I Just Wasn't Made For These Times - A Brief Look At Pet Sounds
The essential Pet Sounds - one of the building blocks of modern music, complete with its theremins, barking dogs and walls of sound. Frankly, god only knows what music as we know it might be like without it.
As The Beach Boys 11th studio album, Pet Sounds is something of a late anomaly at the end of a journey to the magnum opus. The years prior saw flamboyant surf rock with joyous melodies sung by teens sporting mop-top haircuts, before transitioning into truthful lyricism and meticulous production on the iconic record that even Elton John considers “timeless”.
Pet Sounds is rife with innovation and juxtaposition - some say it is a testament to progressive rock, despite none of the tracks exceeding the 4-minute mark. The use of the theremin and the production overall perplexed Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham until he began making music himself, and Paul McCartney considers the delicate “God Only Knows” to be the greatest song ever written.
Track by track, the record quickly explores the then-obscene and revolutionary, from drug use to existence itself. “I Know There’s An Answer” (originally penned “Hang On To Your Ego”) takes an anti-LSD approach an entire year before the legendary ‘Summer of Love’, which saw the West coast of America explode into psychedelic euphoria. “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” speaks volumes of honest wordplay, helped by Tony Asher’s poetic assistance and Wilson’s heartfelt uttering of “sometimes I feel very sad” - a lyrical position perhaps not properly celebrated until the Smiths debut release in 1984.
Although less commercially accessible than their earlier material, Pet Sounds defied an era limited not only by musical understanding but by cultural appreciation - it is understandable and yet naive that Capitol released a compilation album to counter the feared financial damage caused by a lack of sales, and it is easy to see why the album does not sit comfortably among other pop releases at the time, like Hermann’s Hermits’ Hold On! or Barbara Streisand’s Color Me Barbra.
Many fans are familiar with the chirpy surfing singalongs the band are so famous for, and perhaps it's these fans who are guilty of overlooking the startling change in style that the Beach Boys opted to take.
That being said, Pet Sounds was not a shot in the dark - it was a hopeful leap onto a new plane entirely.