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The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys

I can thank my dad for introducing me to The Beach Boys. He played them frequently around the house and in the car when I was growing up. I was much too young to appreciate them at the time. However, I had their song "Wouldn't it be Nice" pop into my head randomly when I was in college. I went and listened to the song again and was amazed at the depth of it. I found lots of songs of theirs that I could enjoy, but what really made a lifetime fan was the album Pet Sounds. It's not just a collection of songs, but a true album, a masterpiece. Unfortunately, the band was never the same after it. None of their post Pet Sounds album interest me.

Album Reviews

This is where the Beach Boys start to sound like the group that we all know and love. The catchy surf pop is well represented, and the first big ballads come out too: the title track and In my Room. Nonetheless, even though the band is on their way to greatness, this album still has its share of filler tracks and throwaway instrumentals, and thus it isn't really listenable all the way through.

Best tracks:
1. In my Room
2. Hawaii
3. Little Deuce Coupe

This album is pretty terrible too, thanks to Capitol demanding more records from the group in a ridiculously short time span. There's still plenty of filler, including a flaccid cover of Louie Louie, a stupid spoken word track, and even a terrible drum solo, complete with stick clicks. Don't Worry Baby is basically the reason this album even needs to exist. While the arrangement of this song is simplistic compared to what would come in a few albums, it's one of Brian's finest compositions ever. We also get a glimpse into the future with the other fine ballad, The Warmth of the Sun, which shows some strange but beautiful chord changes as Brian likes to do.

Best tracks:
1. Don't Worry Baby
2. The Warmth of the Sun
3. Fun Fun Fun

When the Beach Boys have to excavate 409 and other ancient tracks to fill up an album, that's a bad sign. There is no genius track like Don't Worry Baby to carry the album this time around, either. Plus, the filler tracks are particularly annoying, with tacky themes like American spirit and, worse yet, school pride. The previous albums weren't much better, but this one is really best avoided.

Best tracks:
1. Little Deuce Coupe
2. Car Crazy Cutie
3. Shut Down

Finally, an album that's actually listenable! OK, there's still a few throwaway tracks, including another spoken word piece, but at least it's at the end this time. On the other hand, the good stuff is getting really good, both in terms of the upbeat pop songs and the beautiful ballads. We see some signs of new developments in Brian's songwriting too, such as the unusual intro to Wendy. Probably the first album really worth listening to from these guys.

Best tracks:
1. I Get Around
2. Wendy
3. All Summer Long

And suddenly a really great album! Even the tracklisting was intentional: the A-side is full of bright, enjoyable pop, and the second is full of lush ballads. There isn't a single stinker in the bunch, except maybe the embryonic and unimpressive version of Help Me, Rhonda. Oh, and there's yet another spoken word piece, but it's at the end and can be safely ignored. With the help of the Wrecking Crew providing all the instruments, Brian hits his stride here for real, and this is the first great album of The Beach Boys.

Best tracks:
1. Please Let me Wonder
2. When I Grow Up (to be a Man)
3. She Knows me too Well

Just when it seemed the group was hitting its stride, we get another OK album. It doesn't have as many standout tracks, but a lot of decent tracks, and a couple that really suck. At least every track is a song this time. The Wrecking Crew is still providing the instrumentals, which makes it seem musically mature, but the melodical and lyrical inspiration just seems... lacking. There's a song about Salt Lake City, and another about amusement parks. Enough said.

Best tracks:
1. Let Him Run Wild
2. California Girls
3. Help Me, Rhonda

Then there's this album. After snatches of genius throughout the band's earlier work, Brian manages to pour all of his creative energies into this album and create a true masterpiece. Inventive and colorful arrangements make every song feel very different from each other, and yet they are tied together by the lyrics and mood of the album. It's been called a "teenage symphony to God" and that feels about accurate. I discovered this in college, which seems like the perfect time. All of those thoughts that run through your head at that time got put into musical form on this album. There's just too much to say with this album, so I'll just finish with this: It's better than Sgt. Pepper.

Best tracks:
1. Wouldn't it be Nice
2. God Only Knows
3. I Just Wasn't Made for these Times

Top 10 Songs

  1. Wouldn't it be Nice
  2. Don't Worry Baby
  3. God Only Knows
  4. The Little Girl I Once Knew
  5. Good Vibrations
  6. In my Room
  7. 'Til I Die
  8. Surf's Up
  9. Please Let me Wonder
  10. I Get Around