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Pet Sounds (33⅓ #19)

3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  450 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
Pet Sounds is, rightly, one of the most celebrated pop albums ever
released. It has also been written about, pored over, and analyzed more than most other albums put together. In this disarming book, Jim Fusilli focuses primarily on the emotional core of the album, on Brian Wilson's pitch-perfect cry of despair. In doing so, he brings to life the search for equilibrium and
...more
Paperback, 121 pages
Published February 11th 2005 by Continuum International Publishing Group
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33⅓
21st out of 114 books — 50 voters
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Best of the 33 1/3 Series
11th out of 16 books — 3 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Tosh
Mar 18, 2012 Tosh rated it liked it
A very nice book regarding a great album by the Beach Boys "Pet Sounds." Overall the 33 1/3 series is pretty straight forward except for Carl Wilson's "Let's Talk About Love (Celine Dion) and "Meat is Murder" by Joe Pernice, which is a work of fiction influenced by the Smiths album. The author Jim Fusilli pretty much goes track-to-track analysis but what gives this book a must-read for Beach Boys fans is the emotional attachment he feels for this album - and pretty much all of the early Beach ...more
Paul Austin
Apr 07, 2008 Paul Austin rated it liked it
I’ve avoided Pet Sounds for ridiculous reasons. As a musician who’s spent plenty of time in recording studios, if I had a nickel for every time someone busted out a Brian Wilson genuflection I’d be pretty well off. Yes, I do know this is irrational, but from listening to the radio growing up and from reading countless magazine articles on this album, it feels as if I’ve sat and listened to it all the way through many times, even though I hadn’t — not once, in fact — when I read this book.

Part of
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Meghan Krogh
May 27, 2016 Meghan Krogh rated it it was amazing
I take it back; Fusilli redeemed himself in the end. Pet Sounds is one of my all time favorite albums and I think this did it justice.
Wade
Sep 17, 2009 Wade rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music, favorites
I’ve only read a couple of books in the 33 1/3 series thus far, but there’s quite a few more that I hope to end up reading. What I’m already learning is that each book has two key elements: how good the material is (the album they’re writing about), and then how good the writer is. That sounds pretty obvious, but the first book I read in this series was on REM’s debut album Murmur. And, while I love the album, I thought the book was fine. Not bad writing, just not terribly engaging. This book on ...more
Mark
Jan 22, 2014 Mark rated it it was ok
I really like the concept of the 33-1/3 book series. I'm a rock music junkie, closet rock historian, and I love reading about music and musicians. I didn't find this installment in the series to be particularly insightful or well written. The story of Brian Wilson's emotional challenges and musical genius are already well documented. I was hoping for something with more depth here. Other 33-1/3 books I've read are loaded with details and research, some with footnotes, citations and ...more
Kerry
Jan 04, 2015 Kerry rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
I love this book series, but this one was a little disappointing. The author spends too much time dissecting the songs as they go from B flat in the chorus to A sharp in the verse and blah blah blah. As I'm not a musician, that all means nothing to me. Also, there's very little new or insightful about Brian Wilson here that you couldn't learn on Wikipedia. I enjoyed when the author got personal. And his thoughts on the lyrics and meaning of the songs were enlightening for me so that I will ...more
Halley Sutton
Dec 18, 2015 Halley Sutton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's be clear, I'm not into audio books. That said, I think I kind of enjoyed reading a book, through an audio book, about an audio phenomenon, an album (about which my MFA cohort crew knows very little--I've mentioned "Pet Sounds" and like two people knew it? It's not avant-garde?) that the more I learn about it, the more I love it. Anyway. YES THIS WAS MOSTLY FOR THE READ HARDER CHALLENGE. But also it was great.
John Spillane
Oct 09, 2012 John Spillane rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooked
I'm really surprised this wasn't better, and after having finished five in this series I don't hold out much hope for improvement. Abstract: Brian Wilson was sad a lot and the Beach Boys are underrated relative to the Beatles.

Highway 61 is great, but if Pet Sounds is three stars why continue? I will continue, they are short and on Audible.
Sylvia Seymour
Aug 11, 2007 Sylvia Seymour rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who feel verklempt about beautiful music
Shelves: favorites
Rather than a technical exploration, this is a heartfelt personal exploration of Jim Fusilli's lifelong and ongoing Pet Sounds lurve as a misfit growing up in blue-collar New York. Brought a tear to me eye, it did!
Jeff
Jan 09, 2011 Jeff rated it really liked it
The perfect blend of smart musical dissection and heartfelt musical discussion. Absolutely engrossing.
Niklas Pivic
Apr 15, 2013 Niklas Pivic rated it really liked it
Shelves: music, 33, non-fiction, love
If you are an ardent fan of "Pet Sounds", I suspect it is the same for you. What a remarkable thing it is to know that there's someone out there who understands how you feel and feels the same way—and who not only feels as you do, but can articulate your feelings better than you can.


This is a very loving tome on the creation process of "Pet Sounds", which is by many not hailed as The Beach Boys' masterpiece, but one of the best albums of the 1960s, and by others as the best pop album ever made.

I
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Jon
Sep 25, 2011 Jon rated it it was ok
I've read a few of the 33 1/3 books and while each one has a different feel, this one really bothered me. Fusilli really sounds like the typical pretentious rock journalist throughout this book. While he includes little tidbits and stories that only rock journalists know, it seems like every compliment about the album (and the Beach Boys in general) is back-handed and by the end, I was left wondering if he even likes Pet Sounds. He even does this when he talks about their early surf singles, ...more
Tim
Apr 06, 2015 Tim rated it really liked it
In welcome contrast to the 33 1/3 book on the Gang of Four's "Entertainment!" - great record, dreary and unconvincing book - this one is full of pathos and narrative engagement. Of course, this reflects to a sizeable extent the fact that Brian Wilsons's life story - which Fusilli retells -has these qualities and that the Beach Boys by virtue of their higher level of fame resonate more extensively than the Gang. (They preferred, pretentiously, to go without the "the", but it just sounds too ...more
Rachy
Aug 23, 2012 Rachy rated it liked it
Shelves: music-related, 2012
Not bad, but not good either. Considering this is part of the 33 1/3 series that focuses on albums, most of this book has nothing to do with the making of the album Pet Sounds. Instead it's how the Beach Boys affected the author growing up. Apparently a lot of early songs paved the way for the songs on Pet Sounds, but he barely mentions anything that came after, which is wrong because Pet Sounds definitely opened up the band to experimentation and the creativity of Dennis Wilson. And I agree ...more
Jonatan Hall
Jan 23, 2015 Jonatan Hall rated it it was amazing
Holy moly macaroni, is this a gooser.
Just take a moment out of your life to read this fan-fucking-tastic book, you will NOT regrett it, pet sounds makes you think and do things you never thought possible.

It's not only the first book to be about pet sounds, it'll probably be the last one as well. Don't take that the wrong way, after this book, there won't be any need for another pet sounds book, ever. It's just that good.

Oh, look at the time, I'm late for my book club meeting, have a nice day eve
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Mike
May 26, 2016 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Good and informative. A bit hyperbolic and technical, but I think the assumption with the 33 1/3 series is that you own, love, and are intimately familiar with the subject matter. If that's the case, then the above flaws can be forgiven.

The author spends a lot of time comparing the Beach Boys to the Beatles. It's valid since the two bands wrestled at the top of the charts on several occasions in addition to citing each other as inspiration. But reading Beatles, Beatles, Beatles in a book about
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Matt Gile
Sep 29, 2014 Matt Gile rated it really liked it
The 33 1/3 series is really mixed, some are great and some are terrible. The books are short, between 50-100 pages, and each one is about a single album. The books are all by different authors, and the authors are selected for having a personal connection to that album. The authors take wildly different approaches to the task. Sometimes the books are about the minutia of song composition, others are a personal history of the author during the time they were listening to the album.

The Pet Sounds
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Brian
Jun 12, 2012 Brian rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, music
An ok retelling of what surrounded the creation of Pet Sounds. Certainly I can see some of the complaints others have about this and while I wouldn't say Fusilli hate's the Beach Boys or is too pretentious he does often times seem impossible to please. Mainly the book seems to explore minutia where it is uninteresting and pass over other more interesting human elements. This was a competent bit of information about the album but hardly revelatory. More importantly it felt passionless despite the ...more
Tobin Elliott
Mar 01, 2015 Tobin Elliott rated it really liked it
Another enjoyable entry in the 33 1/3 series. Pet Sounds has always been one of those albums I wished I'd liked more. Oh, there's definitely standout tracks, such as Wouldn't It Be Nice, Sloop John B and God Only Knows, but overall, I've never found the album particularly compelling.

Yet, this account of The Beach Boys in general, and Brian Wilson in particular, as they led up to the making of their seminal album, where Brian's head was at at the time, some of the influences, helps me to apprecia
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Maggie
Jul 15, 2009 Maggie rated it liked it
surprisingly, i enjoyed this audio reading. stumbled upon it by chance and couldn't imagine why i wanted to listen to it yet gave it a try only to discover that i was informed of things that i suspected but was not clear on concerning the beach boys. before listening to this audio book i saw them as bleached hair, fun songs of summer and youth. in short, isn't it fun being a dilettante?

after listening to the audio book however, i actually purchased the album "pet sounds" on iTunes in order to li
...more
Hilary
Oct 24, 2009 Hilary rated it liked it
This book was more of a really brief biography of Brian Wilson, than it was an analysis of the album "Pet Sounds". While it was really interesting to listen to the album and read along with the book, I didn't feel like the author really contributed seriously meaningful information about the album. I'd still recommend the book, but it made me want to read a full length biography on Brian Wilson, rather than read this book again. Also, may I say that it seemed in a lot of places that his song ...more
Ryan
Aug 18, 2015 Ryan rated it liked it
The 33-1/3 is a cool series of relatively short books on classic albums that give a casual listener a deeper look into the recording, without going into overwhelming detail. This is a good overview of the Beach Boys' landmark Pet Sounds album. There's a lot of commentary/opinion, but overall it was enjoyable and I like it when an author takes a stand. Also, Fusilli definitely knows his music theory — he's not afraid to dive into the harmony of the tunes which, as a musician, I think are such an ...more
Bob_b
Apr 28, 2012 Bob_b rated it it was ok
Reading Pet Sounds got me to listen to the album much more intently and I appreciate that. I also picked up a few new insights into Brian Wilson and I also appreciate that.

However.


I felt there was no flow to the book, no validity. The topics jumped from album to album, and year to year without reason, making it difficult to follow. Most of the information presented seemed more a product of a fan's obsession rather than facts. I was left disappointed and certainly unfulfilled.

Wardo
Aug 28, 2009 Wardo rated it really liked it
A wonderfully accessible book of not too great length that gives an excellent glimpse of an important slice of rock 'n' roll history. Putting Brian Wilson in the context of Lennon and McCartney is especially illuminating. Fusilli can be forgiven for the relatively minor faux pas of declaring "Pet Sounds" greater than "Sgt. Pepper's."
Chris Lockhart
May 22, 2011 Chris Lockhart rated it liked it
Shelves: music
An enjoyable little book that provides a look at album at various levels. An interesting aspect of this book is the focus it gives to the relationship between album and listener. Music, as art, is a form of communication. Fusilli highlights that aspect of art by discussing his own personal experiences. It wouldn't work in a longer book, but it was refreshing to see this approach used here.
Stephanie
Jan 17, 2016 Stephanie rated it liked it
Shelves: music, non-fiction
Andrew picked this up at a used bookstore when we were travelling in Boston and since it's about a quarter of the size of a typical paperback I decided to read it while commuting on the bus. I definitely gained insight on Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys, and specifically the Pet Sounds album, although will admit a fair bit of the dissection of music arrangement was lost on me!
Samuel
Jun 18, 2015 Samuel added it
A concise distillation of Pet Sounds' era and its surrounding Brian Wilson lore. Sacrifices depth to be short enough to breeze through in a few commutes, but a more-or-less ideal "the Beach Boys, really?" primer for the uninitiated. Hits on most of the key Wilson anecdotes, and, best of all, Fusilli can really turn a lovely sentence when he cuts loose.
Aaron
Nov 18, 2008 Aaron rated it really liked it
A very inspirational yet bittersweet look at the story behind The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds." I've been in love with this album for years now, but this book helped me to develop more of an appreciation for the simple lyrics.
Nathan
May 31, 2009 Nathan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Brian Wilson
Shelves: 33-1-3-series
It's been awhile since I felt like the write really had the ability to grab the reader's attention, but it's clear that Jim Fusilli knew precisely what he was doing. It was great to get back into this album from someone else's perspective; it reminds me of why I fell in love with this album.
Chris Kemp
Apr 15, 2012 Chris Kemp rated it did not like it
This rating is not a reflection on the album (amazing) or the author's large amount of research, but this book could use some serious editing. It jumps around to different times, albums, and songs with little to no warning. The writing is a little on the simplistic side as well.
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Jim Fusilli is a music critic for The Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio's All Things Considered.
More about Jim Fusilli...

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