CK Retro Review: Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink FloydPosted: January 2, 2014
Apparently, all they needed was a concept. The moments of brilliance that Pink Floyd had managed for five years previous indicated their potential, but 1973’s Dark Side Of The Moon exceeded even that with a musical and lyrical statement, on the impossibility of sanity in the modern world, that’s so coherent and complete that it sounds as pristine and impeccable some forty years on as it did the day it was released. Here is a song-by-song review.
8. “Any Colour You Like”- This languid instrumental illustrates the difficulty of picking this album apart. On its own, it’s unassuming and passive, mood music that features mesmerizing synthesizers and a few stinging guitar licks. In the context of the album, it’s essential as an air-clearing bridge between the intense peaks of “Us And Them” and the closing suite.
7. “On The Run”- The aural equivalent of a nightmarish chase scene where all possible escape routes are covered by ever-escalating threats. The pursuit only ends when a plane crash razes the entire scene. Scary and invigorating all at once.
6. “Speak To Me/Breathe In The Air”- The fact that Floyd had two architecture students (Nick Mason and Roger Waters) in the band is really driven home on Dark Side. Note how “Speak To Me” includes snippets of several musical ideas that would be visited later in the album, or how “Breathe In The Air” is reprised at the end of “Time” for a symmetrical feel. “Breathe In The Air” is the kind of sleepy rambler that the band had been composing for years, but Waters lyrics, which urge people to take hold of their individuality even while embracing others, are much more cutting and effective than previous efforts.
5. “The Great Gig In The Sky”- Clare Torry’s vocal performance veers seamlessly from the ecstasy of orgasm to the agony of death as the band segues from quiet introspection to crashing crescendos in concert with her wailing. Torry eventually got a songwriting credit for her efforts, sharing it with Wright, whose resigned elegance on the ivories is simply unforgettable here.
4. “Time”- Most people associate Dark Side Of The Moon with spacey ambiance, but the earthier moments are just as essential to the album’s success. That dichotomy is represented here by the way David Gilmour’s impassioned vocals and the muscular music in the verses is tempered by Wright’s placid singing above the gospel backing vocals in the connecting parts. It gives an interesting interpretation to Waters’ lyrics, as if one part is raging against the injustice of the ticking clock, and the other part is accepting its inevitability.
3. “Money”- It’s interesting that Floyd could have easily called this song a suite as well, considering that the main section and the long instrumental break in between really have little in common, with different time signatures and all. That it all flows so smoothly is testament to the band’s ingenuity, which is also evident in the clever cash register rhythm at the beginning. Waters’ lyrics are appropriately sarcastic, and the ebb-and-flow of the long breakdown reminds everyone that Floyd were an outstanding four-piece with great chemistry and a virtuoso soloist in Gilmour. Classic rock radio has played it to death; good thing that “Money” possesses enough in its nooks and crannies to keep it interesting through infinite spins.
2. “Brain Damage/Eclipse”- It wouldn’t be right to separate these two. So much to like here, so here’s just a partial list: The way “Brain Damage” sort of explodes out of “Any Colour You Like” is strange enough to suggest madness even before Waters starts singing about it; the interview audio, such an brilliant addition to the entire album, is especially potent here, seeming like voices careening around the narrator’s addled brain; the exhilarating closure provided by the music of “Eclipse,” as Nick Mason finally gets to let loose after playing it cool for most of the album; and, of course, “There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark.” Most of all, this mini-suite is the best example of how important Waters lyrics are to the album. After “Brain Damage” emphasizes just how hard it is to keep it together, “Eclipse” touchingly makes the case for unity amongst all the madmen as the only method of survival.
1. “Us And Them”- Anyone who doubts Rick Wright’s importance to Pink Floyd should listen to “Us And Them” and rethink that opinion. The evocative brilliance of the organ bed at the start of the song is equaled only by the beauty of his piano work afterward. Dick Parry’s contributions on saxophone are integral here as well, quiet and tentative in the intro, thunderous and forceful as the song progresses to staggering heights. Waters’ lyrics are a marvel of suggestive simplicity; by reducing all conflicts, war and interpersonal, to their most basic level, he throws on a spotlight on their futility. The refrains achieve a majesty that’s one of the high points of the band’s entire career; heck, it’s one of the high points in rock history.
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