brian's major collaborator in this period, at the top of their form. There are also the perceptive songs of anxiety, malaise and self-doubt - "That's Not Me," "I'm Waiting For the Day," a tribute to the larger-than-life echo chambers of Phil Spector, the striking choral ensemble of "God Only Knows" and the