The album was very popular because it was different from most of the band's other music. Most of The Beach Boys' albums before it had all been about surfing, summer, cars, girls, and fun. They were all quite basic in their music. They were mostly Rock and roll and surf music. Pet Sounds was different because of its more complex arrangements;. The bass player for the band, Brian Wilson used a system of recording songs that was different than the system they had used before. In the recording, stringed and wind instruments were used. They also used instruments that were very unusual for rock music. These included vibraphones, harps, French horns, harpsichords, electro-theremins. Also, things like bicycle whistles, and Coca Cola cans with stones inside of them were used. The lyrics of the songs were more serious. They talked about the problems, disappointments and sadness of a young man. Because all the songs had a similar mood and themes, it is considered to be a concept album.
Much of the album was recorded by Wilson himself using professional studio musicians. - people who are hired to play songs for an album. Some of the other band members did not like this. They felt he was ignoring their talents. Mike Love thought that it would be too hard to play these songs live and that their fans would not understand the songs.
After the album was released, Pet Sounds did not sell very well. It reached #10 in the American hit-parade. Wilson felt this was a failure but music critics loved it. The album got real recognition in 1990s-2000s, when many music magazines listed it in their lists of the best albums in popular music (New Musical Express, Rolling Stone, Melody Maker, Mojo Magazine).
Wilson decided to make another album in the same way. The new album, he called Smile.