September 9th, 2000

Dark Side Of The Moon

Having weathered its own prolonged dark side of unfashionability, it’s back! A┬árecent poll of critics/fans/musicians etc voted Dark Side Of The Moon ninth greatest album ever made. It is, once more, Important Listening.

Its been rehabilitiated in the slipstream of Radiohead, whose own game struggles to keep up a straight-faced posture of grandiose disgust, marginalisation, despair, isolation and anti-materialism in the face of an unremitting shower of admiration, thronging adulation, corporate accomodation and truckloads of money have so impressed us all. (“Look – just shoo. Go away. We’re trying to look anguished”). Their debt in this respect to Floyd is acknowledged. The Dark Side . . . remains, however, what it always was – an immaculately honed, strenuously produced, consistently textured, fastidiously polished turd.

In their earliest years, Pink Floyd were fine exponents of cracked English psychedelia, with Roger Waters, Rick Wright and Nick Mason lending colour to the fragile LSD meanderings of Syd Barrett. When Barrett went under, they continued in a spaced-out and musically exploratory vein best showcased on Ummagumma. However, with 1973’s Dark Side Of The Moon, conceptualist Roger Waters decided it was time for the Floyd sound to come into ” focus”. Careful with that axe, Gilmour – keep that organ down to an insipid drone, Rick. Muffle those drums, Nick. Roger is about to make a Major Musical Statement.

“Breathe” sets the musical tone. Bland, wan, grandiloquent washes of guitar ebb and flow like windscreen fluid from one speaker to the other, the height of Seventies stereo sophistication. From his lofty eyrie of superior existential awareness, Waters surveys the scrabbling rat race of humanity pityingly. “Run, rabbit run/Dig that hole, forget the sun/And when at last the work is done/Don’t sit down it’s time to start another one.” Yes, pathetic, aren’t we? Listen, you overprivileged, horsefaced oaf, some of us need to scratch around in proper day jobs for a living, much as we’d love to muse idly in some luxury studio on the silly futility of it all. “Time” considers a vexed question that has preoccupied the sort of elderly, housebound ladies who, when TV newscasters bid them a good night, reply “goodnight” to the screen – to wit, “eee, where does the time go?” Ingeniously prefaced by a cacophony of chiming clocks (to denote time, you see. It’s symbolism), Waters observes, to those to whom it had never occurred, that each passing day sees us getting “older/Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.” as some backing vocalist shrieks cod-gospel amens of assent in the background, before Gilmour unleashes a lengthy, stupendously uninspired guitar solo in order to aid our mental digestion of Roger’s thoughts on time.

Ironically, time doesn’t seem to pass half so quickly as you’d wish to on Rick Wright’s “The Great Gig In The Sky”, a stupefyingly dull instrumental featuring Clare Torry screaming incoherently in the background as if her sequin dress has caught fire.

Next comes “Money”. Another ingenious intro – the sound of cash tills ringing (money, you see).

The same idea was used for the theme of Are You Being Served, an indication that brilliant artistic minds think alike. Here, Waters waxes caustic on the acquisitive mentality. “Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash,” he jeers. Money is not important to rock heroes like Waters, you understand. This may, however, because the is wallowing in such an obscene abundance of it. This song is less a call to redistribute wealth – Floyd certainly never redistributed theirs – more a sneer at those pitiful vulgarians who are obsessed with the stuff. Half-impoverished bods like us, for instance. Arsehole.

Waters continues his downer on “Us And Them”, an instructive reminder of the folly that led to World War 1, a more showily ruminative take on Boy George’s “War is stupid and people are stupid” line. “Brain Damage” ponderously ponders the question of who is really insane, the “lunatics” or Society? (Answer: The lunatics, Roger. That’s why, unlike Society, they talk excitedly to pigeons) before “Eclipse” ends an a note of the airiest lyrical waffle since George Harrison’s heyday.

Dark Side . . . is intended as a reproach to materialist society – ironically, it would become a key acquisition among the new Seventies shagpile bourgeoisie. In its “revolutionary” sound, a melange as translucent, textured, rich and tasteless as pork pie jelly, they perceived a product of Quality and Distinction, a chance to show off their hi-fis, while Waters’ mediocre and impotent hand-wringing only enhanced the recording, indicating that this was music for the thinking man, not mere irreflective pop dross. Decades on, it should be lampooned alongside loon pants, David Cassidy and Cadbury’s Smash, not revered. Yorke, you chicken-faced misery, this is all your fault.

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