It began with a four song EP given away at Poptopia.
Obviously with a name like Pet Soul, the songs were a tribute to the transcendant moments in the careers of The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Although both groups were prolific singles machines in the 60’s, each band sought to delve deeper and create more substantive work. Many consider Revolver and Rubber Soul to be the apex of The Beatles like Pet Sounds is for The Beach Boys.
Splitsville – then a trio of Matt Huseman, Brandt Huseman and Paul Krysiak – were a burgeoning powerpop act on Big Deal Records who had just broken the ice with Ultrasound, their followup to Splitsville USA. Where the latter focused upon childhood fun, Ultrasound dealt with the pain and promise of adolescence (album themes would continue with their third album; Repeater is about the responsibility and accountability of young adulthood). They were clever and poppy and lightweight; fun records, nothing more.
So much like the more mature works of the aforementioned groups, Pet Soul was a revelation. The production is spectacular, squeezing every dollop of the creative instrumentation and pitch-perfect harmonies of the band. Three years later, the band revisited the project and expanded it to a full album without missing a beat, recording in Krysiak’s words “the 1966 album that never was“. So seamless was the project that even the inclusion of their cover of a Burt Bacharach song (“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”) fit like hand in glove.
The centerpiece of both the EP and the full album is “The Love Songs of B. Douglas Wilson“, which captures the essence of Brian Wilson’s studio genius lyrically, vocally and sonically. It is truly a work of art, and the band members thought so as well. From their website:
Brandt: I’m especially proud of the songwriting. Musically, it was (is) the most ambitious thing I had done: the song has 5 sections that fit together. Lyrically I think it captures the innocence of the Beach Boy lyrics while touching on the darkness of Brian Wilson’s personal life. My favorite part is the finger snaps into the hand claps at the end.
Matt: In my opinion a perfect song. We were having problem with the “breakdown,” which was originally a vocal part. I suggested a theremin. Dave Nachodsky and Paul made it happen.
Paul: Brandt laid down the lead vocal late at night in the far corner of a nearly pitch black studio – just a couple of little red and blue spots shining down on him. Dave Nachodsky and I just watched and listened with our mouths agape, goosebumps rising on our arms and tears welling up in our eyes. No kidding, a truly transcendent moment.
Major kudos to both Dave Nachodsky and Andy Bopp, two studio savants who helped produce and engineer the songs. While this album sounds majestic and beautiful on anything from a computer to a car stereo to a full rig, I highly recommend you grab a pair of good headphones. This is the kind of record headphones were invented for.
Geographically separated, the band now only rarely plays live and has not issued a studio album since 2005’s Incorporated. Hopefully they will continue to record and release new material, but even if they have hung ’em up for good, their legacy is intact, The Complete Pet Soul their crowning achievement.