Click On Each Title Below For A Full Page Review of Each Track:
Following "Good Vibrations," too strong a song would be jarring, too long a song would be tiring, too normal would be boring and too unrelated would break the mood. "With Me Tonight" is none of these, extending the high of GV while easing us down and moving us along.
A casual listen might leave little impression, a mere modest trifle. An attentive relisten reveals more of a mystery.
The complete lyrics, minus the doo-wopish scatting:
"On and on she goes".
(Sometimes "you go" replaces "she goes.")
Followed by "With me tonight, I know she's with me tonight." (Sometimes "you're" replaces "she's" and "For sure" replaces "I know.")
After the fabulous anticipation in "Good Vibrations" we are hearing about a kind of consummated, existing relationship, but what kind? A human who now exists or will materialize in the same time and place as the protagonist would most likely be described along the lines of "I know you will be with me tonight" or "Here we are together" or "Let's get it on." The "I know" and "For sure" create answers to implied questions suggesting an ambiguity or absence. "I know you're with me tonight" is not the same as "You're with me tonight."
Has the love object of GV made contact and left, leaving the singer feeling "you're with me tonight" in her absence? Or are the intensities of the original good vibrations strong enough to continue a vibrational or maybe spiritual connection without any physical contact? Or are we talking about some kind of spiritual presence to start with? Perhaps even a female deity?
And what's with the "on and on you go"? That's sounding a lot like a non-linear spatial/temporal perspective. Kind of Buddhisty.
It would be easier to dismiss all of this as an arbitrary musical interlude or even slip-up of stoned stupidity, ("Of course I'm with you tonight, I just passed you the hash pipe") if it wasn't so beautifully constructed and executed and if it didn't follow something as perfect as "Good Vibrations." Sure, the lyrics don't go much of anywhere, but what if that's intentional? Or intuitive?
We start right off with some gorgeous a capella group harmony, building with an additional vocal layer and the signature sound of the album, an organ drone, shifting often enough with the chord changes to function as musical emphasis, not irritant. These subtle distinctions are carefully deployed to mark off segments of the song, along with occasional marching footsteps that carry the beat like the chewing in "Vegetables", one vocal shout out, and, at the end, a bit of piano tinkling.
Throughout, the singing stays, as it does on "Good Vibrations," in sincere mode. No irony, no distortion, no manipulation. If this is not a display of virtuoso production technique, it is a display of the Beach Boys they-make-it-look-easy virtuoso harmony singing matched to some selective instrumental additions and subtractions. So you have to take seriously the fact that there's not that much there.
In other words, this is not a bit of pleasant noodling. On its own terms, it's a beautifully executed, tightly crafted, pleasingly mysterious song. And it's own terms are shared with the rest of the album, and so in tune following "Good Vibrations."