Heaven sent the promised land
Looks alright from where I stand
Cause I’m the man on the outside looking in
Waiting on the first step
Show where the key is kept
Point me down the right line because it’s time
To let me in from the cold
Turn my lead into gold
Cause there’s chill wind blowing in my soul
And I think I’m growing old
-Wot’s…Uh The Deal?
You know what I love about Pink Floyd? Not only did they dabble in soundtracks, and not only did those soundtracks turn out to be overlooked treasures, but they used the freedom from their regular studio time to completely reconfigure their sound. Waters discovering his aptness for folk songs on More set the pattern for most of the best work in Floyd’s prog phase, and with Obscured By Clouds the band sets the foundation for a bluesier, psychedelic sound that they would milk in the 70s, producing some of the biggest rock albums of all time.
It helps that the album itself is pretty bloody good. Cool atmospheric experiments with minimal filler? Alrightly then.
So let’s get obscured! The title track opens with an ambient drone that becomes semi-melodic with the addition of a couple layers, a drumbeat, and a guitar. The guitar itself has an drone-like tone to match. It’s a neat effect that sets a hypnotic mood.
“When You’re In” is much more guitar heavy, moving through a succession of samey but mostly satisfying riffs. A few organ parts keep it interesting enough. It takes an abnormally long time to fade out, which must be intentional but I’m not sure what the effect they were going for is.
“Burning Bridges” would fit quite snuggly on Dark Side of the Moon. The guitar and vocals are slow and bluesy, everything echoes like it’s being played in a zero-gravity stadium, and while it’s not explicitly psychedelic it has the hazy dreamlike mood that the genre is known for. It’s not as good on anything on Dark Side, but for a prototype the melody and sound are surprisingly polished. It could transcend it’s moderately enjoyable status with a few more layers of atmosphere.
“Gold It’s In The…” is less impressive, with timid singing against rough and energetic guitars. Pink Floyd was never high on skilled vocalists, and this is a case where they work against the song. The guitar work itself is decent, with some cool sounding licks and even some atmospheric touches. Gilmour was (infamously) about sound over energy, and he provides a decent showing here and elsewhere on the album.
“Wots…Uh The Deal”, apart from the fantabulous name, is often singled out as the strongest song on Obscured. It’s one of those folk rockers that Roger had nigh-perfected by this time, with a wonderfully comforting, soft tone in lyrics, vocals, and guitar. The sound is somewhat atypical of the album, but it’s gorgeous anyway, with a tender piano/guitar solo in the middle. The humility is instantly likable, and the execution comfortably adequate. I’ll throw it my vote on the extremely competitive “best song on Obscured By Clouds” poll.
“Mudmen” is a pleasant atmospheric piece that also sounds somewhat Dark Sideian with its guitar and organ. The guitar in particular has a jarringly high tone that contrasts the rest of the song well, giving it a fuller sound.
“Childhood’s End” has a beautifully minimalist and atmospheric intro, breaking into a study beat and some guitar that sounds uncannily like the guitar on “Money.” It’s not as atmospheric, but Gilmour has a nifty sounding solo, and the vocal melody, while very simple, flows nicely.
“Free Four” is a complete oddball, a bouncy pop song with hilariously unfitting menacing synth. It’s actually quite a lot of fun, with some infectious hand claps peppered throughout and an engagingly shallow melody. There’s also a guitar solo that sounds like it belongs in a different song, though it’s perfectly enjoyable anyway.
“Stay” is an uneventful attempt at a ballad that’s not thick enough to be lush and not thin enough to be humble. Nick Mason’s vocals drone through uninspired lyrics and occasionally sparkly piano playing, the latter of which saves the song from being a complete waste of time, but doesn’t prevent it from being the laziest, least interesting, and general lowlight of the album.
The closer “Absolutely Curtains” is another dull piece, though the chorus, organ and clashing synths make a somewhat interesting sonic experience. Unfortunately, it drags on through too much thin production to be engaging.
And that’s…nice. For a blueprint, it’s very nice. It’s not as polished, engaging, or interesting as Dark Side of the Moon, but it’s very consistent and never unpleasant, much like More, but less diverse (but hey, there’s no horrible rockers!). If you’re a fan of Dark Side, definitely pick this one up. The sound is enjoyable enough to raise it to deserving a status higher than “Pink Floyd completitionist phase.”
Music: 4/5 Not as atmospheric or immersive as I would like it, and the melodies are weak even by Floyd standards, but the sound is the main draw.
Thematic Content: 3/5 None of the lyrical themes are worth remarking on, but as an excuse for a few cool experiments, I can think of worse vehicles.
Lyricism: 2/5 Neither evocative, particularly resonant, or offensive.
Resonance: 3/5 There are moments when I felt like I was on a real sonic journey, but most of my enjoyment of this album is technical.
EXPERIENCE: Having a dream where everything is just a bit too hazy to be vividly dreamlike, only to have it revealed that this dream was actually a carefully orchestrated scientific experiment
FINAL RATING: 7/10. An enjoyable and sonically interesting listen, but not a particularly memorable or enrapturing one.