Click On Each Title Below For A Full Page Review of Each Track:
Reoriented by Vegetables away from the lofty ambitions of Heroes and Villains to a project of witty dismantling and hip reconstruction, we move here to a musical form previously undiscovered on a Beach Boys recording. It's not a song and it's not an evocative instrumental, like Let's Go Away For Awhile from Pet Sounds.
It's a wordless, initially jarring, lower register, minor key vocal refrain, cartoonishly ominous, answered by a harmonica and organ or accordion that does indeed reference the Woody Woodpecker song. Repeated six times to the fade at two and half minutes.
The repetition is part of the humor. Maybe even a statement about late sixties ideas about progress. We aren't going anywhere, the train isn't leaving the station, the car isn't leaving the hamburger stand, we're in a cycle. The vocal refrain sounds unresolved, dropped on us from an unknown somewhere, which the Woodpecker response resolves and then leads us back to. Six times.
And yet . . . each Woodpecker response is a bit different, building some changes. And within each response the texture reverses, a sound at the bottom of the mix comes forward and takes the melody (like the bass player taking a solo in a jazz trio). The embellishments, whether sound effects, voices, or instruments, deployed with, well, taste, echo the two previous tracks just enough to reassure us we are still in the same album.
With our current access to Smile the plot, if we care to, can thicken. The ominous-ish vocal refrain here is actually the truly ominous vocal refrain in the Mrs. O'Leary's Cow/Elements/Fire section of Smile. (Where it's only repeated twice.) The section that supposedly spooked Brian Wilson into dropping the whole project.
Was this version a way of gaining control, reducing the demonic through humor? Or was it the revenge of the rest of the Beach Boys, a musical belittling of an effort that had reduced their participation?
Whatever the backstage historical facts, this track, for the first 35 years, as understood by fans with no insider knowledge, sounded like, and can still stand simply as, a successful attempt to pull under control something with some kind of negative power by utilizing a musical vocabulary only available to musical pros like the Beach Boys. Or maybe only available to the Beach Boys, those musical pros. These jokesters are clever, and that involves skill.