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Friday, July 8, 2011

Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon review

Band name: Pink Floyd
Album: The Dark Side of the Moon
Release Date: March 1, 1973 (Original) / July 8, 1981 (Second release in UK)

Since the second release was thirty years ago in the UK, I present possibly the biggest album ever. And my thoughts.


As it were, Dark Side of the Moon has become one of the most vital statements the music industry has ever seen come from a musical group. Ever. To simply say the album impacted rock music thereafter is not enough. Not only did this, the most successful album of the mighty Pink Floyd's career, catapult them into a world of renowned super-stardom, but it also did much to further the evolution of progressive rock as well as (in many a person's eyes) perfect the theme of a concept album. Indeed, to this day the album continues to sell an average 8,000 copies a week, and is firmly cemented as the 20th best selling record of all-time in the United States. Quite the feat for a nine-track long concept album, right? As for me, I'm torn. Numerous times in the past, I found myself endlessly listening to the groups' albums like Wish You Were Here and Dark Side of the Moon and struggling to understand the attraction; the subtle force that turned a small band from London into a multi-million dollar outfit with the force and presence of an atomic bomb. I often slagged off on the album, deriding it as dull and beyond self-indulgent whiles simultaneously labeling them as geniuses for their more straight-forward pieces like Money. As of late, I've found myself absent-mindedly putting the album on; only realizing it as Breathe kicks in with its' subtle, tranquil, and overall serenading qualities. After much deliberation and endless musing, I think I've reached a suitable conclusion about the band that created this massive statement, or at least the statement itself.


When I say, "I'll see you on the dark side of the moon", what I mean

is... 'If you feel that you're the only one, that you seem crazy, 'cause

you think everything is crazy, you're not alone, you know?'


- Roger Waters


Perhaps the central theme of the album being insanity and all that happens in life that can drive one to it isn't surprising. After all, everyone is aware of The Pink Floyd Sound and their original anti-hero frontman, the late Syd Barrett. The tale has been told countless times over the 42 years since his departure, from the depths of grimy pubs to the annals of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, and perhaps most commonly, in the homes and apartments of the fans themselves. Virtually everyone is required to at the very least know the basic premise of the tale. And so it was, some 42 years ago, the band known as Pink Floyd, with Barrett at the helm both spiritually and musically parted ways with their beloved leader, due to his rapidly deteriorating mental condition brought out but not necessarily caused by the ever-potent and horrifying effects of the psychedelic drug known as Lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly referred to as LSD, acid, and ironically enough, 'cid. Upon Barrets' mental collapse, the group decided to carry on, and enlisted the help of a local guitarist by the name of David Gilmour. It is with this line-up, consisting of Roger Waters (bass/vocals), David Gilmour (guitar/vocals), Nick Mason (drums) and Richard Wright (keyboards/trippy noises) that the band would go on to create their most beloved masterpieces with, including The Wall and the Syd Barret tribute, Wish You Were Here. Yes, sanity can be a delicate thing, as the band found at an alarmingly close proximity. As such, it is to be expected that Waters (the groups' chief conceptualist and future de-facto Josef Stalin) would have some fixation with the fragile balance between the rational and the non-sensical, and nowhere is that fixation in more vibrant display than the very album I'm reviewing.


Yes, like many of Pink Floyd's records, Dark Side of the Moon is a concept album. That's all very well and good. It's been proven time and again that the group (and perhaps Waters, in particular) was brilliant at devising musical soundscape and lyrics to make an overall theme or point. One of the main questions, and criticisms thereof, regards the music itself. Indeed, what makes a 23 minute, slow and meandering jam so worth while? What makes random tape loops and perturbing sound effects (as found in On the Run) even worthy of my listening time? Unfortunately, these are points that resonate quite clearly, and can't truly be explained away. From my experiences, I have found that to truly appreciate a song like Time (with it's scathingly long introduction anyway), you simply have to quit caring. Once I just started throwing the album on and not paying any attention to it, I'd find myself noticing how much I enjoyed it; how delectable it was to get lost in the otherwise thoroughly dull and pretentious noises that On the Run and plenty of other Pink Floyd tunes offered up. Rather self-defeating, I admit, but there you are. Crap noises and dramatic endeavors aside, each individual band member has proven time and again how commendable their skills on their respective instrument, and Dark Side of the Moon is an album that displays these traits. Indeed, David Gilmour delivers what is considered by many as the best solo of his career on Time with his searing and celebrated vibrato capturing your attention, not to relinquish it until it has had its say, while Roger Waters gives us the thumping introduction bass line to the now rocking, spacey and ever-popular anthem Money. Nick Mason doesn't particularly offer up anything mind-blowing on his drum set, though he does remain consistent throughout, and Richard Wright allows us to witness his brilliance at keyboard manipulation on the positively psychedelic Any Colour You like. Many of these sort of song styles (for instance the jazzy saxophone solo in Money) were still relatively new for the time, and many still hold up remarkably well. It may be true that combining otherwise superb musicianship with over-dramatic and ridiculously long jams may not have been the greatest idea (understatement), but it is also true that not one rock group from the late 60's and 70's isn't guilty of jamming for over twenty minutes on a single song. Now I ask you, would you prefer mindless pentatonic shredding ala Eric Clapton or would you prefer subtle jamming with feeling?


With that doting out of the way, I do believe it is time to address the majesty factor. One of the many things that critics and audiences alike commended the band and album for was its' dramatic sense; the feel that something indescribably majestic has just occurred. To me, this theory is both undeniably true and simultaneously heinously false. To consider a song like Brain Damage majestic and profound is nothing short of absurd. While it is very soothing with its gentle and cascading chord progression and soft, ethereal vocals, it is certainly not worthy of the title of eponymous. However, the song it so eloquently segues into, Eclipse is perhaps the most stirring and insightful album closer ever to grace a rock album. Musically, the tune combines nearly everything featured on the album thus far, from the subtle guitar playing and the trippy effects to the wailing female back-up vocals found on The Great Gig In the Sky as Roger lists off everything that we as humans inevitably do, before concluding on the rather depressing note of "And everything under the sun is in tune; but the sun is eclipsed by the moon". Eclipse also features perhaps the best example of Pink Floyd's supreme melodicism, a trait which unfortunately the band doesn't use all too often. Perhaps that is for the best though, as when they do, it has a very big impact; and proves itself a delightful treat. For those of you who are very grammatically capable: yes, I made the word "melodicism" up. For those who aren't: ignore that statement. If I'm willing to admit that this album obviously has flaws, flaws that normally could completely destroy a band and their crappy progressive album, why is this one any different? More over, why is it regarded as classic? Quite honestly, I don't know. Pink Floyd's musicianship and the statements they make tend to make up for the former, but I can't see Gilmour being a rock master and Waters' being an assertive conceptualist and solid bassist being enough to warrant this album the title of "classic". Us and Them is perhaps the worst tune to be found here in the sense that it doesn't offer much that hasn't been already been offered by Time and its Breathe reprise. As far as the concept goes, the piece is vital, but musically it doesn't assert itself as a work of genius in any way other than the dynamics that can be found on it and the layers of effects that reside with it. 


It does, however, preserve and continue the unusually precise flow of the album, and in that sense is very important in its own right.

___________________________________


I couldn't recommend this album to anyone. Not to any single one of you who are reading this, granted most of you have long since heard it and formed your own opinion on it. I've pondered for a good two years why this band is as popular as they are, and while I can't say I've reached a fully satisfying conclusion, I have determined a number of things. First of is that to truly enjoy a Pink Floyd album, you have to listen to it, shall we say, differently than you would a regular rock record. Instead of expecting a hook or a catchy synthesizer fill, let yourself get lost in the beat and in the feeling of the song provided. This is not to say that catchy hooks or straight-forward rock tunes are uncommon, as they can be found on the album in the forms of Money, Time, and the stunning instrumental Any Colour You Like. I suppose the point I'm attempting to make (and more than likely failing at) is that the prize concerning the band known as Pink Floyd doesn't lay within any given song or musical hook, or for that matter any hitherto recognized form of musical perception (at least for me, dear reader). I've come to the long overdue conclusion that Pink Floyd is about the feel that you get, the sounds that they make, and the overall theme of the album you listen to. Getting lost in a seemingly never-ending piece of music tends to be way more satisfying than enjoying an ear-catching, two-minute long pop song. And that's how it truly is, as it were.



 8.6 / 10

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