Pink Floyd – A Saucerful of Secrets review

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Alright, here we are with our first album review! We are starting off with one of my favorite bands: Pink Floyd, but we shall not be doing one of the famous albums just yet. Everyone already knows about Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, and Wish You Were Here. Instead I wanted to do one of the lesser known albums, their second outing “A Saucerful of Secrets.”

Even among their early work, this album seems to be forgotten by a lot of people; overshadowed by the psychedelic blast of “Piper” and the overwhelmingly strange “Ummagumma.” The people that do seem to remember this album only seem to remember it because it’s the only album that both Syd Barrett and David Gilmour played on. This is a bit misleading. While both of them do play guitar on the album, they are only actually playing together on one song, and you would never have even realized it. That being said, I think this is one of the better non-70s Pink Floyd albums.

Saucerful retains much of the psychedelic rock sound the band crafted on their first album, but they also add in a very lavish, creepy, space rock sound to many of the songs. Songs such as “Let There Be More Light,” “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” and the title track really define what space rock sounds like to me. The way the band uses synths behind the guitars, pianos, and vocals to create an uneasy atmosphere gives the songs a character you don’t hear on many of their other releases. The vocals also add to the space on this album, as they are very soft on all songs but one, which I will get into later. For the most part, these are definitely moodier, darker songs than on their debut album.

The album’s first three songs flow very well and are probably my three favorites from the album. “Let There Be More Light” alternates back and forth between creepy, quiet verses and louder more eclectic choruses. “Remember a Day” treats us to some rarely heard Richard Wright vocal work over a blissful and playful piano. “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” is a very quiet and ambient track with soft vocals by Roger Waters. This is the only track in Pink Floyd’s entire discography that all five main members played on, but again there really isn’t anything in the song at all to indicate that. It’s still a very good song though.

Despite the fact that I actually quite like the fourth track, “Corporal Clegg” sticks out like a sore thumb and completely breaks the flow of the album. It is a much more upbeat song than the others and even contains an obnoxious kazoo part. I personally like the song and think it’s quite fun, but I know a lot of fans that disagree entirely, so take that how you will. After this, we get to the title track. This is an 11-minute instrumental song and it’s one of the first times we see Pink Floyd get very experimental. It goes through three main sections. The first is an extremely creepy and ambient synth build-up that is bound to give some children nightmares if heard at night. This then goes into a pounding drum pattern with dissonant piano banging and crazy synth explosions. The third part of the song slows back down for a very peaceful and beautiful resolution. It’s a cool song but definitely overstays its welcome quite a bit. There are far better versions of the song on their live albums but I certainly don’t think this one is bad.

The last two songs for me are a very unsatisfactory ending. “See-Saw” is another soft, playful song, but after the title track it almost puts me to sleep. Again, not a bad song, just not a great one. I’ve often heard people say the last song is their favorite from this album, but I actually don’t really care for “Jugband Blues.” This is the sendoff for Syd Barrett and the lyrics definitely reflect that, but musically I think the song is just a little too sporadic and ends too suddenly to leave much of a lasting impact, but I guess that is reflective of Syd Barrett’s time in Pink Floyd: very sporadic and ended dramatically, as he was officially kicked out during the making of this album. All in all though, it doesn’t feel like a great album closer, especially if you know nothing about Barrett.

Now this isn’t a bad album but it does have quite a few flaws. It doesn’t flow very well from front to back and some of the songs can drag on for a little too long. This album also came out around the time when bands were experimenting with hard stereo panning, so that can be very strange and off-putting as well. I would definitely still recommend you listen to the album if you’re into Pink Floyd or enjoy psychedelic rock music. At the very least this should be something unique that you probably haven’t heard before.

Rating: 73/100

Highlights: Let There Be More Light, Remember a Day, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

Lowlights: Jugband Blues

Album Reviews are Coming

So I think it’s been almost a year and half since I last posted to this blog. For anyone that actually reads these things I’m here to say that I’m going to be trying to do album reviews again. I had only done the one review previously (which I will be taking down) and then some song recommendations as well (which will be staying up), but now I want to really try to get going on this again, because I do really enjoy it.

There is going to be a format I use to choose albums to review. I don’t want to only be talking about new albums so I’ve concocted a system that will keep me listening to new music, as well as talking about ones I already know very well. I’m going to cycle off albums in sets of 3. The first album, being one that I’ve either never listened to, or have heard very few songs from. The second will be one that I’ve listened to before but may not have given much of a chance or I just have more to explore within the album. The third, will be an album that I know most of the ins and outs of the music. Now keep in mind, this is my plan for right now, but because I am impulsive and have a difficult time sticking to plans I don’t know if this is a formula I will stick to forever. For now it is what I intend to do.

Lastly, when I say the word “review,” I am using the term rather loosely. Yes, I will be giving each album a rating, talking about its strengths and weaknesses, and giving highlights and lowlights. But I don’t want it to be a super strict reviewing formula or process because to me, that takes away a lot of the fun of doing the reviews. They will be very informal. I will do my best to talk about why people may or may not like something objectively, but ultimately art is subjective. I will love things that other people think are crass, boring, or ridiculous. I may dislike something that is praised as a masterpiece (and trust me this will happen at least once or twice). If you do happen to read any of these, and want to give your opinion on the album, go ahead and leave a comment! Music discussion is the best discussion.

So all in all, I want to be helpful in opening people up to new music that I think is great, but I’m just one guy with an opinion. Don’t take anything tooooo seriously.

– Dk

Weekly Recommendation: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness + Tonight, Tonight – Smashing Pumpkins

This week I’m giving out a double recommendation (sort of)! I’m talking about the first two songs off of Smashing Pumpkins magnum opus Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Taken together, these two songs make up possibly my favorite intro to an album ever. The first song, titled Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, is a melodic piano piece that begins the album on a serene, beautiful, and sleep-inducing (in a good way) note. This segues into the second song (Tonight, Tonight), which picks up where the melody left off, adding the full band of guitars, bass, and drums, along with a powerful barrage of violins. These two songs are the perfect example of music being able to bring out deep emotions without needing words (although Tonight, Tonight, does have lyrics in it, the song would still be beautiful without them).

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is a very long album. It reaches over two hours long even on the shortest editions of it. It is an album that presents an epic journey and to start a journey like this you have to begin with something powerful, something that will make you want to listen for two hours. It is not an easy task. In my opinion, these first two songs make up the best part of the whole journey. The 2 1/2 minute title track intro is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. Needing no lyrics, or vocals at all for that matter, it evokes a feeling of longing, nostalgia, and peace. It may seem like a slow way to begin an album but it makes perfect sense when you hear the song that follows it up.

Tonight, Tonight was one of the many singles released in support of this album, and for good reason. This second song begins right where the first left off. The piano cuts out and the band and orchestra enter in full force. The different instruments seem to swirl around each other throughout the song, playing off of each other magnificently, but the true hero of this song is the orchestra, All throughout the song they provide a counter-melody to the vocals, often being so grand as to overtake the emotion in Billy Corgan’s voice. I’ve used the word “beautiful” too many times already but I’ll say it again because it’s the most accurate word. This song is truly beautiful.

While Corgan has never been known as a vocal virtuoso, his vocal performance on this song leaves a deep impression. The lyrics speak of an abusive childhood that he had to endure and the song is his older self telling him to believe in himself, knowing that he can make it through so he can live out the “indescribable moments of your life.” It’s an inspiring song, especially to those who suffer from a deep unhappiness or suffering. It is a song about holding onto what you love most and allowing yourself to persevere through the pain. Billy Corgan sells these emotions so well in his performance.

To open an album as epic as this, something powerful was needed, and these two songs make this the most emotionally powerful intro to an album I have ever heard. It is so good, in fact, that the rest of the album is spent trying to reach this level of power for almost 2 hours. Some would argue that there are better songs on the album, but none of them left their mark on me as much as this did. This is my go-to album when I lay down in bed to sleep. These two songs are calming, yet exhilarating in a way that is very rarely heard in music. These two songs, on their own, sparked my interest in Smashing Pumpkins and Billy Corgan’s genius.

Weekly Recommendation: New Born – Muse

For this week’s recommendation I’m going with one of the band’s that really showed me the scope of what music could be. They are probably my biggest musical inspiration and are most certainly the band that helped me improve my guitar playing from simple 3-chord punk songs into something much more. They are Muse. This song, New Born, the opening track on their second album Origin of Symmetry, is one of the key songs that got me into Muse. I was originally going to review Knights of Cydonia, but I chose New Born instead because it is probably the song that has more nostalgic power over me. So let’s get into it.

The lyrics throughout the song speak of a future in which technology has advanced past humans and the body is no longer needed. Our brains are connected to a central system like a mechanical hive mind, as seen in the opening lyrics. As such human emotion becomes obsolete and we ourselves begin to metaphorically become machines.

The intro starts off with a mellow and mysterious keyboard part with Matt singing softly over the top. As soon as the progression ends there is a break that builds tension very quickly. This tension is broken by a piercing and heavy guitar riff based around the circle of fifths (for music geeks out there) and from here the song really begins to take off. The tempo picks up, the drums and bass are added in, and the song becomes more frenetic.

The verses kick in with the bass leading the charge in the instrumentation, and the vocals repeat the melody from the intro but it is sung with with much more fervor. From here on, Matt really shows off his signature vocal vibrato and falsetto. The solo section is a very fast tremelo picked part that closely resembles the keyboard from the intro. From there is another verse and chorus with Matt reaching up for a powerful E5 in falsetto. The signature guitar riff from early plays multiple more times to end out the song with a short and eery vocal outro by Matt.

New Born is one of those songs that will surprise you the first time you listen to it. At first glance it sounds like a dark piano piece, similar to a song like Sunburn off of the first album, but as soon as that guitar riff hits you are knocked out of your seat. That may be one of my favorite moments in music just because of the stark difference in tone and how cool that guitar riff really is. This is one of my personal favorite Muse songs and it’s a doorway into Muse’s ability to blend alternative rock with space rock, heavy metal, and progressive music. This is a song that shows how Muse are no strangers to experimentation.

Weekly Recommendation: The Crowing – Coheed and Cambria

Firstly, I know I’m not being very diligent about making this a WEEKLY recommendation, but oh well. I’m sorry if I’ve hurt your feelings. I’d like to say that I don’t have time to make one every week, but that’s simply not true. I’m just lazy and forgetful. I’m trying my best to remember and I hope it gets better but don’t hold out hope for me. Now onto the song.

This is quite possibly Coheed and Cambria’s most progressive and technical song. It’s 6:36 and it goes through so many drastic changes in mood, emotion, key, time, and is one of their great masterpieces. It is the fifth song off of arguably their greatest album titled In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3. I don’t even really know where to start with this song.

In terms of how this song fits into the over-arching story of Coheed’s albums, I can’t tell you too much. I’ve never been a master at learning the story behind the songs but I am pretty sure, this is the song where the main character, Claudio (also the lead singer’s name) finds out his destiny. He is the fated “Crowing”, the one who will both destroy and bring peace to the universe. This is also when Ambelina, a Prise (which is an angel of sorts), is sent to help Claudio but must first have her wings burned off. This is one of their most emotional songs, with Claudio dealing with the world-saving responsibilities that have been laid on him. Some of the most well-crafted lyrics in the band’s history are on this song.

Where this song really shines is in the music behind the vocals. In my opinion, this is the greatest example of the two guitarists carefully crafting their parts to complement each other. One is entirely rhythm based, yet has overwhelmingly complicated sections at times, while the other plays beautiful melodies over the top. The interesting thing about these melodies is they don’t a “lead guitar” kind of role in that they are the main focus of the music. They are meant to complement the lower rhythm parts and that’s what makes them so beautiful.

Alright, this is where the music geek in me really comes out (meaning technical terms and music theory talk). The technical complexity definitely shows itself in the middle section of the song. Until now the song had alternated between 6/8 and 4/4 time, both common time signatures. After going through a very aggressive section with unfathomably fast guitar licks thrown in, it goes into an alternating 6/8, 7/8 section. That’s already a little strange. But to add to that, the guitars are playing 32nd notes in and out of these oddly timed sections. To those of you who still think that doesn’t sound too crazy just listen to the guitars around the 3:15 mark. How you come up with these kinds of things I’m not quite sure but it sounds awesome.

Coheed and Cambria are known for having a lot of progressive rock elements in their music and this song puts them on full display. This song has a wide dynamic range going from extremely heavy and aggressive bouts of rage, to the soft, calm, and quiet sections of inner questioning. The song seamlessly goes from deliberating, to compassionate, to angry, fearful, longing, while resolving at a place of bitter determination. It is truly a Coheed and Cambria classic.

Weekly Recommendation: Closer – Nine Inch Nails

For the first song review on this blog I’m going to do a song that is one of the most vulgar, controversial, and shocking songs popular music has ever had to offer. It also happens to be one of my favorite songs. Closer is the fifth song on Nine Inch Nails’ monumental second album The Downward Spiral. The song was one of their most popular songs ever released and still receives radio airplay today, despite it’s subject matter and vulgarity. The lyrics are graphic and on the surface seem to serve no further purpose than of a primal and lustful need for sexual control, as seen in it’s infamous chorus line, “I wanna fuck you like an animal.” For people not acquainted with Nine Inch Nails (or darker music in general) it’s easy to write this song off as being nothing more than unnecessary, offensive, and sexist, but if you dig deeper into the lyrics, as well as understand the concept of the album as a whole, it speaks to something with much more depth. The Downward Spiral is a concept album about a man who strips away all facets of humanity as he deals with drug abuse, depression, hints of split personality disorder, and a general dissatisfaction for the world and himself. Closer’s lyrics tell of a man who no longer finds joy or even meaning in his life (as well as the lives around him) and finds a small solace giving into raw sexual desire, “Help me get away from myself.” The music behind the lyrics is based around a downtempo bass line that plays throughout the majority of the song. This bass line in and of itself has a very dirty feel to it, giving the song a bigger sense of sexiness and lust. Around this bass line, layers of synthesizers, guitars, and drum patterns are added as the song goes on. After the 2nd chorus the song continues on as a (mostly) instrumental track with all these layers of instrumentation piling up but never diverting from the original feel of the bass line. The song ends as all but a piano cuts out as it plays a dark melody to fade into the next song on the album. One of the defining moments of this song, in my opinion, is one that is barely talked about because it’s barely noticed. During the long instrumental section there are actually some more lyrics set very far back in the mix. If you wanted a key reason as to why this is more than a grotesque song for pessimistic people to have sex to, these final lyrics are that reason. This is the narrator holding onto life by a strand with the final words being, “You are the reason I stay alive.” He’s doing whatever he can to feel something after giving in to his apathy in the previous songs. If that’s not deep then I don’t know what is. I normally am someone who picks the lesser known songs from a band as favorites, but this song is too good, too powerful, and too groovy (yes groovy) for me to say it’s not one of my favorite songs Trent Reznor has ever recorded. It’s a song that certainly will not appeal to everyone, but to those willing to let a lot of darkness into the music they listen to it’s an experience like no other. Instrumentation that mixes both real and digital instruments layered on top of each other, a non-linear songwriting style and structure, and lyrics that have been dragged through the mud. This song, more than any other in their discography, sums up what Nine Inch Nails is.

New Blog About Music

Hey guys. So I’ve decided I want to start another blog that’s separate from the one I use to talk about the band. I’ve always been a highly critical person, especially when it comes to music. So I decided the best way for me to talk about certain things in an honest and unrestrictive way would be a blog. It’s a place where I will give my often harsh opinions (remember that it’s just an opinion) on things. You will probably not agree with everything I have to say. You will probably not agree with all of my musical philosophies. I might rip some of your favorite songs, artists, albums, genres, or whatever. I’m not going to hold anything back when talking about how I feel about a topic. Please try not to hate me if I say something you don’t agree with. If it bothers you the much you don’t have to read these.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way I’ll talk about the schedule. Every Saturday or Sunday I will give a brief review of a song I’ve been listening to a lot or taken interest in. Or it might be a review of a song I heard that I can’t stand. Other posts will not come in any kind of consistent schedule. If I want to address a certain topic at any given moment I might post it. There probably won’t be much consistency as to when they come out, at least not yet.

So yeah that’s about it. I’m mostly doing this for me, but if you guys want to read it as well you’re more than welcome to. Maybe you’ll get turned onto some new music. You’re also welcome to comment your thoughts on a given topic as well. I may be stubborn in my opinions but I do like hearing other people’s to give me a different perspective. Alright, first song review should be coming out in the next few days.