Rolling Stone has got it all wrong, or at least Christian Hoard got it wrong in his review of The Flaming Lips full-album cover of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.
If you read Hoard's review before continuing, understand that I'm not even going to address the part about the original Dark Side's "dull spots" because, honestly, it's preposterous - though it may explain where the rest of his review was coming from. Or starting out at.
I wasn't so sure about the idea of covering Dark Side, start to finish, and then releasing it as a studio album. I couldn't even come up with a reason and didn't reasonably expect it to be worth a second listen.
I limped through the album the first time; stopping and starting it, equally baffled and disgusted. The thing is, once I got through the whole thing I immediately scanned back through parts of it at random because I couldn't get a few squelches and screams out of my head. And I wasn't even sure I had heard "Money," despite knowing for sure that I'd seen the title on my iPod screen.
Since it was 3 a.m. when this happened, I waited until the morning to dig around for my copy of Floyd's Dark Side. When I found it, with the sun having been up for maybe 30 minutes, I put it on first. What I needed was to refresh my memory because despite how burned into my head that album is, I just don't listen to it that often any more.
As I listened to one of rock and roll's most carefully crafted albums it dawned on me that what I needed to do was stop comparing everything on the Lips version to the original and instead see it as an interpretation instead because the two are not the same thing.
The original album focuses on sanity, greed and wasting away. There's more going on there, because you've got to be able to see a lot more of Waters' and Gilmore's lives reflected in the lyrics. I started thinking about this after noticing what was not there in the remake of "Time"...
Floyd's lyrics: "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way."
Lips' lyrics: "Hanging on in quiet desperation... (big breath)."
That breath sounds collective to me. Like a country waiting, which I can't help but feel America has been doing since at least the middle of the last decade. The Flaming Lips can be a messy band, and since messy is the American way, I taking bigger leaps toward thought about this each time I've played the album.
There's a lot more going on in America as we enter the the second decade of the 21st century. The squelching noise and vocodered vocals of "Money" are the aural equivalent of greedy pigs obscuring their deeds; The dead sounds of this "Us and Them" is a culture war that hasn't moved because nobody realizes what is going on and doesn't really want to engage in it; Peaches' wailing on "Great Gig In The Sky" is exactly what you think it is; even the inherent menace and pound the Lips have given "Breathe" in place of the perfectly pitched jazziness of the original speaks to something strange between the shores of America.
Look, I could be ascribing my own Oz-like reading to the Lips remodeled Dark Side, but the more I listen to the album, the less it seems like a clever gimmick. The Flaming Lips have always loved a good gimmick, but I'm sorry, a mediocre cover of one of the most loved albums in the history of music doesn't work.
I get the theory that nobody wants to listen to an album over and over until they get it any more so I'm sure that most people, being disgusted by the attempt at a cover, haven't even made it all the way through the Flaming Lips version of this classic.
At some point I'll stop listening to the remake of Dark Side of the Moon and stick with the original if for no other reason than it is clearly a significantly better piece of music. I'm just saying it shouldn't be written off as a worthless bit of psychedelic wankery without being given a second, third or thirtieth thought.
(And no, I can't blame any of this on drugs. The only mind-altering substance I've had the pleasure of consuming is beer, because I know you're all wondering if I was off my ass on something when any part of the above hit me.)