Written by David Shouse, posted by blog admin
A Tribute to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds is a fourteen song effort from Minneapolis based performer Austin Carson, working under the name YYY, and puts to good use an all star cast of local and regional talent to help realize Carlson’s vision for the collection. It doesn’t attempt to merely mimic the sound and design of the classic Beach Boys album. Instead, it touches on the bedrock musical qualities of the songs while finding new veins of riches to mine in these well known compositions. Pet Sounds and its top billed numbers are not just songs anymore; they have become part of our cultural lexicon, associated with movies, commercials, moments in our experience. However, like the greatest songs, the tracks on Pet Sounds are elastic compositions and Austin Carson is intent on stretching them, reshaping them into what they mean to him. It’s staggeringly ambitious, but he makes it work with room to spare.
YYY’s project , naturally, duplicates the exact running order of Pet Sounds so the album kicks off with “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” and it’s immediately interesting what elements of the original YYY decides to keep and what he decides to jettison. He remains faithful to the vocal aspects of the band’s presentation, arguably their trademark, while essential refurbishing everything else. His approach on “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” is certainly recorded and arranged in a more minimalist way than we are accustomed to hearing The Beach Boys’ music portrayed, but it is telling about his connection to the music that no amount of dissembling or rebuilding ever disconnects these songs from their roots entirely. The pensive yet often quite colorful electronic arrangement is nicely contrasted with the supernaturally ethereal vocals from City Counselor. The evocative production is, in its own way, every bit as effective and distinctive on Carlson’s album as it is on Pet Sounds. He has a wildly dramatic ear for sound and constructs reinterpretations of Wilson’s original writing without ever coming off too respectful, but yet always nodding to his source material.
The shimmering and revolving synth lines opening “That’s Not Me” provides an ideal accompaniment to some more of YYY’s flawless vocal arrangement. There’s a great intimate quality to his voice, quite alive, and it meshes well with the music thanks to a keen eared mix. This is one of the iconic album’s lesser known numbers, but YYY devotes every bit as much attention to these songs as he does the more renowned numbers. The inclusion of echo-laden guitar on this song is particularly effective. “I’m Waiting for the Day” is another of the album’s deeper cuts and its relatively straight-forward sentiments of yearning and desire rise to the level of high art thanks to the contributions from guests like LOTT and Zinna. He uses a lot of female voices on this tribute and it gives the Beach Boys material an unexpectedly entertaining twist. His re-imagining of “Sloop John B” features the talents of Al Church and the vocal has open-hearted emotiveness that gives it a soulful note amidst all the electronica. This song is about yearning and nostalgia, as are many of the tracks on Pet Sounds, and the deep intuitive understanding he shows of the material is a big reason why this tribute is so successful on multiple levels.
Matthew Jon’s contributions to “God Only Knows”, another of the album’s iconic numbers, is equally vital and makes for another of the finer moments on YYY’s release. Lydia Liza and Cold Moon make a difference on the song “Hang On to Your Ego”, one of the album’s briefer songs, but a rather boisterous number nonetheless. The thunderous backbeat powering the song gives a firm foundation for the quicksilver synth lines flashing and flaring to life. One of the more affecting moments on YYY’s tribute comes with his version of “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” thanks to the understated passion and overall emotional depth that YYY and guests Devata Daun and C.Kostra are able to bring to the performance. The crowning achievement of YYY’s release, as it arguably is on Pet Sounds and there’s a real sense of orchestration in how he brings his interpretation together. This is a wildly ambitious effort by any stretch of the imagination and his talents for bringing something of himself to these songs remakes them into something uniquely his own. As tribute albums go, there’s nothing quite like YYY’s A Tribute to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.