Dub Side of the Moon, by Easy Star All-Stars
Suggested by Andy Scott-Morrissey
Being honest, before reviewing this album, I had no idea what Dub actually was.
I thought it was something to do with DJing, perhaps spinning and scratching the tracks to create the evocative wuh-wuh-wuh-wacky sound. In a certain sense, I was actually correct, although my thought process makes me sound old and I was still quite wide of the mark.
Dub music, according to Mr Google, is a genre of Electronic music that grew out of Reggae music in the mid Sixties. It involves samples and remixes and extensive reshaping of the original form. Immediately, my hackles are up. Reggae? No thank you, sir. If I can only muster a 5/10 for Legend by Bob Marley, then I’m unlikely to rate an album of frankly baffling bongo-buggered Pink Floyd fanfic.
But I’m nothing if not adventurous, as this project indicates. This is not my first dance with Pink Floyd Lite, as The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing The Dark Side of the Moon did a far less satisfying and less meaty version. Quark Side of the Moon, if you will.
The Reggae collective behind this project, Easy Star All-Stars, have a gimmick: take a classic album and apply a glossy coat of Reggae paint. Aside from this, they’ve tackled Radiohead’s OK Computer (Radiodread), Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band), and Michael Jackson’s Thriller (Easy Star’s Thrillah). Oh, and Dub Side of the Moon again (Dubber Side of the Moon), for those who like a bit more bass in their face.
At the point I heard TFLASAWDWHRAPDDSOTM, I hadn’t heard the original Dark Side of the Moon. That was rectified in Album 217, which I rated a stellar 9/10. While I wasn’t keen on the opening tracks, it settled into itself in spectacular fashion. My standout then is my standout now, the incredible Brain Damage. This makes it three for three standouts for this song, as it took the slot on TFLASAWDWHRAPDDSOTM. The Dub Side version is pure reggae with a sweet echoed vocal, accompanied by bizarre primary school percussive instruments.
Another song of note are Money, which starts with what’s clearly a bong and some weed-based coughing, which doesn’t work for me in the slightest. However, when the song kicks in properly it’s a decent enough version with enough intrigue to make it stand apart from the original. The Great Gig in the Sky is another point of interest, as you’d expect with the original being so iconic. This time, the wailing and soaring female vocals do not hit home, as they are criminally underproduced and eclipsed by the reggae backing. And on the subject of Eclipse, while the original is paired back and beautiful, here it seems garbled and pointless.
I didn’t gel with Dub Side of the Moon. It gets 5/10, a full four below the original but a mark above TFLASAWDWHRAPDDSOTM. As with that album, all the Easy Star All-Stars have managed to do is remind me that the original is incredible. I’m all for adaptive and creative cover version in theory, and there are no sacred cows, but in practice? If you step up to bonefide legends, you’d better bring the minerals, or you’ll be found wanting every damn time.