The thing about Netflix original programming is — well, first of all, it’s mostly great. But the thing about it is, sometimes you spend a weekend binging a show, and you love it, and then you completely forget it exists for a year, until the next season comes out. That’s kind of what happened to me and Narcos (the one about the cocaine).
But, because Netflix is kind and generous, they’ve blessed us with a brand new season on Labor Day Weekend. Of all weekends! You know, in case you needed that third day for your binge (but like, honestly, who needs that?). And the thing about Narcos — which is about Pablo Escobar vs. the DEA and the Colombian government, if you needed a refresher and/or didn’t really pay attention to the English subtitles and couldn’t pick up on all the other context clues, is that it takes place mostly in the 1970s and ‘80s, when Escobar was a) alive and b) in charge of basically all the cocaine in the world.
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There’s a moment at the very beginning of “Sloop John B,” the closing track of the first side of the album but the first recorded for it, right after the initial glockenspiel tone, that acts as a sort of timeout, as if to give the listener a chance to breathe before launching into another lament. Critics have sometimes met the song, adapted from a Bahamian folk standard, with confusion, wondering where the tale of a doomed ship and its crew fits in alongside the other tracks on the album.
The album, of course, is the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, which was released fifty years ago today, originally to mixed reviews which have since gone almost entirely and overwhelmingly positive. Beyond critical reception, Pet Sounds has enjoyed the luxury of indelible influence, assuring its permanent place in the musical version of the United States’ Great books for its lush instrumentation, unthinkably cohesive vocals and relatively simple, ageless lyrics of hope, heartbreak, loyalty and alienation.