Monday, July 8, 2013

Records I Enjoy More Than Pet Sounds & Sgt. Pepper Volume 1: World Party "Goodbye Jumbo"

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.



I saw a comment in the paper yesterday that McCartney's RAM was "the best album ever made."

I've been listening and trying but ...not so much. I hear what you say about Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper. But I'd put both of them ahead of RAM.

These days I've been listening to -- and being impressed all over by -- The Clash's London Calling.

Look forward to learning what are the other nine records in your pile.

buzzbabyjesus said...

"Sgt Pepper" isn't my favorite Beatles album either. By now everyone knows I don't think much of "Pet Sounds". I have "Goodbye Jumbo", and while I haven't listened to it for several decades, I can play "Way Down Now" in my head from memory. I'll pull it out and give it a spin. I'm sure it will probably sound pretty good even if it reminds me of my first wife.
My favorite record probably on nobodies top ten list is Little Feat's "Sailin' Shoes". I particularly like "Cold, Cold, Cold", which has the best drum sound ever. I love the lyrics throughout. It's got a Southern California folk rock sound, but also features a Zappa/Mothers cracked sensibility (Lowell George and Roy Estrada were fresh from Frank's ranks). It has a Neon Park cover, and Sneaky Pete plays on the definitive version of "Willin'".
I'm not crazy about "Tripe Face Boogie", but it's only one song.


I also dearly love the album closer, which I can only describe as a flawed masterpiece.

"The Texas Rose Cafe"

buzzbabyjesus said...

I like that Ram is getting it's due.

Sal Nunziato said...


It was Fred Armisen (SNL/Portlandia) who called "Ram" the "greatest album ever." I love that record so much, there are days I'd agree with him, except he lost all credibility when he suggested playing Tame Impala-Lonerism twice at the same party.


Well, it would be a party where you talked about the music after ... "Tame Impala -- what the hell?"

Jeff in Denton TX said...

I quite often see "Goodbye Jumbo" in the $1-$3 clearance sections of my local used record/CD/book stores. It deserves better, but it's also an inexpensive way to get a fine album.
I'm not sure Sgt Pepper would make my top 10 Beatles albums. I also prefer "Today" and the recently reconstructed "Smile" over "Pet Sounds."

wardo said...

1990 had a handful of decent albums. This was one of them.

cmealha said...

The thing with Goodbye Jumbo is that it's derivative and wouldn't exist without the foundation provided by Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper which were singular works. Don't get me wrong, I love Goodbye Jumbo, but it owes too much to so many other artists and styles that it can't be considered in the same league.

Sal Nunziato said...

Cmealha, you are 100% correct. But that is why I didn't say it was a better album.

Ken D said...

I think, given the source, there's a 50-50 chance that Armisen's comments re "Ram" and Tame Impala were meant sarcastically.

peabody nobis said...

It's possible you're having '60's Pop Fatigue. You are old, after all, and you've listened to both of those albums countless times. It's only natural that you would become more critical of them.
That being said, Sgt. Pepper has never been my favorite Beatles album. I would place Rubber Soul, Revolver, Abbey Road, and maybe even the White Album above it. The only reason I can think of for it to be so revered is it's innovation; the production techniques of George Martin were a revelation at the time.
I'm surprised you're not as enamored of it, since it's almost a Macca solo album, and we all know how you feel about him.

Sal Nunziato said...

"You are old, after all..."

Okay Peabody, I'm not Methuselah.

One thing I will never tire of is good music. I am absolutely "enamored" by Pepper. Pet Sounds, too.

I was just enjoying the brilliance of some records that will never be held in the same regard as those two classics, and thinking that these other records might deserve to be.

Pet Sounds & Pepper are, as cmealha said, singular works. That does not mean they are not flawed. And even if World Party's Goodbye Jumbo" is derivative, IMO, it's not as flawed.

William Repsher said...

I can't blame Mike Love for wanting to bring it all back to chicks, surfing and cars. When I think of the best Beach Boys songs, the true heart of the Beach Boys, it's much more "Be True to Your School" and "Surfin' USA" than what came with Pet Sounds and thereafter (never mind that "Do It Again" and "Darlin'" are great tracks in that old vein).

There's a lot of dead weight on Pet Sounds. I'm sure at the time, a lot of it sounded visionary and way beyond what the Beach Boys were known for ... but it also seemed like most of their fans sided with Mike Love and rejected the album. ("Good Vibrations" did a great job of changing their minds, tapping into both their old surfing vibe and pushing it in an odd new direction. It's a shame they couldn't straddle that middle ground more often at the time.)

I think the difference between the Beach Boys and the Beatles were that they created a whole image and way of life that didn't exist for most people, and to this day seems highly romantic and American: summer, surfing, California, sun, ocean, cars, the main drag, eternal youth. All these elements existed in pop music before they came along, but the way they fused them all together with that sound, and those lyrics, and those harmonies ... incredible. They created something mythical and much larger than themselves. But I have to wonder how real that is now to younger people who never had chance to tap into the Beach Boys during their 60s and 70s prime ... if they get that same "eternal summer" feeling I get when listening to them.

A walk in the woods said...

I know this is bad, but I've never, ever loved "Pet Sounds." "Sgt Pepper's" is better. But I'd prefer to actually listen to "Goodbye Jumbo" any day. LOVE that album. "Put The Message In The Box" needs to be played at my wake!

Ken J Xenozar said...

Every few years or so, I come back to Goodbye Jumbo and find it fresh and inspiring. World Party/Karl W has always had a few great songs on each CD, but Goodbye Jumbo is wall to wall. So many of the songs are direct and honest - "And I Fell Back Alone". The kind of stuff that makes me want to pick up my guitar and give it a try.

Chris Collins said...

I'll give you this- I play "Abbey Road" all the time. I play "Revolver" all the time. I play lots of Beatles stuff more than "Sgt. Pepper."

I certainly see where you're coming from. Even though I appreciate Pepper and Pet Sounds, I put them on far less than lots and lots of other albums

mauijim said...

And I Fell Back... has gotten me thru some tough times. World Party is playing live here at end of month. Worth going?

Sal Nunziato said...


absolutely worth going to see WP.