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MX News Update 2024

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John Carpenter calls his “all-time great Beach Boys album”

The Beach Boys are one of those bands with an undisputed magnum opus. An achievement in pop composition and an enduringly wonderful listening experience more than half a century after its initial release. Animal sounds remains not only the most important record in the Beach Boys catalog, but also one of the most influential albums of all time.

A precursor to chamber pop, Animal sounds combined lush, orchestral compositions with unusual instrumentation. It spawned several all-time greats, including the luminous ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ and the iconic ‘God Only Knows’, with the latter even taking the title of Paul McCartney’s favorite song of all time. But the lesser-known songs were no less beautiful: ‘Let’s Go Away For Awhile’ is a soothing instrumental composition, while ‘Here Today’ is compact and dramatic.

Nearly 60 years later, Animal sounds is still relevant in today’s culture. The album influenced countless other bands, still finds its way onto movie soundtracks, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest of all time. But while it may be the Wilson brothers’ most revered and revered work, filmmaker John Carpenter prefers a slightly later offering from the Californian harmonizers.

In the years that followed Animal soundsthe Beach Boys released a number of albums, including 1967 Smiley smile And Friends. Five years and five albums after their magnum opus, they delivered Carpenter’s favorite. During a performance op Amoeba“What’s in my bag?” series, the Halloween director chose the 1971 album Surf’s Upand deemed it an “all-time great Beach Boys album”.

“Not as well known as some of their other songs,” Carpenter admitted, “but it’s a great album.” From the album title, Surf’s Up seemed to mark a return to the Beach Boys’ roots – to stories of Californian surf, sea and sun. But the album’s thematic focus was more in line with its dark, brooding artwork than its title.

“Don’t go near the water,” they harmonize in the opening track, “toothpaste and soap will turn our oceans into a bubble bath, so let’s avoid an ecological aftermath.” The album immediately tackles more serious topics than some of their other work, delving into environmentalism and pollution with strange, altered vocals.

Although the record would not receive the same acclaim or admiration as Animal sounds, it’s easy to see why Carpenter believed it was an all-time great film. As Brian Wilson took more of a backseat, the album showed a slightly different side to the Beach Boys while retaining their signature sonic charm.

Carpenter was particularly enthusiastic about one song, “Feel Flows.” Over transcendental synths, layered vocals and a cutting guitar line, the lyrics chart “white-hot shimmering shadowy streams.” It’s certainly a standout track on the album, an echoey, mesmerizing encapsulation of this new sound.

Surf’s Up may not have a “God Only Knows” equivalent. It may not have had the same impact on music history as animal sounds, and it may not have appeared on as many lists of the greatest albums of all time, but it’s a beautifully somber collection of songs that offers a different side of the Beach Boys. Like its predecessor, it still holds up, especially in Carpenter’s eyes.

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