Brian Wilson Peter Fornatale - Essay

Peter Fornatale

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

There are vast differences between the 1966 and 1972 Beach Boys. This fact becomes painfully apparent with the release of their new double set Carl and the Passions—So Tough coupled with the re-release of their classic Pet Sounds. Spin for spin, Pet Sounds is the superior album. It soars. So Tough doesn't soar. It taxis all around the runway looking for a place to take off, but never quite finds it.

Of course, the biggest difference is one of leadership. In 1966, the Beach Boys were Brian Wilson's group. Their main function was to serve as the vehicle for Brian's unique and personal vision of life and reality. Nowadays, the musical chores are divided up pretty equally among all the group members resulting in a kind of conceptual schizophrenia.

There are just eight songs on So Tough; all would do better in the context of other Beach Boys albums…. There are occasional glimpses of familiar Beach Boys genius, but not enough to justify a new album.

Pet Sounds saves the day. It is every bit the masterpiece it was six years ago—still vital, still full of wonder, imagination and discovery. It is interesting to remember that Pet Sounds preceded Sgt. Pepper by a full year. It is a total album. In this major undertaking, Brian Wilson subtly, but masterfully, explored the thin line between adolescence and adulthood with tenderness, compassion and total empathy. It was, to say the least, ahead of its time … but maybe its time is now. I hope so. (p. 75)

Peter Fornatale, in Words & Music (© 1972 by Poppy Press Inc.; reprinted by permission of the author), September, 1972.