At this point, it’s a well documented certainty: the mental disintegration and eccentric tendencies of post-‘Pet Sounds’ Beach Boys. In this decades long haze there were many records that seemingly did little more than perpetually redefine what tragic figures in pop music they have become, ultimately existing as mere parodies of their former selves. Then arrives ‘Feel Flows’ on 1971’s ‘Surf’s Up,’ a song written by Carl Wilson and Jack Rieley that triumphs in the face of its own absurdity. Like classic Beach Boys, the song is built upon harmonious layers of vocal melodies. Then things become quite odd.
Its lead vocal is sung, naturally, by Carl to beautiful effect, but throughout its duration there are swirling fragments of his voice swathed in reverse reverb. It does more than just underscore the lead, it effectively lifts the song into an otherworldly atmosphere that feels at once astonishingly foreign and comfortingly familiar. Apart from the gorgeous vocal turn, ‘Feel Flows’ also contains bizarre instrumentation choices that somehow end up feeling indispensable: cosmic electric guitar, trembling flute lines, and disjointed synth blurbs.
It’s a song that continues to weave in and out of my life these past several months and always reminds me of how stunningly illogical and irrational some of music’s best moments can be. Hear it below.