Review – Beyond Sausage “Brat Original”

While the Beyond Burger and particularly its competitor, the Impossible Burger, have raised the bar for realistic vegetarian burgers, good-tasting vegetarian sausages have been around for a long time. Because real sausages are typically made with cheap, miserable organ meats in the first place, tasty heavily seasoned tubes of soy protein have been on the market for twenty or more years.

BEYOND SAUSAGE® Brat Original - Beyond Meat - Go Beyond®

The Beyond Brats come in a four pack. Luckily the packaging isn’t nearly as wasteful as the Beyond Burgers, which are typically packaged in a two-pack with a surprising level of stiff plastic. Like Beyond Burgers, the main ingredient in these puppies is pea protein, and they are vegan.

I have cooked Beyond Brats twice now. The sausages are sort of limp and not perfectly shaped, much like a real bratwurst would be. In the name of realism, Beyond has apparently tried to simulate some of the inherent grossness of real sausages. I followed the directions on the package, frying them in a pan, and turning them frequently. They brown easily and seem like they would be on the verge or burning any time. While cooking most vegetarian sausages equates to reheating them, Beyond seems to aim to simulate the experience of cooking a meat product. Like the burgers, these “bleed” some sort of liquid onto the pan. It is hard to tell this liquid apart from the canola oil I greased the pan with, so it can be hard knowing if you are frying in an oily or dry stretch of pan. At first these sausages are fairly flat on the top and the bottom, and they want to have a “top” and “bottom” with undercooked sides unless you go out of your way to sort of smash them down on their sides, which I did both times I made them.

The finished product reminds me of a “lean” sausage like turkey sausage, albeit one that is so heavy on the nutmeg that it tastes like eggnog. I believe that in a good sausage product, while it may be loaded with fennel, gloves, garlic, black pepper, and other flavors no one flavor should dominate. In the case of Beyond Brats, this is a pumpkin spice season sausage all the way.

The first time I served the brat on a bun with ketchup, mushrooms, mayonnaise, relish, and kraut. The second time I served it with just ketchup and mayo. I made a point of cooking the sausage longer the second time I cooked them, which did not really improve anything. This is still a relatively dry turkey-ish sausage that tastes like egg nog.

While I did not pair these with a beverage, I believe these would call for a dark ale, maybe a “cream” ale, a root beer, or an ice-cold Coke. I’m not much of a cream soda guy, but cream soda might work. Not Dr Pepper though. I think the flavor from these and Dr Pepper would totally clash.

That said, while these certainly aren’t good, they aren’t bad either. They are just plain weird. Although this will not become one of my favorites, I can see myself eating them again. I can see myself having a weird craving for them at some point, or Costco having a good deal on a big box. I would recommend someone try a box in the same way I would recommend listening to Chinese Democracy. And, for all their faults, these do indeed satisfy a hankering for “meatiness.” These could easily pass for some kind of lean sausage from a healthier-to-eat animal than a cow or pig. If someone said “Hey, try a bite of my homemade ostrich sausage,” I would not say, “Hey! This isn’t ostrich! This tastes like peas!” But I probably would think “My sausage-making friend must really like nutmeg.”

“So,” you must be asking, “Who makes these better vegetarian sausage products you speak of?” Good question. Field Roast, for one, in many varieties and flavors. I particularly like the apple sage varieties and some sort of spicy variety. Other brands like Tofurky and Lightlife make decent ones too. I’d wager Trader Joe’s has some. In the breakfast sausage world, Morningstar, Gardein, Trader Joe’s, and others have some good products.

It is also worth noting that some of the products above are made with things are common allergens and/or trendy foods to avoid, including soy and wheat gluten, and that some, like Morningstar, contain milk and/or dairy. These are vegan as well as suitable to folks who are allergic to everything.

Except nutmeg. If you are allergic to nutmeg I’m assuming you are out of luck here.

Pros: meaty texture and taste, environmental and ethical advantages associated with vegetarian food, healthier than meat-based sausage, novelty factor associated with realism of product, vegan/soy free/gluten free

Cons: weird eggnog taste, somewhat difficult to cook, approaches gross-out factor of real sausage when cooking, many better alternatives have already been on the market for many years

B-

Review – DR “Sunbeams” Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings (.012-.054)

DR Sunbeams in paper packaging with built-in hang tag

There’s nothing like the fresh, clean “zing” of a new set of strings. Having only changed the strings once in the three years since I purchased a second-hand Ovation it was more than past-time for a new pair of strings. It was also a nice enough day that I could change them on the porch while my son watched YouTube videos of children playing with toys.

Before – Tired old D’Addario phosphor bronze strings. “How do you remember that they are D’Addario?” you may ask. 1) Because I remember buying a three-pack of them at Music 6000 in Olympia 2) Because they have colored ball ends. Also, note that Ovations don’t have bridge pins.

As is the case with DR strings, Sunbeams come in three envelopes with two strings in each (E and G, A and B, and D and high E) surrounded by a plastic “corrosion-proof” bag. My wife often keeps string envelopes if they are cool looking like, say, LaBella. The yellow DR envelopes aren’t all that cool looking, and there are only three of them. The strings are not really coiled together either. They are just kind of shoved into the envelope loosely and pop right out among opening the envelope. This is a consistent idiosyncrasy of DR strings, and there may even be a reason for it. Because of the odd “three envelope” thing, I change the strings in the order “E G A B D E'” rather than the usual “Earn A Degree Get Better Earnings.”

Plastic bag inside of paper box; yellow envelopes

D’Addario (and lots of other brands now, come to think of it) color code their ball ends. DR does not. They are all gold.

Although this picture is blurry, note how much brighter the brand new E and G strings are than the old, tired A and D.

I do not use a string winder, trimmers, or any other tool when changing strings. The loosening and tightening procedure was particularly pleasant on this string change thanks to the guitar’s particularly nice tuners. Let’s take a look at them.

Old gold-plated Schaller in tuners in “OK” condition – They work very nicely!

I often say “Don’t bother changing the tuners on your guitar. If your guitar won’t stay in tune it’s probably user error, and here is how you should tie the strings around the post.” That said, these old Schaller tuners are a joy to use. I couldn’t imagine a tuner that is smoother to operate and more stable. The proud name “Schaller” doesn’t appear on junk.

One thing I noticed when tuning these up – and the strings and the tuners must be conspiring in a perfect way – is that these strings became stable right away without me stretching them, which is something I have always noticed about DR strings. Maybe not being coiled tightly in the envelopes contributes to that. I’m not sure.

It is always difficult to compare brand new strings to the old ones that were on a guitar before. Of course the new ones will sound better because they are new. I will, however, say that the DR Sunbeams are much nicer feeling than the D’Addarios, which are the same gauge and same material (phosphor bronze). The most likely technical reason for this is that the D’Addarios have a modern “hex core,” which makes for a higher-tension string, whereas the DR strings have an old school round core. (What that means is that, underneath the bronze wrap on the four thickest strings there is a round noodle rather than a hexagonal noodle.)

With both fingers and a pick, these strings respond nicely. There’s sort of a twangy attack, followed by a nice trailing sustain where the sound transforms into kind of a pure, outer-space sort of sound.

I do feel like the DR strings have less bass than the D’Addario strings. That may be because they are lower tension, but it also may in fact not be true. The case may be that they don’t have less bass but more treble since they are, you know, brand new. I often feel like some bass goes away when I change strings. And it doesn’t. There’s just more twangy treble zing.

Overall, as with their electric strings, I would say that the DR is more of a twangy, trebly string than a deep, rich string. This string will provide more articulation than warmth. On a guitar like an Ovation that prides itself more on balance and articulation than on deep warmth DR strings make for a very “articulate” tone. Every note in every chord will be clear. I would wager the DRs would also provide some extra articulation and clarity to a boomier, woodier guitar like a Martin.

A box of DR strings tends to be about a dollar more than a box of D’Addario/Ernie Ball/GHS/Dean Markley, etc., coming in at just under seven dollars. At the moment they are actually several dollars cheaper than LaBella strings, which are probably very similar, and they are, of course, much cheaper than “coated” or “long life” strings like Elixirs or EXPs, which I don’t like.

I will have to see how long these hold up and how I like them before the next string change, but so far I would recommend them.

Grade: TBD

Track-by-Track – The Beach Boys/Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!)

The Beach Boys/Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!) (Capitol-1965)

  1. The Girl from New York City – Drop the needle on the groove and wait. A wailing sax? Goofy Mike Love bass vocals? Although the ensuing song ends up being pretty catchy, this is not a promising way to start the album.
  2. Amusement Parks USA – It’s perfectly valid for a band to take a step back and return to an earlier, simpler sound, but after the brilliant Today! this throwback to almost a Surfing’ Safari sensibility (carnival noises just like “County Fair”) sounds downright infantile.
  3. Then I Kissed Her – After two not-so-great opening tracks, resorting to a serviceable but unremarkable Phil Spector cover for track three sort of confirms the listener’s worst fears about this album. On the plus side, Al sings lead.
  4. Salt Lake City – There is some clever arrangement going on here, but this is still a silly song about . . . . uh, yeah, how groovy Salt Lake City is.
  5. Girl Don’t Tell Me – Then the album takes a surprising turn. This Beatlesque number is literally my favorite Beach Boys song and has been for decades. I’m a big fan of Beach Boys harmonies, yet there are zero harmonies here. Just a double-tracked solo lead vocal. For some reason little brother Carl had never sung lead before this, and it turns out he has an even better set of pipes than Brian. The band, who rarely contributed much of anything to backing tracks at this point, actually played all the instrument here, including a celeste. This sweet song about knowing a summer romance is likely to end is about as honest as it gets. It’s a touching song to begin with, but Carl’s vocal delivery is what takes it to a very special place.
  6. Help Me Rhonda – This leaner, meaner version of “Help Me Rhonda,” which became the Beach Boys’ second number one, has all the right stuff. Al sings a memorable lead, and Brian adds a distinctive falsetto harmony to this version that is really the “point after touchdown” here.
  7. California Girls – And then another one of the Beach Boys’ most beloved tunes with its bompa-bompa beat and “ooh-ah” harmonies. This one hit #3.
  8. Let Him Run Wild – You see, the first four cuts on this album weren’t great, but the next four are a downright classic patch of wonderfulness that’s hard to beat. If someone were to ask “Why do you like the Beach Boys anyways?” this song is a pretty good answer. Something about the opening line “when I watched you walk with him, tears filled my eyes” over a vibraphone or something followed by a reverb-drenched little guitar motif really does it for me. If anyone says “I’m not that into the Beach Boys,” the first few seconds of this song (as well as the rest of it) are an easy rebuttal. By the way, I think this song is about Brian, Dennis, and Carl’s sad Murry’s extramarital affairs.
  9. You’re So Good to Me – This self-loather is kind of like a sequel to “She Knows Me Too Well.” Brian does this sort of thing very well.
  10. Summer Means New Love – This is the sort of Hollywood-inspired instrumental music father Murry adored. It turns out Brian was pretty hip to it too.
  11. I’m Bugged at My Old Man – Considering how uninspired sounding the first few tracks are, this album becomes oddly personal. This may be an attempt at humor, but considering how abusive the elder Wilson was, this piano-and-voice only number has a strange rawness about it.
  12. And Your Dreams Come True – Some pretty harmonies close out the album.

At this point Brian certainly didn’t have another Today! in him and must have decided to tread water, but he did have about half of another great album in him. In much the same way that “Don’t Worry Baby” and “The Warmth of the Sun” seem like they should be on a better album, a good portion of this album does not belong on the same album as “Amusement Parks USA” and “Salt Lake City.” Oddly this one isn’t front-loaded though. There isn’t a good song until track five, and then there are a solid five or so good songs in a row.

“Gee,” you must be saying, “I hope the Beach Boys follow this one up with an album that sounds like that Sublime acoustic album with a bunch of overdubbed fake party noises.”

You may be in luck. Stay tuned to gabemusic.org.

B+

Track by Track/The Beach Boys Today!

The Beach Boys/The Beach Boys Today! (1965-Capitol)

  1. Do You Wanna Dance – If you want to start off an album with a cover it had better be a cover so definitive people one day think it is the original version. For example, take “Hanging on the Telephone,” the opening cut from Parallel Lines by Blondie. Who ever calls it “‘Hanging on the Telephone’ by the Nerves?” No one. And no one refers to “Do You Wanna Dance” as being a Bobby Freeman song. Because the original version doesn’t have a bunch of tympanis and big beautiful Beach Boys harmonies. And the Beach Boys version does. By the way, that is drummer Dennis (!!) singing lead. His voice is a perfect fit for this song.
  2. Good to My Baby – Some unaccompanied jazzy harmonies open up this extremely catchy song, which features an enthusiastic band backing and terrific harmonies.
  3. Don’t Hurt My Little Sister – “You know she digs you and thinks that you’re a real groovy guy, but I’m not sure that I feel the same.” Real music about real stuff. With a great melody and lots of harmonies.
  4. When I Grow Up (To Be a Man) – Another song that brings the band closer to Pet Sounds.
  5. Help Me Ronda – Not to be confused with the single version, spelled “Help Me Rhonda,” which appears on the next album, this slower version, which lacks the distinctive high harmony part, is not as good, but since it appeared on the ubiquitous compilation Endless Summer, this version is played on the radio probably as often as the single version. It’s still a badass song with a swell vocal lead from Al, but I’m glad they recorded it again on the next album.
  6. Dance Dance Dance – Right now my son is sitting on my lap counting from 60 to 70, asking “What’s after x9?” at the end of each ten numbers. This original hit song, probably intended to be a counterpart to “Do You Wanna Dance,” is every bit as good and catchy.
  7. Please Let Me Wonder – The first song kicks off this album’s famous “side two.” You see, although the uptempo first side features a whole bunch of thick orchestration and a whopping ZERO songs about surfing, cars, summer, or the beach, side two is full of porto-Pet Sounds style ballads. The first one of them, which features the great melody you’d expect it to have, is 100 percent “Pet Sounds with a bit less reverb.”
  8. I’m So Young – Another beautiful song in with a whole bunch of harmonies. I have always believed Fun’s “We are Young” must be heavily inspired by this song.
  9. Kiss Me, Baby – And those gorgeous melodies keep coming.
  10. She Knows Me Too Well – This haunting dark number features some grade-A self-loathing. Absolutely beautiful.
  11. In the Back of My Mind – This time Brian hands the microphone over to brother Dennis, whose raspy-yet-emotive baritone is the perfect fit for this intense, very expressive beautiful pile of Beach Boys harmony.
  12. Bull Session with the Big Daddy – Today! may not end with a closing track like “Caroline, No,” but it does end with a recording of the boys ordering sandwiches or something.

Today! is, for lack of better words, a really, really good album. Sides one and two are like two different albums – a killer set of upbeat tunes and a wonderful set of big Brian Wilson ballads. This one is as good as the Beatles’ two albums from 1965. And those albums are Help! and Rubber Soul, which are both easily “A+” albums in my book. This is the first album the band released after Brian had a nervous breakdown and stopped touring with the band, which gave him the freedom to make these bombastic studio tracks. When the boys come back from touring to record some vocals there is no stopping these songs. Brian sings lead on the majority of the album and also hands over leads on key tracks to Dennis and Al, meaning there isn’t a whole lot of Mike Love here, which is very good. However, this is also the first album Brian made while hearing voices in his head, beginning a strange and dark chapter in the Beach Boys’ career.

A+

Track by Track/The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album

The Beach Boys/The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album (Capitol-1964)

  1. Little Saint Nick – It’s pretty much “Little Deuce Coupe.” Then again, have you ever noticed how Garth Brooks’s “Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House” is also pretty much “Little Deuce Coupe?”
  2. The Man with All the Toys – Strange and compelling, one of the oddest songs in the Beach Boys’ catalogue you to this point.
  3. Santa’s Beard – A catchy and somewhat irritating little ditty with storyteller lyrics about a younger brother exposing a department store Santa.
  4. Merry Christmas, Baby – Yet another original. Kind of doowoppy and quite catchy.
  5. Christmas Day – A FIFTH original in a row. Mediocre.
  6. Frosty the Snowman – Schmaltzy showbizzy take on the standard. Too fast and light for my ears.
  7. We Three Kings of Orient Are – No surprises here.
  8. Blue Christmas – Lacking in pep but quite orchestrated.
  9. Santa Claus is Coming to Town – This rendition had me googling “Circus Song Name” because I was having what was once known as a “senior moment.” I’ve taught children to play along with this song, so I should remember what it’s called. “Entry of the Gladiators.” That’s it. Anyways, this rendition features a nod to said circus song.
  10. White Christmas – A saccharine take on the standard.
  11. I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Sweet harmonies.
  12. Auld Lang Syne – Featuring a holiday message read by Dennis.

I obviously consider myself to be a pretty big Beach Boys fan, and even though I owned even Party and Stack o’ Tracks, I never bothered listening to this until the other day. Considering that Brian Wilson’s favorite album of all time is the Phil Spector Christmas Album (which is excellent) it isn’t too surprising that this is better than most Christmas albums. Brian was obviously being pushed to produce a lot of material in a short time, and none of this is throwaway. There are plenty of arrangements and such that I don’t care for, but there is the same meticulous detail here if not more than would be found on other Beach Boys albums of the day. Five originals at the beginning of the album is a pleasant surprise too. Still, this isn’t an album I’d want to listen to very often.

B-

Track-by-track/The Beach Boys-All Summer Long

The Beach Boys/All Summer Long (1964)

  1. I Get Around – The Beach Boys’ first of four number one hits! (The fourth was “Kokomo.”) This jam topped the charts at the height of Beatlemania. Ever really analyze this song and note how complicated it is? I’ve never bothered to learn it because I know it’s a song that would take some serious time. It also features fuzz bass, Leslie speaker, and all sorts of wild sounds.
  2. All Summer Long – I have never cared much for this song, but it’s full of harmonies and neat arrangements.
  3. Hushabye – Beautiful and catchy with a great arrangement.
  4. Little Honda – “Honda, Honda! Faster, faster!” I love this song. Very short. With fuzz bass, pizzicato strings, and a furious tempo, this would fit in perfectly on the Ramones’ End of the Century.
  5. We’ll Run Away – Now this is startling to sound like the same Beach Boys who will later deliver “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”
  6. Carl’s Big Chance – The Sesame Street theme song with Carl Wilson guitar trickery.
  7. Wendy – A wild, haunting intro leads into one of those close-to-the-heart Brian Wilson numbers with an indescribable “special something.” “I can’t picture you with him / his future looks awful dim.”
  8. Do You Remember – This nostalgia number is entertaining enough to make up for how embarrassing it is.
  9. Girls on the Beach – A sort of “Surfer Girl” rewrite with a wilder, jazzier chorus.
  10. Drive-In – A non-classic that is so “period” that it is sort of a classic.
  11. Our Favorite Recording Sessions – I wouldn’t write this off as silliness. After all, I did once record my own compilation of fake studio outtakes – titled “Our Favorite Recording Sessions.”
  12. Don’t Back Down – I like how the album could end with the previous non-song but instead ends with this driving, oddly-structured little number, leaving the listener with an overall favorable impression of the album he or she just listened to.

Clearly competing with the Beatles at this point, after a couple missteps the Boys return to the quality level of Surfer Girl and explore bold new sounds. A classic. A+

Track by track/The Beach Boys – Shut Down, Vol. II

Shut Down, Vol. II (1964-Capitol)

  1. Fun Fun Fun – With new competition from England, this catchy classic suggests a return to form. Note the tinnier, muddier sounding mix and weird stereo though.
  2. Don’t Worry, Baby – One of everyone’s favorites. Very much inspired by the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” I love the mix of typical ballad lyrics with drag racing references. A solid 1-2 intro here.
  3. In the Parkin’ Lot – The album loses steam here with a song that is merely OK.
  4. Cassius Love vs. Sonny Wilson – And then loses even more steam with this “comedy” bit.
  5. The Warmth of the Sun – And then Brian delivers this paralyzingly beautiful ballad inspired by the death of JFK. Where did that come from?
  6. This Car of Mine – The previous album may have succeeded if it had a few songs like this one. Catchy.
  7. Why Do Fools Fall in Love? Pretty decent doo wop.
  8. Pom Pom Play Girl – Maybe a tad distasteful, but what about those wild jazzy harmonies?
  9. Keep an Eye on Summer – Another 6/8 ballad with jazzy harmonies.
  10. Shut Down, Pt. 2 – A guitar instrumental that I’m pretty sure includes an early and very ahead-of-its-time use of a Leslie speaker.
  11. Louie Louie – Not just a “Louie Louie” cover but a bad one.
  12. Denny’s Drums? Like drum solos? You probably won’t like this one, because it isn’t very good.

This is an odd duck of an album. I think this marks original guitarist Al Jardine’s return to the band and the first time he appeared on record, which is a good thing. At times this album is a return to form, but at other times it is pure laziness, and it is still nowhere near the perfection of Surfer Girl, and this certainly isn’t the masterpiece that “Fun Fun Fun” and “Don’t Worry, Baby” deserve to kick off. B-

Track by Track/Beach Boys – Little Deuce Coupe

Little Deuce Coupe (1963-Capitol)

  1. Yes, Little Deuce Coupe did appear on the previous album. I preferred it several tracks in.
  2. Ballad of Ole Betsy – Ridiculous yet heartfelt, this is indeed a tender ballad about a car.
  3. Be True to Your School – Yes, sometimes The Beach Boys are as lame and square as folks make them out to be.
  4. Car Crazy Cutie – Doo wop + car craze cash-in + Mike Love.
  5. Cherry Cherry Coupe – A return to the lower quality standard of Surfin’ Safari is somewhat redeemed by sounding kind of like “The Loco Motion.”
  6. 409 – Repeated from Surfin’ Safari. Yep, this album is a total cash-in.
  7. Shut Down – Again, “driving has more universal appeal than surfing, so let’s compile some of our old car songs with new car songs.”
  8. Spirit of America – Yikes.
  9. Our Car Club – Another car song from a previous album. With those Tom fills, you know?
  10. No-Go Showboat – If you like REALLY high falsettos, “No-Go Showboat” is your jam.
  11. A Young Man is Gone – Probably about James Dean.
  12. Custom Machine – Even more of the same.

A year into their career, The Beach Boys not only demonstrate everything that made them great with the previous album but also their more “Kokomo” side with this uninspired, cash-grabby pile o’ nothin’. C-

Beach Boys track-by-track/Surfer Girl

Surfer Girl (1963-Capitol)

  1. Surfer Girl – The credit “produced by Brian Wilson” appears for the first time on this album, and from the opening fill of this classic harmony-filled ballad it is clear what that means. Surfin’ USA was a much more “perfect” album than Surfin’ Safari, and this is waaay more “perfect” yet. This is the sound of a band doing a whole lot of takes to get every sound just so, and it pays off, as this song sounds just as great in 2020 as it did in 1963.
  2. Catch a Wave – Who other than Brian Wilson would say “This rocker needs a carefully placed HARP” and be right? Again, meticulously-produced and stuffed with harmonies.
  3. The Surfer Moon – Another one of Brian’s terrific ballads, this time with pizzicato strings!
  4. South Bay Surfers – “Swannee River,” but who cares?
  5. The Rockin’ Surfer – I could listen to this bizarre skating rink organ-based instrumental every day and never get sick of it. Genius-o-rama.
  6. Little Deuce Coupe – A perfect minute and forty seconds of tuneful skiffle beat and magic harmonies. A classic.
  7. In My Room – Another classic ballad with a more personal touch.
  8. Hawaii – One of many album cuts that could have been a hit if not for the album already containing a whopping FOUR hits.
  9. Surfer’s (sic) Rule – It’s incredible to think how much work must have gone into these exquisitely crafted “deep cuts.”
  10. Our Car Club – A catchy little nugget with punchy tom tom fills and horns.
  11. Your Summer Dream – After three more rockers it’s time for another ballad. What a great melody!
  12. Boogie Woodie – A manic instrumental rocker.

Only three albums in, Surfer Girl sets the standard sky high. Interestingly, particularly for 1963, this is a very good album sonically, which is something I wouldn’t say about several of The Beach Boys albums that follow. There are punchy drums and articulate bass lines to be found here. I believe it is because, even with the harps, horns, and pizzicato strings, this is a relatively “spare” mix, lacking the piles of overdubs, bounced tracks, and reverb of future releases.

A+

The Beach Boys Track-by-Track in Chronological Order

Surfin’ Safari (Capitol-1962)

  1. Surfin’ Safari – Although it does a fine job at introducing rudimentary version of the Beach Boys’ unique sensibility, “Surfin’ Safari” isn’t a particularly great song.
  2. County Fair – This “Palisades Park” rip-off has a hilarious twist ending. Nice sound effects.
  3. Ten Little Indians – Way uncool.
  4. Chug-a-Lug – Ridiculous doo-wop vocals about root beer. “Here a mug, there a mug, everybody chug a lug.” Fun!
  5. Little Girl (You’re My Miss America) – A touch of sweetness and hints at falsetto treats to come.
  6. 409 – An icky car song I don’t think I really ever need to hear again.
  7. Surfin’ – The Beach Boys’ first hit may be rotten, but it’s a good kind of rotten. It has heart. “Baw daw dip di dip di dip” indeed.
  8. Heads You Win, Tails I Lose – Sort of a catchy melancholy melody is a good fit with the silly lyrics.
  9. Summertime Blues – A mediocre cover of a mediocre song.
  10. Cuckoo Clock – Unmemorable.
  11. Moon Dawg – Fun.
  12. The Shift – Mike Love sings about women’s fashion.

Overall, a garagey, rotten debut from a band that became great. Then again, I like garagey and rotten as much as the next guy. B-

Surfin’ USA (Capitol-1963)

  1. Surfin’ USA – Songs that name a bunch of places are always hits. A note-for-note ripoff of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” with sweet harmonies. Notably better recorded and performed than anything on the previous album.
  2. Farmer’s Daughter – Here is where things start to get good. After a couple measures Brian busts out his signature falsetto and sings an absolutely gorgeous melody.
  3. Misirlou – I wouldn’t have done that great tackling any Dick Dale songs when I was a teenager either. This is respectable though.
  4. Stoked – If your idea of a good song is an early 60s guitar instrumental punctuated by brief periods of silence with the word “stoked” spoken, you are going to be “stoked” about “Stoked.”
  5. Lonely Sea – A spooky ballad with a great Brian Wilson lead vocal. Hey, five songs into the album and only one Mike Love vocal lead isn’t bad at all.
  6. Shut Down – Like a slightly catchier “409.”
  7. Noble Surfer – This one’s unique harmonies are almost barbershop. Hip stuff.
  8. Honky Tonk – Another instrumental.
  9. Lana – There’s nothing like Brian Wilson crooning a woman’s name in that falsetto. It’s remarkable how much better this album is than the previous one.
  10. Surf Jam – Another instrumental, with a “1-2-a-1-2-3-jam!” count off. More hip stuff.
  11. Let’s Go Trippin’ – Another Dick Dale cover sure beats a Mike Love lead vocal.
  12. Finder’s Keepers – A silly, catchy album-closer with tempo changes and Four Freshmen-like harmonies.

Quite a remarkable improvement over the debut. No sophomore slump for the Beach Boys!

A-