Tuesday, July 3, 2007

No. 43: The Dark Side Of The Moon

Band: Pink Floyd
Album: The Dark Side Of The Moon
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The second in a string of brilliant concept albums, “Dark Side” is known as much for it's fourteen year run (741 weeks!) on the charts as it is for it's magnificence. Following the mind of a man slowly going insane, “Dark Side” runs the gamut of emotion from optimistic forethought (“Breathe”) to snide class jealousy (“Money”). The iconic cover, the spacey mix, the sparse and powerful guitar solos, Waters' breathy voice... It's near-perfect.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I don't know that a single album has touched more people, in that I imagine this record is the number one of all time in the category of “people getting high and listening to a record.” For that reason alone, “Dark Side” should be higher (pun intended).
Best song: “Time” is probably the best song on the record, but the record works as a whole.
Worst song: The operatic thing in “Great Gig In The Sky” sounds a little out of place (it's still great), but that's really as bad as it gets.
Is it awesome?: Absolutely, without question. I'm biased, but “Dark Side” just illustrates how amazing a band Pink Floyd is. “Dark Side” isn't even – in my opinion – their best album and it's this great.

The best testament to Floyd is that this album – essentially, a progressive rock concept record touching on the concept of insanity – is considered a classic. Any other band would fill the record with “Revolution 9”-type meanderings, while Floyd merely has an alarm clock, aria and the sounds of cash registers.

But, “Dark Side” is more than just tuning it to “Alice in Wonderland” to watch it synchronize. “Dark Side” is also time changes and some really atmospheric production. Forget Phil Spector and his “wall of sound.” Floyd used the guitar, bass and organ (and sometimes a choir, as in “Time”) to create an ever present spacey feel. It's sparse enough to stay out of the way of the main attractions (Waters' vocals and Gilmour's guitar), while intricate enough to add to the record.


As long as I get to keep putting stupid facts about myself in each one of these capsules, I wanted to voice my single complaint about “Dark Side,” even though it has absolutely nothing to do with the record. At my high school, we got to pick senior quotes for our senior year yearbooks. The quotes would go in a glossary-type section in the back, where your name appeared with the quote you picked. I chose a quote from a Rolling Stone William S. Burroughs interview in the 70s.

There had to be 20 people in my senior class who chose to quote lyrics from two songs: “In My Life” by the Beatles and Floyd's “Breathe.” I swear, I read “For long you live, and high you fly and smiles will come and tears you cry...” 10 times. It was really irritating.


What's truly amazing about “Dark Side” is its progressiveness. There isn't a single on it (unless you want to count “Money,” a 6 and a half minute song with the word “bullshit” in it) and the most oft-quoted song is actually half a song with an overture(the track is “Speak To Me/Breathe,” not just “Breathe”). The best song is seven minutes long. One of the other popular tracks (“Us And Them”) is also seven minutes long. The record has a backup operaish singer singing nothing but “ah” and “oh” for an entire track. “Brain Damage” is about insanity (presumably Syd Barrett).

The recording was all done in the most interesting ways. Because of the multitude of strange sounds (clocks on “Time,” the synths on “Speak To Me,” all the different voices coming in and out, etc.), every technique was used in the most state of the art way. Many critics see “Dark Side” as one of the precursors to electronic music. A stretch, yes, but mostly just another thing to add to the brilliance of the record.

If I can't write coherently about “Dark Side,” it's because of this brilliance. It's not as tight as my favorite Floyd album -- “Animals”-- but it's also not as progressive(if you think seven minutes is a long song, think about how long 15 minutes can be). Still, in terms of impact on young teenage minds, I'm not sure there is a record more influential than this one.

Don't believe me? Let's go to the original review from Rolling Stone Magazine:
"The Dark Side Of The Moon" is a fine album with a textural and conceptual richness that not only invites, but demands involvement. There is a certain grandeur here that exceeds mere musical melodramatics and is rarely attempted in rock. "The Dark Side Of The Moon" has flash -- the true flash that comes from the excellence of superb performance.


1 comment:

fft said...


You missed the part about how its amazing that this thing was made in the days of analog. I compare this to how the Apollo astronauts landed on the moon with the technological equivalent of duct tape and chewing gum - its just unbelievable to comprehend.

This is also an album I'd buy today. It still sounds fresh to me.