Video Savant: The Beach Boys' “Feel Flows”

As you may have noticed, I've been immersed in a summer-song mindset the past few weeks in preparation for our Summer Guide. Of course, I had to include a Beach Boys song in the best summer songs feature; after much cogitation, I settled on the rather obvious “Good Vibrations,” but I just as easily could've included “Feel Flows,” which we'll discuss for this week's Video Savant.

“Feel Flows” is an oft-overlooked gem in the Beach Boys' catalog. It can be found on Surf's Up, a relatively subdued LP from 1971 that also includes another of my all-time favorite BB cuts, “'Til I Die” (covered by the Josephine Wiggs Experience, trivia fans).

Written by Carl Wilson and Jack Rieley, “Feel Flows” features the Boys' patented intricate vocal arrangement, tailored to induce maximum goosebumpage. The song's perfectly pitched between mellow elation and somber resignation. It's like a magnificently engineered roller coaster of profound emotions or some new kind of prayer for surfers, devoid of the group's earlier kitsch/cornball elements. The lyrics wax mystical and poetic about things like “White hot glistening shadowy flows” and “Unfolding enveloping missiles of soul” (oh, for acid as potent as it was back then…).

About a third of the way in, a weird section featuring guest musician Charles Lloyd's trippy flute arabesques and Carl's surprisingly warped organ and guitar locutions interrupts the song's dominant, almost Terry Riley-esque keyboard mantra and Carl's poised, pious singing. Just when you think your skin can't take on any more chills, this 90-second passage layers on the sublimity even thicker.

“Fun, Fun, Fun” it ain't, but damn if “Feel Flows” won't be giving you deep aesthetic pleasure till you're senile. “Feel Flows” convinces you that the Beach Boys occasionally could be conduits for something approaching the divine, even if they were some weird, damaged and obnoxious SOBs.

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