From the first thumping heartbeat and cacophony of cash register noises, mad voices, laughter and screams, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon revels in carefully engineered musical perfection. Exhibiting an unrelenting contrast of aural chaos with slick guitars, simple, but well-placed drums, dramatic, haunting keys, and David Gilmour’s raspy vocals (not to mention the mind-blowing solo of vocalist Claire Torry on “The Great Gig in the Sky”), the album is a merciless musical exploration of the uglier parts of humanity. Never has ugly sounded so good.
When they released Umma Gumma on cd my dad bought it in a fury of pure joy. I was in junior high and listened regularly to the local `light’ radio station. FM 100 as it was known back then, boasting such light favorites as Chicago, Three Dog Night, The Association, Bread and Lionel Richie. So my question for my dad was, “Who is this band you call Pink Floyd?”
He had several Pink Floyd albums: Momentary Lapse of Reason, A Collection of Great Dance Songs, and Dark Side of the Moon. He never listened to them at home. How could I have known the greatness that was Dark Side of the Moon (because this is, after all, a review of Dark Side of the Moon)? No really, how could I? Some kids discover great albums when they’re thirteen and those are the very cool kids. I wasn’t one of them. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Lionel Richie, Bread, Chicago and the likes of those bands have their place in music history. But it’s not on the level of Dark Side of the Moon (and incidentally, neither is Umma Gumma, but the point is to illustrate the author’s relationship to her subject).
While others were singing about Saturdays in the park and endless love, Pink Floyd were covering the darker sides of the human condition (thus the title, to point out the obvious), greed, insanity, death and growing old with nothing to show for it. Depressing. But it works because they sculpt those philosophical ruminations into beautiful sonic masterpieces, and in so doing elevate human suffering to epic proportions. Lighter lyrical subjects would have only reduced their phenomenal instrumentation to fluff, and then no one would have paid any attention to Dark Side of the Moon. It would have been another case of here today, gone tomorrow, like the Backstreet Boys. Part of the ingenuity of Dark Side of the Moon was in talking about what their demographic was thinking (guys in the ’70s, like my dad). Drugs, growing old, being enslaved by the establishment and having no choice. The weary expression “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way” hit home for them.
Dark Side of the Moon broke the barriers of commercial fame for the band with such indisputably recognizable hits as “Money” with its six minutes of jamming, guitar solos and bursts of keys; the slow groove of “Time,” building for over two minutes and finally cresting with an explosion of drums and Gilmour’s growling, musing vocals; the sweet, soothing side of Gilmour’s voice on “Breathe,” complemented by wailing guitars, and remarkably—in the “Breathe” reprise buried within “Time”—the one borderline positive moment on the whole album, “Home, home again / I like to be here when I can / And when I come home cold and tired / It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire…”
Similar Albums/ Albums Influenced:
Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Spiritualized – Let It Come Down
King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King