Monday, June 3, 2019

100 Albums: "The Dark Side Of The Moon" by Pink Floyd

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Pink Floyd
Title: The Dark Side Of The Moon
Released: 1973
Genre: psychedelic rock


Pink Floyd was always a deeply experimental band. It wasn't always successful, but even their older weird stuff that doesn't quite work (I'm looking at YOU, Ummagumma) is still at least interesting. They were able to evolve their sound over several years, and DSotM is where all the pieces come together in just the right way to form something magical. And by "magical" I mean one of the greatest-selling albums of all time. As Floyd albums go, it's fairly straightforward. It runs a little over forty minutes and has eight-to-ten tracks (depending on whether you separate Speak To Me/Breathe and Brain Damage/Eclipse), all of which have run-times that are under seven minutes. The tracks with vocals run a little long and the instrumental interstitials run a little short, but that's pretty standard for 70s rock. I mean, compare this to 1971's Meddle, whose closing track Echoes is over 23 minutes long and takes up the entire second side of the LP. (This is even more impressive when you realize that standard tape reals used in recording run out at 16 minutes.)

Rather than experimenting with form and breadth, Pink Floyd use this album to play around with depth. This thing is densely layered. The topmost layer is 5 glossy psychedelic pop songs built on classic rock fundamentals but working in some jazz and blues. But when you dig into the lyrics you start to find stories about drugs and desperation and mental illness. And then those interstitial tracks have voices on them, people talking casually about death and fear. And then if you really crank it up, during the quieter moments you discover these lush soundscapes sitting under everything. And then you get the shit scared out of you for listening at high volume because Time opens with a sound collage of alarm clocks going off. It's a moody, atmospheric masterpiece that really defines its era of music. The craftsmanship is superb. Floyd were masters of sounding like Pink Floyd. No one else really comes close, and if that's your jam, then you've already bought this record and listened to it a dozen times.

Further Listening: I haven't consumed the entire Floyd catalog, but of all I've heard, DSotM is the stand-out. That said, I have a lot of affection for Meddle--in which the band was starting down that path--and Wish You Were Here, a concept album delivered because their record company was begging them for a follow-up to DSotM. So it's mostly about how record execs are douchebags. For all of its accolades, I don't particularly enjoy The Wall. It has a few epic tracks on it, but it feels like mostly filler to me--a reach-exceeds-grasp situation.

And yes, I'm aware of the Wizard Of Oz thing and no, I don't think it actually works or is all that interesting. But, to be fair, I kind of hate that movie.

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