Why ‘Pet Sounds’ Is the Beach Boys’ Greatest Album of All Time

The Beach Boys’ hit album Pet Sounds was first released in 1966, and there’s something about the prog-pop record that is so beloved by fans and casual listeners today. There’s no doubt that The Beach Boys were pioneers of their genre at the time, inspiring the likes of Bruce Springsteen, The Ramones, and even The Beatles. They’ve released dozens of albums since their inception in 1961, but none have endured the test of time like Pet Sounds. Why is that?

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Well, there are quite a few factors to consider. That notoriety has to come from somewhere. There’s no smoke without fire if an album is consistently called one of the greatest albums of the 20th century.

To start, an album like Pet Sounds had never really been done before. But songwriter and producer Brian Wilson understood the elements of good pop symphonies. He was knowledgeable about songwriting for both pop and experimental ventures like The Beach Boys. 

Pet Sounds didn’t follow the format that was expected of it during the 1960s. It was a cohesive piece of work that wasn’t just developed for a few singles to chart and make some money. It followed a musical storyline that was ear candy from start to finish. The instrumental tracks on the album (“Pet Sounds” and “Let’s Go Away For A While”) were just as important to the album as the lyrically dense tracks. Again… nobody had really done that before with a pop album.

‘Pet Sounds’ Is an Art Piece More Than It Is a Pop Album

Pet Sounds is beloved for many reasons. However, the reason it is the band’s greatest album to date comes down to balance. Not only does the album follow a concept and a story from beginning to end, but each track is enjoyable on its own, individually. It’s not just the sum of its parts, but it also kind of is.

Tracks like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Here Today” are delightful on their own. But when the album is listened to chronologically, it’s even better. That’s no easy feat.

“If you take the ‘Pet Sounds’ album as a collection of art pieces, each designed to stand alone, yet which belong together, you’ll see what I was aiming at,” Brian Wilson said of the album.

They don’t write ‘em like they used to!

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

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