|By Matt Jones||Sunday, 10 May 2009|
“Good-Evil; The Soundtrack” is a weekly feature that showcases an editor’s song pick complete with a small write-up and a YouTube video or streaming version of the song. This week’s selection by Skip is “Pink Floyd – Dogs”.
Pink Floyd – Dogs (Part 1)
Pink Floyd – Dogs (Part 2)
Pink Floyd’s “Dogs” is a song of contradictions. It is a song that is epic in length, yet incisive in scope. A song that paints a picture of a sad, desperate businessman, yet uses such vibrant colors along the way it is hard to avoid being sucked into the experience. And, more personally, it is a song that musically represents some of my deepest yearnings while lyrically reflects the shallow, cold person I wish to never become. It is the best of what I could dream to become, and the worst that I could envision becoming.
It is kind of indicative of the back and forth relationship of the two writers and forces behind this song, David Gilmour and Roger Waters. Not only do these two share writing credits on this song, but they both share vocal duties as well, Gilmour starting and Waters completing separated by a long, atmospheric instrumental section, highlighted by Richard Wright’s synthesizer coming to life, along with an electronic dog bark. Gilmour’s opening verses move sound like a hopeful soul learning the ropes and then becoming more grim and dark as they progress. By the time Waters takes over, the lyrics have become paranoid and cynical, finally culminating in a bleak look back at one’s life, a spirit broken by society. While listening to the song, one can almost feel as though Gilmour’s influence played a big part on the musical aspect while Waters made his impact lyrically, as would be supported by the themes of the following two songs, written entirely by Waters.
This rift in musical tone and lyrical concept is what continues to draw me back to this song over and over again. There are so many wonderful parts to the music that it is hard to contain them all. The beautiful acoustic guitar that follows through the first two verses eases the listener into the song. Gilmour’s guitar solos in between the first verse rocks out with wild abandon and high energy. The dual harmonizing guitar section, with the far off wailing echo, sounds like two people calling to each other in the darkness. Gilmour’s second solo brings the energy from the first solo and slows it down, making it more somber, as though maturity is setting in to the “life” of the song. Dreams are being slowly squashed in the “harvest that you have sown”. And the amazing instrumental section, with its muffled, electronic howls and barks to go along with the synthesizers create an atmosphere of someone wandering through life, not sure of their path. And as the dual harmony returns for a curtain call, the song then takes a dramatically dark tone, as the drums and bass/guitar combo build to a thrilling climax. This song was seventeen minutes of so many twists and turns, it is hard to not call the scope of the music epic. It draws me in, makes me both joyful and sorrowful, and is something awe-inspiring to me.
While the music inspires me, the lyrics repulse me, because I fear of becoming the very person they describe. Even during the brighter spots, there are tendencies I would hate to see myself fall victim to enacting, like being able to “pick out the easy meat”, “work(ing) on points for style”, and “put(ing) the knife in” the backs of the “people that you lie to.” I fear becoming the embittered man who believes “everyone’s expendable and no one has a real friend.” And mostly, I don’t want to be the person “ground down in the end”, “only a stranger at home”, and “dragged down by the stone”. The song is intended to characterize businessmen as “dogs”, and being that I am a businessman, it forces me to examine my life and actions again. I want to be a great person, have a loving family, and live a rich, fulfilling life. With this song as a reminder, I try to avoid falling victim to the business world and becoming that which I would not want to be.
One of Pink Floyd’s underappreciated masterpieces, “Dogs” is the perfect parable for me to enjoy over and over (I’ve literally listened to this 17 minute song over twenty times simply while writing this article!) as it packages the dark tale of a “dog” in such a wondrous musical framework. I would choose to listen to it over anything from Pink Floyd’s rather extensive catalog, as I think it is their crown achievement. It is a journey worth taking and one that is always worth remembering.