Smiley Smile (1967) – The Beach Boys


The shack of no return.

It’s still hard to conceive the dichotomy this record is. Apart from three tracks, Smiley Smile can sound like an artist’s in-joke. For whilst we’re graced briefly with some of their A++ material we’re also hit with a barrage of two-minute ditties– a la The Beatles. These aren’t without their charm; “With Me Tonight” is gorgeously hypnotic and “She’s Goin’ Bald” is shocking fun– though the taboo subject-matter is probably a little too distressing for either gender to gulp down. But the problem is these demo-like tracks soon stack up resulting in something wholly underwhelming. More disappointing is when considering the disparity between these unfinished-sounding cuts and the record’s ‘real’ songs; “Vegetables” which is an archetype of their realised potential is odd yet fun and probably more accessible than it should be. The layers and harmony vocals alone are really impressive, as are they in the maniacal “Heroes and Villains”. The radio genius of “Good Vibrations” however, sticks out something severe and might have sounded better on Wild Honey (1967) or even Pet Sounds (1966). This is The Beach Boys falling asleep at the wheel, but the crash is interesting.


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