I am very aware that it is a near pointless endeavour to review this album since it has already been dissected in every way possible. However, as someone who first heard The Dark Side of the Moon very recently while in my late teens, I can perhaps offer some insight into why this release still resonates so strongly with listeners, in particular young listeners, today.
It is no exaggeration to say that this album genuinely changed the way I listen to music; the first time I experienced The Dark Side of the Moon it was with over-the-ear headphones on and my eyes closed as I simply listened and tried to take in what I was hearing. I had never listened to an album that way before, and that fact alone is an attestation to the significant impact Pink Floyd’s eighth release had on me.
First, I must talk a little about the sound of this album. Throughout the disc Pink Floyd repeatedly create different atmospheres through their music; whether it’s the frantic desperation of “On the Run”, the chilling and foreboding keyboards on “Time”, or the haunting vocals that express meaning without words on “The Great Gig in the Sky”, the band use the sound of each song to evoke a different feeling in the listener. For me no song does this better than “Us and Them” as its soft, quite quiet beginning lulls you into a sense of comfort which is then shattered by the explosive chorus. The sudden change in volume and the almost harsh sounding wall of backing vocals on the chorus of this song perfectly mimic the unpredictable and violent nature of war.
Next, I want to mention the incredibly innovative use of sound effects on this record. The way that the ticking of clocks and the distinctive noise of a till are used to establish the rhythms of “Time” and “Money” respectively is something that I have never before heard in any other music. The sound effects are even more impressive when one considers that the band had to record all the noises on physical tapes and then manually splice pieces together to achieve the end result. Finally for the sonic side of the album, I want to pick out a few of my favourite aspects of the instrumentation. The baseline of “Money” is immediately recognisable to anyone who has heard the song, and there is no other song I can think of that is so driven by the bass guitar. The guitars sound crisp and clear all throughout, with a slightly jazzy edge to them, and that is refreshing given the number of chugging riffs and forgettable walls of guitar in some of today’s rock music. It should also be noted that saxophone solo in “Money” subtly foretells its use as a primary instrument in “Us and Them”, and the latter track stand out due to the saxophone replacing the guitar for the most part in terms of carrying the melody.
Now we come to the themes and lyrics of this album. Obviously everyone can read different meanings into lyrics, but I simply want to offer my interpretation of what The Dark Side of the Moon is about in order to determine why it is still so relevant and appeals to listeners of all ages even today. To me, this record is the experience of being human expressed through music. “Time” discusses our sense of mortality and fear of feeling when we die that we wasted our time alive.The transition from life to death is marked by the change in stanza structure at the end of the lyrics of the song, with the consistent four line verses becoming a six line final eulogy. “Money” seems especially appropriate with the rich getting richer and a mentality of thinking only of oneself growing. “Don’t give me that do goody good bullshit” could be the motto of some governments in power at the moment as they promise to “share it fairly” but don’t want anyone in need to “take a slice of [their] pie”. The verses of “Us and Them” are minimal in terms of lyrics before the chorus erupts into words, reflecting the sonic explosion I mentioned earlier. The lack of structure to the lyrics of “Brain Damage” possibly represents the disordered state of the narrator’s mind, with no separate stanzas and instead something resembling a stream of consciousness.
Overall I think this album has remained and always will remain so popular not only because of its musical mastery, but because it describes human emotions that everyone feels or encounters. The Dark Side of the Moon is beloved because it validates what people feel (“Don’t be afraid to care”), and acknowledges the failings of humans. The final lyrics of the album realise that “everything under the sun is in tune but the sun is eclipsed by the moon”. To me this is saying that the world could be perfect, but human shortcomings will always hold us back. In conclusion, everyone wants their emotions to be recognised, and that is what this album does.