The Dark Side of the Moon

August 26, 2023 by Lucian Mogosanu

I don't really do music reviews anymore, but this has been too much of an influence on me to simply ignore. Plus, Waters himself, almost turned 80, is redoing the thing, and if he thinks it's worth reviewing from the author's perspective, then I surely believe it's worth re(rere...)viewing from the listener's1 perspective.

The Dark Side of the Moon, also known as DSotM2, is many things, which we shall untangle one at a time.

Looking from Waters' perspective, DSotM is no bass masterpiece, yet it is an English poetic inquiry into the daily matters of existence. The album is split thematically into two parts, neatly arranged into two vinyl sides. Speak to Me is a play on that old Biblical observation about the Word. Breathe springs out metaphors of life, while its reprise paints a picture of its end, with On the Run and Time passing in-between. The Great Gig in the Sky concludes the first part with an instrumental (yet at the same time vocally rich) passage. Then, in the second part you have a treatise on Money, tribalism (Us and Them), sanity and lack thereof (Brain Damage) and a grand finale (Eclipse), with yet another funky instrumental (Any Colour You Like) in-between. Arranged in a well-rounded structure, DSotM fits perfectly within the definition of a "concept album"; on one hand this reflects a fashion of the time, what with The Beatles and The Who steering that way; on the other, it's quite typical of a band that was nearing its maturity, plus the experiments on Meddle sorta worked3, so they were eager to polish their craft in that direction.

I'm not sure, but I believe that from Dave Gilmour's perspective DSotM should have looked like a subtly virtuosic act -- yet the skill didn't lie in how many notes per second each band member would play, rather it expressed a certain classical style of carefully paying attention to how each note is uttered. It's a well-known fact that Gilmour was influenced by the likes of "slowhand" Clapton, I can see how he took a lot from B.B. King, so... not only you get great guitar solos, but in the background you have Mason's calm and precise clock-like beats along with Wright's mix of jazz keyboards and classical piano, which sum up to an atmosphere that some struggle to this day to recreate. The style doesn't meddle with cheap sophistry, as it usually relies on simple technical means to achieve its goals -- take for example the muted bass at the beginning of Time. But make no mistake, there's a video which clearly documents Waters' process into using early electronic automation to make On the Run. And mind that On the Run was initially mostly a guitar piece in their pre-release tour, which shows that they made the best of the technical means at their disposal.

Speaking of means, DSotM is also a technical masterpiece, using the most advanced recording and mixing technology of the time. This is how Alan Parsons managed to achieve a quadraphonic mix which is supposedly4 unique in the history of modern music. But more importantly, this is how and why a fifty year-old master still sounds so good nowadays, with or without all the adjustments they've been making recently.

These aspects, blended together, make up something... quite unlike your usual pop gig. Pink Floyd is not the kind of music to listen to while you're cooking, showering or jogging. It's not music to play and dance to at parties and I'd say it's not concert music either, or at the very least it ain't festival music -- you've probably seen Pink Floyd concerts and the imagery on display, they're more of a particular kind of syncretic art; or maybe you're familiar with the fan-made "Dark Side of Oz" oddity. DSotM is a thing in itself, markedly distinct from anything made in the early '70s, or since. Not the only such thing, but one of them.

With Rick gone, Dave using the Pink Floyd name to promote political agendas and Nick doing reruns of Syd-era Pink Floyd... it's Roger who decided to do a "reimagined" rerun of this album. Although, like he said, listening to the songs he published so far made me review his and his ex-colleagues' work with another set of eyes5, I'm pretty sure his rerun won't really be a "success", firstly because if I remember correctly he has quite a few people who don't like him6. Perhaps it'll serve as an intro to Pink Floyd for newer generations, or perhaps no one will speak of it in a couple of years, at least for now I'm still hearing the original while listening to his stuff.

  1. Certainly not from the "consumer" perspective. Surely, the item was consumed many times over during the last half of a century, and it yet has the chance to be consumed further by new generations. Still, I'm not interested in reviewing DSotM as a product, because I believe its value goes beyond the simple transactional and thus it has a chance to still be heard even when such a thing as a "product" ceases to exist.

    Now, whether it'll prove to have had any measurable and measurably significant impact on culture, that's a whole different question. 

  2. Released in March 1973 in London, by Gilmour, Mason, Waters and Wright, a quartet of diverse artistic, technical and human strengths. And let's not leave aside Clare Torry, Dick Parry (also known as the fifth member) and Alan Parsons. Abbey Road -- and indeed, the United Kingdom entirely -- was overflowing with musical talent at the time. 

  3. At least in contrast to the flop that was Atom Heart Mother.

    I may be a nostalgic, but to me it sounds like quite a neat piece listening in from the year 2023. Bear in mind that they were still coping with Syd's departure at that point, so it's no surprise that they lost their direction for a while. 

  4. I haven't heard it myself. To be honest I'm more invested in hearing an instrument live and preferably not through loudspeakers, than mixed into whatever sophisticated recording and mastering techniques folks tend to dabble in nowadays. Hopefully Waters will play his new old album in Bucharest this time around, although to be honest I hate the prospect of a stadium. 

  5. ... which says something about both the work and the eyes. I'm not who I was at sixteen, I'm not doing "just another brick in the wall" and besides, I've had plenty of time to view said work as it aged; not only DSotM, but all their work. 

  6. He's just paying the price of publicly expressing political views nowadays. For what it's worth, I don't agree with his views, not because they're his, but because they sum up to the same old tired and insufferable English socialism. Like most musicians that I like, his heart is in the right place but his judgment is clouded by the notion that there could be such a thing as good socialism. So he subscribes to some form of half-assed activism to give him a sense of "justice", unaware that he's a target for the very same kind of "justice". 

Filed under: food for the soul.
RSS 2.0 feed. Comment. Send trackback.

3 Responses to “The Dark Side of the Moon”

  1. #1:
    Cel Mihanie says:

    > Pink Floyd is not the kind of music to listen to while you're cooking, showering or jogging

    (sweats like a stonetoss comic character as he remembers first listening to the major Pink Floyd albums... while playing Marathon). Not sure if blasphemy, heresy or both. It is a pretty dreamy game tho, so it does sort of fit.

    > It least in contrast to the flop that was Atom Heart Mother

    Me, I loved Atom Heart Mother. I think it's one of those super divisive things that people either love or hate, no in-between. Kinda like whether pineapple belongs on pizza (the correct answer, of course, is by definition the one I hold, which is yes)

  2. #2:
    spyked says:

    > Not sure if blasphemy, heresy or both

    No worries, I listened to most of Pink Floyd's discography while sleeping. I only did that once, but it was quite enough of an experience to keep me remembering it to this day.

    > It is a pretty dreamy game tho, so it does sort of fit.

    Sounds nice, haven't heard of it until today.

    > Me, I loved Atom Heart Mother

    It's sort of an unique take on experimental music, this alone makes it worthwhile in my opinion.

  3. #3:
    Cel Mihanie says:

    While sleeping? That's deffo something you'll have to elaborate on when we have our next alcoholic outing (hint hint, nudge nudge). That's also when I'll talk your ear off regarding Marathon - you've been missing out :D

Leave a Reply