Review Summary: There is no dark side of the moon really. In fact, it's all dark.
As best described by Journey guitarist Neal Schon in the middle of the grunge era in 1993 in an interview room in the western arm of Russia, a 'double eclipse' is an exceptionally rare phenomenon that happens every 20,000 years, in where, during a legendary lunar or solar eclipse, the moon will pass in front of the sun twice in the same day. "That's how we saw the album, a phenomenon, and that's exactly why we gave it that name." The question continues to be asked: what kind of an album can hold that title of "exceptionally rare"? Is there truly an album that meets those kinds of expectations, sets and achieves those kind of goals, and tops the ambitions it may have? Is there really an album that is so influential and fundamental that every man, woman, and their pet knows the name of it? Is there an album that is truly deserving of the name "exceptionally rare phenomenon", and nothing ever recorded will be just like it?
No. But there are some albums that come close, and will never happen again. This is one of them.
Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon
Released in 1973, under Harvest Music / Capitol Records
#43 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
Insanity is an awful thing. A terrible, stupid thing. The very fact and knowledge that a certain kind of infection, as you will, can eat away at your mind and turn you into someone absent from reality, someone completely locked away from humanity, and break it into multiple fragments, locking you into the confines of your own mind, is something truly horrifying. The fact that it siphons away your humanity, slowly turning you into an animal, someone completely paranoid, violent, and straight crazy, is a terrible, stupid thing. And yet, there is one beautiful thing about insanity: you are blissfully unaware of your broken mind. You are completely unaware that your mind is completely locked away from reality, completely unaware that other individuals know you are crazy. You are own your own side of the world.
The very fact that Pink Floyd can accurately paint such a picture, and cover such an immense scope is because they can. So now that the last words have been spoken, the last sound effect thumped through, does the album maintain all the awe and nostalgia that it sets? Did Pink Floyd finally find redemption and resurrection from this eighth release? And is this the album that is the longest-charting music LP in existence, the album considered to be one of the greatest, considered by some as the greatest, of all time? Yes and no. A hefty helping of The Dark Side of the Moon yields a glorious moment in music history, but also reveals something flawed, a need for improvement.
All that aside, there is one thing Dark Side of the Moon depends on if it will attempt to perfectly cover such a cover, and that's atmosphere. The instrumentation in The Dark Side of the Moon is simply put, extraordinary. The vast majority of David Gilmour's guitar work deals with explosive bursts of energy mixed with slow progressions / riffs. For the time period, it was years ahead of material previously made from before. The guitar work is always a fundemental quality of an album, and Gilmour really outdid himself here. The distorted tape loops of Money almost constitute a theme to the entire track. The guitar solo of Time is incredibly well executed, and the precise flow of the lighter songs like Brain Damage is subtle. The bass of Roger Waters, while not a monumental role in the album, was phenomenal for its time, using the right blend of power chords and soft note progressions, and feel a lot more dominating over the moments of silence that pop up in Dark Side. Nick Mason creates his own rhythm of drumming somewhere in the album. With straightforward beats, countered by lances of fills and thumping percussion. And the synthesizers of Richard Wright (R.I.P.) are at an all-time high here: the electronic entry of On the Run, and the melodies of the great instrumental Any Colour You Like. The bliss of Dark Side of the Moon, is that there is no standout instrument: everybody shows off their strengths here.
But what has highlighted Dark Side of the Moon, turned it into one of the, if not the, biggest statements in music, was the lyrical content. As mentioned before, the Dark Side of the Moon deals with greed, paranoia, insanity, and a flawed sense of reality. The lyrical content here really paints an accurate picture. Us and Them
with its struggles dealing with a split personality and the rest of the world during a war (Us and Them: And after all we're only ordinary men. Me, and you, God only knows it's not what we would choose to do), Breathe
's raging paranoia (Run, run rabbit run. Dig that hole, forget that sun.And when at last the work is done... don't sit down, it's time to dig another one), Money
's struggle with greed (Money, it's a crime) and Eclipse
's eventual revelations of a true sense of reality (There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark...). Each song paints a picture, the instrumentals aside, lyrically and musically. It creates a sense of true emotions, as if you are really experiencing the insanity.
In fact, think of it as one long, progressive song divided into ten parts. One long heartbeat.
But the Dark Side of the Moon is not flawless. Far from it. There are two major factors, two big problems, that will keep it from impressing you every single time you play it. One is the vocals. The vocals feel more drained of energy, less energetic than it was before. If anything, it sounds like Gilmour was actually forced to record the album, more straightforward and out of key than later and previous albums. The other two vocalists are slightly more tolerable: Clare Torry proves to be a decent guest star in The Great Gig In The Sky, wailing at an incredibly high pitch. When Waters takes the stage, it feels somewhat more organized and more heartfelt than the aforementioned Gilmour. That being said, the vocals could still use some improvement.
And number two: the album is definitely a grower. As unbelievable as that sounds, to call one of the most influential and iconic albums of all time a grower, it is true to the core. The first three tracks take a lot of time to get used to, and the second half is generally better. Any Colour You Like
is a halfway decent instrumental, but On the Run
proves to be somewhat identical, with its heavy use of synthesizers and electronics. I never got into Time
the first time I heard it, or the second, or the third. There's a lot of similarities in each song, each featuring positive and negative aspects to it, not one being perfect. But think of the album like climbing a mountain: if you make the trek, it's a phenomenal experience.
I couldn't recommend the album. At all. How you dissect the album as is totally your opinion. This is an album you either love or hate. No other way around. Personally, it's a redemption quest for Pink Floyd that shouldn't be ignored, a sprawling soundscape that is brilliant in its own strange way. But is it an exceptionally rare album? Yes. This is an album that started a revolution that can be copied again. It just hasn't yet happened. The ultimate verdict is that it's a superbly crafted title, but flawed and too far away from perfection to be considered the greatest album of all time. I doubt there even is one. Out of all the albums the band has released, this is simply put their most confusing attempt yet, because of how intense and bizarre it is. But it's a rewarding trek you need to make.
R.I.P. Richard Wright (July 1943 - September 2008).
You're not dead. You're just playing the great gig in the sky.