It’s #ThrowbackThursday, which means there’s no better time for…
OLD REVIEW DUMP #1 (4/5)
Unequivocally, this fifth review was the one I had the most fun writing. I worked off the basic assumption that everyone already knows and loves this album, and used it as a platform to sound off about how much I love it too. So yeah, this isn’t the most insightful, critical, or detailed of reviews, probably a step down from The Wall review in terms of the actual reviewing. In terms of WRITING, however, I find it hard to not get caught up in my own giddiness, as well as some of my first actual jokes (John “Life is terrible God is dead and where’s my LSD” Lennon is something I don’t see myself topping any time soon). It’s not nuanced in its approach, but I still enjoy reading it for that very enthusiastic simplicity. It’s basically “Good Day Sunshine”: The Review.
Here it is, in all its shininess:
And ignorance and hate mourn the dead
It is believing, it is believing
But listen to the color of your dreams
It is not leaving, it is not leaving
So play the game “Existence” to the end
Of the beginning, of the beginning
-Tomorrow Never Dies
So this is where it all happened. “All” in this case meaning The Beatles producing their first album that almost everyone worships and no one dislikes (not on planet earth anyway). By all accounts this is where the Fab Four suddenly ceased to be the Fab Four and became some crazy psychedelic guys who were also musical genius. I can’t vouch for that, as I’m still getting aquatinted with The Beatle’s discography, but I’m sure when I get around to immersing myself in the Fab Four era I’ll be a contrarian who kills everyone’s fun.
But we’re not talking about those stupid lovey-dovey guys from Liverpool, these are the freaking BEATLES now, at least according to common knowledge. And guess what, it’s really good. Great, actually. Like, pretty much perfect. Yeah. Spoilers.
So let’s get right to it. “Taxman” is a George Harrison song, and a great way to kick things off. A callback is made to the “ONE TWO THREE FOUR” opening of Please Please Me, but the youthful enthusiasm has been replaced by coughing, detached vocals and twangy guitar background noise. I guess this means they’ve grown up, especially since they now make adult songs about adult things like…paying taxes. All joking aside, it’s a great song, probably George’s first masterpiece. The entertaining lyrics combined with a really great guitar tone make for an engaging album opener. It effectively establishes the albums impressively balanced tone: it’s a SERIOUS album, but that doesn’t stop it from having fun. After all, who needs a somber Beatles song? Oh, wait, the next song is Paul McCartney’s decidedly somber “Eleanor Rigby”, which is also a masterpiece. It’s got some of the most depressing lyrics in The Beatle’s catalogue, and probably of any song I’ve heard. We also get some lovely strings and great vocals by Paul (who, incidentally, is my favorite Beatle, and emotional string-pulling like this song is a big part of the reason why). It’s one of The Beatle’s most well-known (and best) songs, and it’s not even the best song on the album. That’s just how it is with these guys.
John Lennon’s first contribution to the album comes in the form of the dreamy, drowsy “I’m Only Sleeping.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better musical representation of being tired. John was really starting to show his stripes as a musician and especially as a lyricist at this point. I like to imagine during the entire Fab Four era Paul was just rocking out the saccharine romantic stuff in the studio with 100% sincerity, while John was in the back of the studio banging his head against the wall waiting to sing about being a walrus or something. As for the song itself, it’s a nice, mellow, calming piece.
George steps up to the plate with “Love You To”, which uses a sitar as its main instrument (ala “Norwegian Wood”). George’s affinity for Indian music finally gets a chance to really shine here, and the effect is hypnotizing good, as well as just plain hypnotizing. Listening to this song is quite simply an experience, like you’ve been warped to some exotic landscape. Its out-of-left-field musical style also highlights that no two songs on the album thus far have sounded the same, a feat that will be upheld through the entire runtime. This was my favorite Beatles song at one point, and it’s still one I come back to very frequently.
Much like how “Love You To” is pure George, “Here, There And Everywhere” is SO Paul. Paul often seemed like he wanted to soundtrack a senior prom, but now he’s really grasping for a potential slow dance standard. I guess nowadays that comparison seems a bit unflattering. In any case, it’s beautiful, exactly the kind of quiet sophistication you want from a nice romantic slow-dancey type tune. It’s also worth noting that Paul’s perception of love has become a bit more nuanced and mature when compared to the Fab Four era. I’m as much a fan of Paul’s enthusiastically fluffy teenage romance anthems as anyone, but it’s also nice to see him grow up a bit.
Speaking of growing up, or lack thereof, “Yellow Submarine” is next. Ringo Starr, who provides the vocals, didn’t write the song (it’s Lennon-McCartney as usual), but you’d be forgiven for thinking he did, because it suits him perfectly (he WOULD later go on to pen “Octopus’ Garden” on Abbey Road, which is basically “Yellow Submarine” 2.0). This is a bit of a polarizing song, as it’s extremely silly and filled with whimsical, childlike imagery. It’s honestly a bit disheartening to know how many people see those both as negatives. The imagery in the lyrics is complimented perfectly by Ringo’s vocals, the dig-into-your-skull-and-never-leave singalong melody, and the fun sound effects throughout. That last one almost makes the song seem psychedelic. Some kids song, huh?
Well, if that’s not psychedelic enough for you, we have John’s “She Said She Said”, my favorite song on the album by a very narrow margin. It’s basically a trippy rocker detailing two people having an obviously drug-influenced conversation. It doesn’t make much sense, but the melody is just as infectious if not more so then “Yellow Submarine.” It’s almost unrealistically memorable, not to mention a ton of fun to sing karaoke because of how the melody dips, swoops and loops.
Side two opens with a typically swell, pip-pip-cheerio Paul song in the form of “Good Day Sunshine.” There are few songs that cheer me up as quickly as this simple piano pop piece. There’s not much to say about it, other than it’s probably the most stereotypically “Paul” song on the album, and awesome for it.
Even John “Buzzkill” Lennon can’t stop Paul’s good mood, so he almost-sort-of joins in with “And Your Bird Can Sing”, another musically dynamic singalong with a great, toe-tapping energy and clever lyrics. Man, if even John can’t resist the fun, who can?
Hey. Hey Paul. What are you doing. Paul, what are you doing with that incredibly depressing song about how someone you care about abandons all feelings for you. Paul, stop that now. Paul, get back here.
So yeah, “For No One”, from Paul “Life is so amazing and I’m always in love” McCartney of all people, is quite possibly even more depressing than “Eleanor Rigby”, his other downer offering. It’s also amazing, and proves once and for all that not only is Paul the great “feeling” guy of the group, but possibly the best lyricist. Some of the stingers in this song hurt to listen to just because they’re so vividly tragic. Isn’t this the guy who wrote “Good Day Sunshine” a few tracks back? Geeze.
The happy, upbeat mood is restored by John “Life is terrible God is dead and where’s my LSD” Lennon in “Doctor Robert”, which is probably the weakest song on the album. It’s still great of course, because this album is unimaginably perfect, and John wrote a mean guitar rocker, but when you’re surrounded by Revolver’s other tracks, it’s hard not to be a bit underwhelming. I do really love that organ-y bridge (“Well well well you’re feeling fine”).
Oh hey, George is back, remember him? This time his offering is “I Want To Tell You”, and oh my gosh I relate way too much to it. I like to think that I’m okay with words, but I’ve had so many moments like this. Uggh. Anyway, it’s great, big whupping surprise, mostly because of the backing piano and George’s very personal-sounding lyrics. Hey, I just realized that every Beatle has a quintessential song on this album: John has “She Said She Said”, Paul has “Good Day Sunshine”, Ringo has “Yellow Submarine”, and George has this song (though “Love You To” is also a contender).
“Got To Get You Into My Life” is basically what would happen if Paul led a marching band, hence the awesome horns and basic (but enthusiastically sung) lyrics. Paul is just having the time of his life here, and it’s hard not to get into it. A very simple song, but still a great one.
The album concludes with The Beatles’ first full-on psychedelic anthem, “Tomorrow Never Dies”, and it rules. The production is as weird as it is effortlessly listenable. I have a particular affection for the seagull noises. It’s so strange and yet unmistakably melodic, and the lyrics are well suited to the task of closing out this unbelievable album. The piano that shows up briefly at the very end is an amusing touch.
If I haven’t made it clear through both the endless gushing and distinct lack of criticism, Revolver is basically too perfect to exist. Maybe if they replaced “Doctor Robert” with “Paperback Writer” it would be improved, but the universe would probably explode if that happened. I might be overselling this album, but that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t go listen to it (or relisten to it, as should be the case) right now. Like, right now. I’ll wait.
Listenability: 5/5 Dude. It’s The Beatles.
Themes: 5/5 A lot of variety with a mostly serious tone. A very mature album, despite (or perhaps partially because of) the inclusion of a children’s novelty song (“Yellow Submarine”) and optimistic pop (“Good Day Sunshine”).
Lyricism: 5/5 DUDE. IT’S THE BEATLES.
Diversity: 5/5 There’s more ideas on side one than side two, but there’s nary a boring or samey spot on the entire album.
Resonance: 5/5 DUDE. IT’S. THE. BEATLES.
FINAL RATING: 10+/10 In their own words, the end of the beginning. A cosmic masterpiece.
Recommended Listening: She Said She Said, Love You To, Eleanor Rigby, Tomorrow Never Knows, Yellow Submarine…you know what, just screw it. The whole thing.