Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations

(Capitol, 1966)

Lush, multi-sectioned, theremin-laced pop oddity that actually deserves much of the BEST-SINGLE-EVER overhype heaped on it for lo these many decades (and yeah, it is embarrassing to be earnestly weighing in, in 2007, on one of the most written-about songs in history). Soaked in sunny lovin’ and joyously stoned Spectorisms as “Good Vibrations” is, the entire mood is a shift from the introspective, self-doubting Pet Sounds bum-out that immediately preceded it. The song takes the standard boy-girl bit and psychedelicizes it with the lyrics’ gooey cosmic rah-rah; it’s a series of impressions and feelings rather than a straight events-based narrative. But in nodding to the band’s innocent-pop past while playing – adventurously – to its vocal/melodic strengths, the song manages to cram in everything that was right and good about the Beach Boys up to this point and also serve as the group’s final major leap forward. Soon after this record and the subsequent shifting of the band’s internal creative/power dynamics, there was to be years of awkward stylistic wandering as the BBs tried to find a commercial comfort zone. Sure, there were plenty of interesting – and occasionally tremendous – 45s through the ’70s (“Darlin’,” “Break Away,” “This Whole World,” “Honkin’ Down the Highway”), but “Good Vibrations” is the great death scream of the Beach Boys as a truly ambitious, progressive singles band.

1 comment:

Donald Brown said...

I don't know what it is: when I think back on all my years of avoidance of The BBs, despite this song, it seems to come down to (whatever their musical brilliance is supposed to be): I could never take them seriously as having anything to SAY. And this song is a good case in point: impossible not to listen to, impossible to forget once you've heard it, but I still somehow felt embarrassed by it, like being reminded you once rode a tricycle when you're cruising on an Easy Rider chopper, or something...