Dusting 'Em Off
Revisiting an album, a film, or an event on its anniversary

The Genius of Pet Sounds: Artists Reveal Their Favorite Aspects of The Beach Boys’ Classic

on June 18, 2016, 11:15am
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The Title and Cover Art

Jasamine White-Gluz of No Joy

[The album cover] is iconic because it seems effortless. Like, they were just feeding some goats one day and someone snapped a pic, no big deal. It’s a very humble picture and kind of humorous, which makes the whole record even more dizzying because the album isn’t particularly funny, so it’s almost like, “Is this all a joke that I’m not in on?” If I had to choose a goat, though, it would be the little black one in the right corner who isn’t getting any food but instead getting his pal’s butt in his face.

Cam Boucher of Sorority Noise

I’m quite partial to right goat. I think what makes the cover so iconic is that the goat to human ratio is an even 1:1, and can you begin to think of another album that does something with even close to that ratio?

Jeffrey Novak of Savoy Motel

I like the photos on the back more, with them wearing kimonos and trying to look Japanese. When I was little, my whole family used to say “Sloop John B” was about me because I always just wanted to go home.


The Lyrics

Laena Geronimo of Feels

I’ve always loved the song “Hang On to Your Ego”. I love the vocal melody over the chord progression so much, and the sentiment of the lyrics and the controversy over them is so interesting to me. He’s talking about LSD and spirituality and how you can try to have control, try to be this separate self-contained entity, but ultimately it’s impossible. I’m not very familiar with LSD, but to me the message has a broader perspective, especially in today’s egocentric world of selfies and followers. In our daily lives, we question the meaning of personality, what really divides us … But what’s gonna happen when you die? Will it matter that you have 100K insta followers? Hang on to your ego, but I know that you’re gonna lose the fight.

Video: Feels perform “Hang On To Your Ego at a Beach Boys tribute performance at LA’s Echo on 5/15/16.

Andy Gill of Gang of Four

This record should be my least favorite record of all time, in many ways. As readers may know, I love drums — for the most part drums are barely audible on this record — and never mind that the volume of the drums is so low, the record doesn’t groove. It meanders along in one direction for a few bars and then there will be a pause, maybe a change in time signature, then a change in tempo, and off it goes with another vibe. And yet, and yet … If “God Only Knows” does nothing to or for you, then…

It’s really very like the way classical music works, like a classical opera, say Lakme by Delibes (the music that British Airways has appropriated). The melody rises and falls while the echo of that melody, sung by another voice, intertwines with it. Then it goes back to the verse, with its own melody, which is a variation on the chorus melody. As that is sung, the background voices provide an abstract, disconnected harmony. All the time, upfront, is the poetic heart of the lyric. It’s a love song, yes, but again, echoing its classical forebears, there is something not quite secular about it. Yes, “God Only Knows ” is a common, casual phrase, but in this context it feels much more literal. I can’t think of any other “pop love song” that is pinioned between a febrile, almost desperate desire and fear and its opposite, a contented contemplation of a harmonious relationship.

Jess Weiss of Fear of Men

I’ve been obsessed with The Beach Boys since hearing this record for the first time when I was about 18. Previously, I’d only heard their singles like “Surfin USA” and thought they were fun but not too interesting. When I properly listened to this record, I was blown away by the depth and the darkness underneath the sunshine.

Their level of precision [with harmonies] is unparalleled, and it’s so inspiring when you see footage of them all around the mic recording in one take. That’s a kind of skill that is so, so rare. Harmonies are often my favorite parts of songs; they offer the layers to really appreciate the melody. I tend to write harmonies in the opposite way, recording almost without thinking about it and then going back to sort them out as I like them to feel quite free and intuitive, but I love their structured approach very much too.


The isolated vocals from this record are unmatched by any other music I’ve heard. I remember the first time I heard “God Only Knows” when I was in middle school. It was so sexy, but also melancholy. It made me long for something unidentifiable — I hadn’t heard any music like that before.


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