Review Summary: What begins as a slow and somewhat dull album slowly builds momentum into a strangely compelling and enjoyable listen.
I first encountered Pink Floyd at the age of twelve when raiding my father's CD shelf. I had just received an iPod for my birthday and had no music, so naturally I took all my dad's CDs and ripped them straight into iTunes.
As I rifled through piles of dull and uninspiring looking albums, I came across that incredible and iconic album cover, and decided to add it to the small pile of albums I had designated 'interesting looking'. Little did I know that I had stumbled across one of the most famous and universally acclaimed yet experimental albums to achieve mainstream success - The Dark Side Of The Moon. I don't remember much about when I first listened to it, other than I was disappointed and never got past the couple of tracks.
A number of years later, with maturing music tastes and a great new pair of headphones, I decided to revisit this 'classic' that I had so casually dismissed previously.
Expecting some sort of holy grail of progressive rock, I was initially disappointed by what The Dark Side Of The Moon had to offer me; the first two tracks, "Speak To Me/Breathe" and "On The Run" were slow, rambling, and for the most part devoid of detail, in particular "On The Run", which is best described as a series of aimless and random synths and sound effects.
However, the third song "Time", is in another league entirely. Opening with chiming clocks and a ringing alarm clock, at first this appears to be another irritating, badly aged, and experimental progressive track. However, this fades into a slow and ominous series of chords, which break into what is now one of my favourite songs ever. Suddenly the praise for this album makes sense; the brilliant guitar solo, the use of synthesizers, the heavily jazz influenced bass, Dave Gilmour's distinctive vocal style, and the fabulously abstract lyrics about the passage of time:
"Ticking away, the moments
That make up a dull day,
Fritter and waste the hours
In an offhand way."
"Time" then transitions straight into "The Great Gig In The Sky", which is notable for the vocals of Claire Torry; there are no lyrics to the song, only Torry's continuous undulating wail, with a piano and great bass line accompanying in the background. This song, after the epic that is "Time" somehow manages to be both interesting and enjoyable to listen to whilst having very little substance.
The second half of the album serves more as one continuous song; "Money" has one of the best bass lines in classic rock, and a great guitar solo to go with it. Again, Gilmour's vocals are strangely fitting, and amusing:
Money, so they say
Is the root of all evil
But if you ask for a rise
It comes as no surprise that they're
Giving none away
Next comes my least favourite of the more traditionally structured songs on the album, "Us And Them". Personally I find it too slow and rambling, and at over seven minutes it suffers from a lack of the elements that make "Time" so enjoyable, like the great lyrics and guitar work, although the inclusion of a saxophone and backing vocals definitely contribute to the song.
"Any Colour You Like" is a refreshing interlude, with great synth, bass, and drums; like the other more upbeat and jazzy sections, this is one of my favourite songs on The Dark Side Of The Moon, and a great instrumental.
Again, "Brain Damage" is another great upbeat and strangely moving song, which is where the album begins to draw to its slow but epic conclusion. The lyrics are suitably mad to match the title, covering the theme of mental illness, and the inclusion of Pink Floyd's then road manager Peter Watts' manic laughter really adds to the feeling of insanity which pervades the song. This flows straight into "Eclipse", the final climax of the album, complete with gospel style female backing singers and an organ. The song is suitably epic, and a great end to the album.
Against my better judgement, and going into this album expecting something inaccessible and badly aged, I found myself really enjoying The Dark Side Of The Moon. Although I don't think it is one of the best albums of all time like so many people claim - in parts it is very difficult to listen to, chiefly "On The Run" which is at times painful - I hardly found it as uninspired and rambling as others claim. Overall, I would say this is a must listen album, not because of any particular individual songs, but because it represents so well what a concept album should be; each song fitting to create one larger picture.