The worst late-Beatles album; if you were hoping for a positive review of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, I suggest you look elsewhere. Me? I prefer Revolver and The Beatles (The White Album) for their ironically better explorations of psychedelia (ie. “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” respectively), their larger scope (ie. “Taxman” to “Eleanor Rigby” and “Back in the U.S.S.R.” to “Revolution 9”, respectively) and most importantly, their warmer embrace and better melodies (ie. “For No One” and “Blackbird”, respectively). Not only that, I even prefer Please Please Me for its humanity: the sexuality implied by “I Saw Her Standing There” and explicitly by “Twist & Shout” to the failing relationships coupled with devastatingly naked vocals on “Anna (Go With Him)” and “Baby It’s You”; Robert Christgau notes that these songs are “too precisely performed” and that’s basically it; outside of Ringo Starr’s singing on “With a Little Help From My Friends,” it doesn’t sound like humans made this album.
Elsewhere, the band of hippies wear their flowers on their sleeves on this album in a way that they have never or will never again; there’s “With a Little Help From My Friends” whose chorus goes “I get high with a little help from my friends” and the entirety of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” from its title (Paul McCartney has recently admitted that the song is indeed about LSD; shocking), its overwrought choruses (which are unfortunately still one of the better melodies on the album) and its psychedelic effects for psychedelia’s sake (John Lennon’s gimmicky vocals on the second verse). And the people who complain about Revolver for having “Yellow Submarine” and Abbey Road for having “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and “Octopus’s Garden” – both better albums – should have a field day with some of the stuff that happens here, like the ugly circus act throughout “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” and “Lovely Rita” (just what the hell is that noise at the 0:27 mark?) or “When I’m Sixty-Four” or the unnecessary outros of “Good Morning Good Morning” and “A Day in the Life.” And George Harrison, who proved himself to have songs within him equal to that of McCartney and Lennon just the previous year, contributes only one song – “Within You Without You” – but it’s slow and dirgy and much too long (whereas his Indian-flavored song on Revolver, “Love You To,” was none of those things).
Sure, there’s stuff I enjoy: the clarinets of “When I’m Sixty-Four,” one of the more tuneful cuts on the album (that hides its precious lyrics) (like “Yellow Submarine,” this is far from being the worst track on the album, losers), the horns of “Good Morning Good Morning” (although the hook is too speedy for John Lennon to handle effectively enough). “Getting Better,” which is both the album’s most daring composition after “A Day in the Life” (because of how the one note hammered away on the piano almost throughout; although because of its limitations, it has trouble driving the song to its climax) and its best melody (both in the chorus and the bridge). And “A Day in the Life” is great closer, proof enough that Ringo Starr is a much better drummer than you are or you think he is (though dumbies won’t hear it because of just how understated it is).