Before anyone gets their skivvies twisted, I'd like to go on record and say, I love the Beach Boys and I love "Pet Sounds." But just as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is not my favorite Beatles record...not by a longshot..."Pet Sounds" is not my favorite Beach Boys record.
I do a lot of weekend listening. The pattern is usually new stuff, which either means a new release or something I have never heard before on Saturday, and the old stand-bys and favorites on Sunday. It was during Sunday's pass through "Pet Sounds" where I realized at least 5 separate times, I wasn't loving what I was hearing. This wasn't a revelation. I've felt this way for years about these particular songs. I get caught up in what I think I'm supposed to like...see Billy Nicholls' mediocre cult classic "Would You Believe"...and suddenly I'm brainwashed.
I don't want to turn this into a debate over the merits of "Pet Sounds." As I said, I love it. It's a classic for a reason. But I will say this, I find songs like "That's Not Me," "I'm Waiting For The Day," "Here Today," "Sloop John B," and "I Know There's An Answer" a lot less appealing than most people do. The horns, vocals and percussion all seem haphazard. It's the type of production that was better suited for "Smile," and those songs I mentioned are like speed bumps to me, on an otherwise fantastic and occasionally beautiful record. Some of "Pet Sounds" sounds forced and a bit clumsy.
It could also be argued that Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music" might have been considered the greatest record ever made if it also included "God Only Knows" and "Caroline, No." (Yes I know, some of you really believe "Metal Machine Music" IS the greatest record ever made.)
On World Party's "Goodbye Jumbo," the first example in this hopefully ongoing series of records I enjoy more than "Pet Sounds" and "Sgt. Pepper," Karl Wallinger doesn't try to outdo his heroes. Yes, his entire record collection is represented here, as are many winks and nudges to Brian, John and Paul. But unlike some of the overrated youngsters who release records with thin nods to some of their influences, Wallinger writes songs that would stand alone as simple acoustic arrangements. The bells and whistles of songs like "Ain't Gonna Come Till I'm Ready," his nod to Sly Stone, "God On My Side," his nod to Jeff Lynne, "Is It Too Late," his nod to Prince," and "And I Fell Back Alone," his nod to Dylan make "Goodbye Jumbo" pure joy from head to tail. It's not just a pastiche of all that was good about music in the 60s and 70s, and even some of the 80s. It moves swiftly as a perfect record should, even with the one or two "off" tunes.
Is "Goodbye Jumbo" better than "Pet Sounds" or "Sgt. Pepper?" I'm counting on all of you to say no. I made sure not to call this post "albums that are better than..." Though, on days like yesterday, "Goodbye Jumbo," along with 9 others I have in the on deck circle, sounded a hell of a lot better than both the Beach Boys and Beatles' classics cited in the post's title.