Click On Each Title Below For A Full Page Review of Each Track:
A break from the spiritual grooviness. Back to the physical body. And sex. Except . . the faux earthy hard-working-man-by-day-needs-a-woman-at-night concept deployed here is both straight forward and removed. And that makes the whole thing kind of, well, intellectual.
We know about, and the album has explored the link between the Beach Boys as rock stars in their home studio and the Beach Boys as typical lower middle class suburban goof-offs and the connection of all that to their audience. They are not and never have been field hands, nor have they often chosen to speak in voices other than their own. This track is not a stab at folk song authenticity or veneration. But it is some kind of folk song appropriation that places the Boys at a distance from as well as in identification with the material.
So the song can't and doesn't settle into parody. The blunt and a bit goofy instrumental jolts at the opening, coming after the last three cuts, could signal an out of place patronizing descent. But like the rest of the album, "Hungry" moves into a structure of well aligned almost miniaturized segments, suggesting some sort of, at least musical sincerity and wisdom. Mike's opening vocals, following by Brian's "comes the night time" high tenor, followed by the group's "gettin' hungry" chorus all choose deliveries and instrumentation (or lack of it) peculiar and exaggerated just enough to pull the song in more than one direction, but restrained enough to hold those different directions in check.
This is dangerous terrain. A lesser ability to turn a phrase, stretch and clip a note, splice an edit, or add one more woodblock clop, could collapse the whole endeavor into album filler and/or embrace the nihilism that Smiley sometimes flirts with but then rejects and/or fall too far outside the parameters placed by the previous tracks. Instead, we get a welcome change of pace in preparation for the next track, while sustaining Smiley's unique musical vocabulary and perspective. Even the oral orientation of the sexuality echoes "Vegetables" chomping and swallowing from side one.
If "Gettin' Hungry" is a comment on anything, it's a comment on the rest of the album. (As the whole album can be seen as a comment on the Beach Boys' career.) It breaks the mood a bit, as if to say, "Vibrational relationships are fine, but we still have physical needs," or maybe just "time for a joke." Yet like all of Smiley Smile, it takes such strategies and insights to be complicated to arrive at and express with ease. Holding all that, in the end of course, is the entire album's task and acheivement.
Historical Note: In the fall of 1967 Capitol released "Gettin' Hungry" as a single backed by "Devoted to You" off of Beach Boys Party. It didn't make the charts in the USA or UK. What were they thinking? It is the Beach Boys, it is a song, it is, at least on one level, about sex. But it doesn't have the impact of a hit single. It isn't rock 'n' roll. It isn't even really pop. It's an art song.