Ironically, the group that came to be known as "America's Band," playing at Republican presidential inaugurals and the like, would become "cool" again at the tail end of their career. By the '90s, the Beach Boys were acknowledged as the inspiration for both hipsters on the order of the High Llamas and Eric Matthews and seminal acts like Big Star and Todd Rundgren. Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson's "mini-symphonies" were initially influenced by some timelessly unhip artists, such as the Four Freshmen, whose post-barbershop-quartet vocals were the sound on which Wilson based his own group's trademark harmonies.
They began as pure surf-rockers espousing the delights of Californian beach life, cars and girls over Chuck Berry-inspired backing. It wasn't long before Brian became intrigued with Phil Spector's wall of sound, applying Spector's multi-tracking approach to his own music. PET SOUNDS, the group's masterpiece, showcased Brian's expanded harmonic vocabulary, revolutionary "orchestral pop" arrangements, and the complex harmonies of Brian, brother Carl and the rest of the Boys. Brian's fragile mental health would soon prevent him from performing with the band, but he continued to write and record with them, producing perfect pop visions from his unique perspective. Along the way, the band simultaneously turned into both an American institution and an unassailable indie-rock reference point.