Released 50 years ago this March, Pink Floyd’s game changing record remains one of the best selling albums of all time. It has been described as one of rock music’s most fully realised and successful concept albums, addressing themes of alienation and madness that are both universal and at the same time deeply embedded in the band’s history.
So we asked our writers to dim the lights, put the needle on the vinyl and take us, on two very different journeys, to The Dark Side of the Moon...
Nothing can prepare any of us for The Dark Side of the Moon.
Best played at four in the morning (though don’t try catching any sleep after) here is a labyrinth of epic musical proportions. Each of Pink Floyd’s tracks is a creature of the night – bending time, distorting your comprehension, and often leaving you anxious; for moments to end, and about what will follow. It’s completely unhinged, a whimsy that is haunting, charged and profound, often all at once – someone should write a movie scored solely by these monuments of melody.
For a guy who likes world-building, and songs that share a space whilst contrasting with each other, The Dark Side of the Moon is perfect. So rarely are albums (at least in my experience of the current scene) crafting a room, painting its every detail, and shutting the door once you’re in, to essentially say; ‘soak this all up and don’t forget it’. Think of this record like a gallery of mesmerising lands, which all starts with a surreal minute to whet your appetite; ‘Speak To Me’, in anticipation of the serene ‘Breathe’.
Ah, ‘Breathe’. I first heard this one at a party – someone who knew what they were doing put it on, the room was transfixed and I was so changed I think I had to go outside. ‘Breathe’ enchants, it’s as if everything stopped – but also plays like you’re driving down the most beautiful windy road. You’re waiting for a voice, but an extra mile/bar teases, enough for you to close your eyes. You’re truly immersed, and the eventual narrator, its tone unfazed, almost tired, strikes wonderfully against the track’s amounting madness. What a wicked first exhibit for this crazy gallery, a remedy for chaos if I ever heard one.
Commotion imbues in later songs on the album, a game-like spectacle looms large over ‘On the Run’, this a growing menace, especially once those helicopters start whirring and the evil laugh reveals itself. ‘Time’ is a journey too, a Spaghetti-Western-sounding cruise diving into a proper funk that lyrically dwells on existence. That this culminates in a reprise of ‘Breathe’ is the kinda thing I’m here for, yikes, and its sister ode, the war of soul, ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ is like a Donna Summer-Star Wars joint.
Little choices in the production, each a gem, pack the rest; a slice of life conversation ends ‘Money’, which fascinatingly melts into the moody, mourning ‘Us and Them’. Honestly, I’m beaming whilst writing this, I just love when an artist considers *transitions* between their pieces, and ‘Us and Them’ delights as it walks off to do its own thing - that tenor sax solo? Such is jazz, and ‘Any Colour You Like’ is no more well behaved.
I chuckle at the conundrum of when I introduce my eventual kids to The Dark Side of the Moon, or if I never do, and hope that they, like me, discover this absolute masterpiece via having to review the thing.
In all this, Pink Floyd has masterminded a classily confident frenzy, it’s electric, wistful… spellbinding. I urge you to listen.
I’ve listened to this album a lot over many weeks since saying yes to reviewing. My main takeaway is never listen to a concept album on Spotify when you’re too cheap to pay for premium. Still, the semi-regular interruption of adverts did at least let me know when one song was finishing and the next starting.
You’ve probably guessed already, but I’m not a fan. I love rock, so Pink Floyd’s been on my musical radar for a long time. I remember watching the video to ‘Another Brick in the Wall, Part Two’ on Top of the Pops as a kid. During my brief attempt at learning guitar, my friend would launch into exaggerated solos from their back catalogue instead of teaching me chords. I’d sit wondering whose round it was while other mates argued who’s the better guitarist – Syd Barrett or David Gilmour.
Their music, particularly The Dark Side of the Moon, is burnt into music lovers’ collective psyche. The band’s impact on music is undeniable.
Yes, this is one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved albums of all time. One that took the band to another level internationally and was responsible for rocketing record sales during the 1970s. It’s even been preserved in the US’ National Recording Registry for its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance.
It just left me feeling (un)comfortably numb.
It is ambitious, tackling themes including time, death, insanity, conflict, and grief. Partly inspired by former member Barrett’s failing mental health. The lyrics are mindful, particularly on ‘Time’ which was the standout track for me.
The musicianship is also on-point. Although everything felt like a big, freewheeling, directionless, musical jam at times. Quite at odds with The Dark Side of the Moon’s slavish production design and aims.
I’m not a fan of long instrumentals, particularly as an opening to a song. Thankfully, this album saw them move away from the extended instrumental detours taken during previous live shows and recordings. For me, there was still too much of what Gilmour would call “that psychedelic noodling stuff".
The 1970s were very much a time of experimentation but the whole prog rock thing has never interested me. So I was keen to get the chance to step out of my comfort zone. It’s one of the reasons I love writing for rrramble. But I still prefer my rock to be dirty, clumsy even. Shout in my face, don’t whisper in my ear.
It often felt that just as I was getting into a song, I was catapulted into the BBC Radiophonic Workshop midway through concocting something for Doctor Who.
I really could’ve done without the distracting bells and whistles. Or in this case monotonous metronome effects, loops, cross-fades, backwards piano, clinking coins, tearing paper, cash till, clocks, and supplementary discordant voices.
On the plus side, it’s made me want to re-watch Noah Hawley’s deconstructed supervillain FX series Legion. The score is deliberately similar in vibe to The Dark Side of the Moon as Hawley felt both were about mental illness at some level. Hell, one of the main characters is even called Syd Barrett. That’s the spread of the album’s influence.
I’m glad I finally dipped a toe into Pink Floyd’s world, but I won’t be doing a deep dive into their other work.