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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Nick Drake -- Pink Moon

 photo 220px-NickDrakePinkMoon_zpssiunel4p.jpg

There are times that I see an underwhelming album labeled a "masterpiece" and have to shake my head. Merriweather Post Pavillion the best album of 2009? Who is heralding Animal Collective now? To Pimp a Butterfly? Call me in ten years when all your cheerleaders realize how vacuous you are.
This is not an entirely new phenomenon, and I am not alone in my sentiments. There's a reason books like Kill Your Idols exists (NOTE: I have never read Kill Your Idols). Plenty of albums regarded as classics that one is just supposed to consider great because they are, aren't really the greatest. Music is entirely subjective, so everything considered "the greatest" should be only so for audiences of one.With all that blathered, I do not think Pink Moon is a perfect album, nor Nick Drake's finest.
Drake recorded Pink Moon over the course of two nights, he and the engineer the only souls in the studio. After the overly busy musical accompaniment on Drake's previous album, Bryter Layter, Drake wisely makes the decision to pare back Pink Moon's musical arrangements. However, instead of just paring back the instrumentation to Five Leaves Left levels (his first album), Drake cuts everything away from Pink Moon but the bones. This album is twenty-eight minutes and 22-seconds of nothing but Nick Drake's solitary voice and acoustic guitar, with one piano line popping up in the middle of the first track. That's it.
While the critics of 1972 had little love for Pink Moon, many of today's consider it a masterpiece. I think it is very special, but I do not think it is a masterpiece.
Pink Moon is special because Drake's shy singing and singular, warm guitar-playing are inescapable here. There is nothing else to distract one's ears. The listener is forced to focus on nothing but Drake's playing and his voice, as it sings his mysterious and mostly melancholic lyrics. Generally, the timid singing would contrast with the comforts of Drake's easy, yet streaming and sophisticated guitar-playing style, which is the charm of much of Drake's music. On Pink Moon, though, there are moments where even the guitar-playing is more harsh and minimalist, like the repeating five-note tap of "Know." This helps to create a new contrasting experience this is both insular and alienating.
The last words of Five Leaves Left promise a Sunday ruined by rain, but there's still a certain comfort in the song, like everything will be okay anyway. I find no comfort in Pink Moon's ending, and feel only a peculiar coldness. Maybe it's the repetitive, monotonous tone of the album (rumor has it that the album cover is a surreal painting instead of a photo of Drake because the only expression Drake was capable of at the time was morose): it slowly grinds me beneath Nick's guitar strings.
And yet, I do love this album. I've listened to it countless times, yet I never get what I want from it.
Drake suffered from major depression, and I can relate, but Drake killed himself at age 26, two years after this album was released, by overdosing on anti-depressants.
I'm 34 and still here. I want some re-assuring feeling from my music that it is okay to go on, and Pink Moon doesn't offer that in the least, only this:
Pink Moon gonna get ye all.

1972 Island
1. Pink Moon 2:06
2. Place to Be 2:43
3. Road 2:02
4. Which Will 2:58
5. Horn 1:23
6. Things Behind the Sun 3:57
7. Know 2:26
8. Parasite 3:36
9. Free Ride 3:06
10. Harvest Breed 1:37
11. From the Morning 2:30

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