After the unsatisfying Smiley Smile, The Beach Boys returned with simpler and more direct songs. Most of the instrumentation is supplied by the group themselves, and most of the tracks falling into hitherto unexplored acoustic pop or enthusiastically sung white soul. Some of the tracks even dispense with the signature five part harmonies, often leaving Carl as the group’s lead vocalist without any backing vocals at all. While Wild Honey is one of The Beach Boys’ least characteristic albums, it’s one of their most consistent efforts.
The standout song here is ‘Darlin”, one of the group’s best A-sides and originally written by Brian back in 1963. With its full bodied arrangement and horn section it does sit away apart from the rest of the record. The opening title track even stakes a claim for hipness, with its trippy mellotron riff and gritty vocal from Carl. The cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Was Made To Love Her’, again features Carl Wilson’s enthusiastic singing, while Brian’s charmingly low key ‘I’d Love Just Once To See You’ is another winner. In fact, Wild Honey might be the most consistent Beach Boys album outside of Pet Sounds with no major clunkers, and packed with winners like the funky ‘How She Boogalooed It’ and the gorgeous ‘Country Air’ and ‘Let The Wind Blow’. It does finish on a slightly weird note with ‘Mama Says’, an a capella segment from ‘Vegetables’ from Smile.
Wild Honey is too insubstantial to warrant an especially high rating, due to both its short length and lack of major compositions, but it’s consistently enjoyable nonetheless.