Classic Music Review: The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd

Pink-Floyd-Dark-Side-Of-The-Moon-Album-Cover

Too many people have bought this record already. No click to buy on this one.

The Dark Side of the Moon was an immediate success, topping the Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart for one week. It subsequently remained in the charts for 741 weeks from 1973 to 1988. With an estimated 50 million copies sold, it is Pink Floyd’s most commercially successful album and one of the best-selling albums worldwide. It has twice been remastered and re-released, and has been covered in its entirety by several other acts. It spawned two singles, “Money” and “Time”. In addition to its commercial success, The Dark Side of the Moon is one of Pink Floyd’s most popular albums among fans and critics, and is frequently ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time. On 22 March 2013, the album was preserved by the Library of Congress into the National Recording Registry, calling it “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant, and/or reflect life in the United States.”

Wikipedia article

Like Diana Nyad, I’ve swum against the tide before, and it looks like I’m going to do it again with The Dark Side of the Moon. I accept all responsibility and await your condemnation of my lack of taste, my poor sense of aesthetics, my obviously limited intelligence and my innate inability to perceive the obvious. Feel free to dismiss me as yet another dumb blonde if you’re into that kind of thing.

The truth is, I think it’s boring.

I’ve often wondered why The Dark Side of the Moon has never moved me in the least. After all, I gave Wish You Were Here a very positive review and will probably do the same for Animals if I ever get around to reviewing it. Overcoming my lassitude, I gave The Dark Side of the Moon the usual three-times-through, hoping to discover something I was missing or to find a phrase, a lick or a tiny bit of melody to stir my passions.

Nope. The needle didn’t move from the last reading. I still think it’s generally a boring piece of music. Occasionally it rises to the level of pleasant, and sometimes I can admire the technical aspects of the recording. I think one song is excellent, but in the end, I find The Dark Side of the Moon rather lifeless.

Allow the dumb blonde to explain.

Lyrics: With one exception, the lyrics never rise to the occasion. The language is more abstract rather than concrete, creating a huge distance between the listener and the writer. We don’t get the vivid lines we hear in Wish You Were Here or Animals (“You radiate cold shafts of broken glass”), but meaningless dribble in tortured syntax (“Long you live and high you fly/And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry”). There are way too many filler and cliché lines, like “Money, so they say, is the root of all evil today” and “The time is gone, the song is over/Thought I’d something more to say.” I didn’t like the fact that they ripped off Thoreau without giving credit (“Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way”). They make some decent points about the evils of the system, about the absurdity of war, about the emptiness of work in a modern society, but none have the emotional impact of songs by other artists (The Kinks, Jethro Tull, John Lennon, etc.) who dealt with the same subjects. To be fair, decent lyrics were not all that common in the progressive rock scene of the early 1970’s, as Yes and Genesis demonstrate so vividly with their often unintelligible gibberish (though “The Musical Box” by Genesis is superb). The one exception on The Dark Side of the Moon is “Brain Damage,” a song that thematically belongs on Wish You Were Here anyway. That’s a great fucking song.

Music: The instrumentals range from pure filler to annoying. “The Great Gig in the Sky” is the worst, and while I’ve read reviewers rave about Clare Torry’s wordless vocal that allegedly evokes the experience of facing death, I hear an over-the-top example of vocal excess that occasionally calls up memories of seagulls squawking in the skies over San Francisco (the other possibility is that Clare was a screamer, scratcher and biter who was getting fucked front and back during the recording session). Too much of the music relies upon the vague feel of major-seventh chords, which also encourages that dull, oscillating two-tone melody that dominates the album. In “Time,” David Gilmour’s energetic vocal doesn’t work with the lyrics, which describe living a dull life (he should have studied Ray Davies, who is a master at matching a character’s mood to music).  Pink Floyd also had a habit of extending the empty space between lyrical lines to the point of absurdity, and much of the length of the songs on The Dark Side of the Moon consists of unnecessary measures of nothingness. They used empty space much more effectively on “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” where the extra measures after the vocal lines communicate the seething anger of the narrator, a pattern of burst-catch breath-burst. If Pink Floyd had covered “She Loves You,” it would have gone on for ten and a half fucking minutes.

Minor Annoyances: I hate the sound effects. Fucking hate them. The ringing cash register, the bells and alarm clocks, the barely intelligible conversations—fucking hate them all. The transition between “Any Colour You Like” and  “Brain Damage” is clumsy. Nick Mason’s drum part on “Money” is far too busy, very surprising for a drummer who spends most his time working with consistently slow tempos. Maybe he was bored.

Pluses: I love David Gilmour’s voice, even when I don’t care for the songs he’s singing. His lead solos are always a highlight on any Pink Floyd record. Roger Waters does some very nice vocal work throughout the album, and the harmonization on the record is simple but effective. “Brain Damage” is brilliantly written and performed, and the laughter is chilling (the one sound effect I liked). Dick Parry plays the saxophone competently, if unremarkably.

In the end, The Dark Side of the Moon is not offensive like Exile on Main Street, another album everybody loves that this dumb blonde considers a turkey. It’s certainly better than Let It Be, a good half of The White Album and three-quarters of Abbey Road (nope, didn’t like Abbey Road either).

But it’s so . . . dull.

Okay, that’s enough. Little Miss Airhead needs her sleep, and thanks to The Dark Side of the Moon, I’m feeling pretty drowsy.

Nighty-night!

9 responses

  1. […] Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon […]

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  2. Well well well… you make some good points here that would almost certainly make you very unpopular with a whole load of people… the very same sort of people I’M unpopular with since I’m in total agreement about this being a pretty boring album, and yes, “Brain Damage” is great but one great song does not make a great album. This for me is when Pink Floyd ceased to be interesting since up till the release of this album, they were rather erratic in so many ways, yet their willingness to experiment made some of their stuff interesting. This album… there’s no faulting it’s production values and it’s technicalities – it still sounds impressive, but it’s so slick and “slick” does not go well with my ears. Way too overpolished for it’s own good. I view all Floyd’s work before and leading up to this album as a journey and this album was what they were aiming for all along. As I’ve often said, the journey is always more interesting than the actual destination and such is the case with Pink Floyd and this album.

    “The Great Gig In The Sky” for me is the aural equivalent of Chinese water torture. I detest it with a passion… just Torry screeching endlessly and aimlessly over a pompous boring piece of music that goes nowhere.

    I have to admit I think “Wish You Were Here” is an even more boring album… “Animals” is an anomaly since I don’t dislike it… has a harshness and energy about it not heard in a few years from the Floyd but after that, the band cease to exist. I love early Floyd – especially the Syd Barrett era. The first few albums without Barrett all have their moments but “Dark Side Of The Moon” is the moment the band went for total “perfection” and achieved it on technical levels, but musically… well… millions love it, but I’m willing to bet most of them smoke illegal substances. Let me put it this way… I went through a phase where I smoked funny things and I enjoyed this album under the influence. Stone cold sober? Forget it. I never want to listen to it again. I’d rather have a lobotomy.

    I guess we’re in a minority, hence my ranting opinions to show you’re not alone in thinking this album is as interesting as watching paint dry.

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    1. The gift of laughter you have given me more than compensates for the guilt I’ve been feeling once I learned that I published this review on Roger Waters’ birthday. I had no idea!

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  3. LMAO- It IS so dull! And completely devoid of any passion at all. Except now I have that wonderful image of Clare Torry in my mind- thank you for that 😉
    Bazzabab is right about the necessity of drugs to make this at all interesting, but then I’ve found the colour of my toenails interesting, too. And the bowl of fuzzy stuff at the back of the fridge.
    Prog rock was nearly always boring and the albums so very, very long. I was forced to go to to an early Genesis concert and got a terrifying cramp in my jaw from yawning.
    This was the beginning of the era of overplaying the shit out of anything at all popular. I must have heard ‘Money’ (and that irritating cash register noise) thousands of times at work, in the mall, in elevators and (the worst of all) in dentist’s offices. Give me Ray Davies swanning about the stage singing ‘Alcohol’ or David Johanssen singing ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’ live any day. Or Neil Young live in his late sixties burning through Keep on Rocking in the Free World with energy and passion. Artists like these really care, so many ‘musicians’ don’t.

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  4. I still think this one and Wish You Were Here should have swapped covers.

    But whilst “Wish” was audible perfection and maybe the most universally weight, and timeless conceptual acustic art ever to be banned on vinyl, fourdimensional in ever sence, this one, though first will always be second best and two dimensional to me.

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  5. Reblogged this on Random Thoughts and commented:
    Interesting points.

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  6. Matthew C. Stellato | Reply

    I am a Hugh Pink Floyd Fan and One of My Best Concerts of all time Was the Animals Show in Boston 1977, In which they played Animals and Wish You Where Here In their entirety, and played Encores Money and Us and them, and I have to agree with you I think it
    ‘s an ok, album yes kind of Boring with a few good Moments, I like Breath and My Favorite from the album is Any Color You Like it, Time is ok, However it Doesn’t Measure up to Animals, WYWH, The Wall, I think I may have owned the Cassette at one time, however it wasn’t an album I would go out of my way to put on, it’s got some good moments and paved the way for their Future success Because after the Experience of success they went on to write the future albums, Animals, WYWH, The Wall, and Meddle Are my Favorites

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    1. I love Animals! Definitely on my to-do list. I’ll have to revisit The Wall as well; I heard it at a bad time in my life and need to re-evaluate. Thanks so much for the comments!

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  7. “Time” was pretty deep stuff for me as a stoned college kid, but anybody by age 30 who possesses even a modicum of introspection should find the lyrics tedious and shallow. Is Roger trying to warn us or is he trying to talk us into slitting our wrists and having a soak in a warm tub? It’s emotionally vacant. I’d much rather visit the time theme via “High Hopes” on Division Bell. Both song begin with bells, but one is annoying while the other is hauntingly well done.

    Time is a relentless stalker, but at least we should have the sense to to put it to good use. In both songs, we can lament the decay of time, but at least on “High Hopes”, the regret is tempered by a worthwhile accounting for time spent and a day does not simply bring us “one day closer to death”.

    “The grass was greener
    The light was brighter
    The taste was sweeter
    The nights of wonder
    With friends surrounded
    The dawn mist glowing
    The water flowing
    The endless river
    Forever and ever”

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