I just listened to A Hard Day’s NIght for the nth time before listening to this record, because they both came out in the same month. And the problem with doing that is that the Beatles record makes All Summer Long sound like it is from another time; as if popular music has passed the Beach Boys by.
There are some major Beach Boys hits here – “I Get Around”, “Little Honda”, “Wendy” – and there are signs here and in other tracks that Brian Wilson is getting ever more sophisticated as a songwriter. But there’s also plenty of filler (as well as music that might not have been regarded as filler in a pre-Beatles world but, well, now sounded like filler). If you have ever been one of those people who got sucked into stupid Beatles vs Beach Boys argument, listen to this record back to back with A Hard Day’s Night. It’s not pretty. (In Wilson’s defense, The Beatles had two main songwriters, which likely made it easier to producer non-filler.)
The main draw for anyone who is a fan of the band is probably the vocal arrangements. Once again they are more elaborate than on previous releases, and the care taken with them often seems at odds some of the lazier songs. It’s very clear from listening to this record that vocal arrangements are the band’s biggest skill/assess at this point (though it’s clear Wilson is growing as a songwriter too).
It’s pretty clear this album was recorded before Wilson – who would later imagine he was competing with the Beatles – had really internalized the new trends that were going on in the music world. But it’s also clear that the band are growing, as it’s more consistent than some of their earlier records in terms of song quality and arrangements. There are throwaway tracks, but there are fewer than there used to be.