Dec 21, 2006

Album Review: Nick Drake - Pink Moon

Island Records, 1972

Drake was a British singer-songwriter whose work is often lumped in the category of "folk," but which defies simple characterizations. He battled depression most of his adult life, and died in 1974 of an overdose of the antidepressant amitriptyline.

Pink Moon highlights Drake at his finest, and is a record featuring only Drake's voice, guitar, and the occasional piano overdub. This was the last complete record released before his death, and the songs are dark, bordering on the dirge-like. Little hope can be heard in Drake's subdued voice, and speculation among some devotees is that this was a sort of audio suicide note, albeit composed two years before his death at age 26.

His work as a guitarist is often overlooked by casual fans, and Drake used some unusual tunings that give his songs a unique feel. The songs "Which Will" and "Ride" feature a C-G-C-F-C-E tuning that is so impossibly low that your speakers will rattle, and he made frequent use of the capo to raise some of these tunings to keys not normally visited by most pop stars. "Parasite" features an A-string that is almost, but not quite, in tune, and the slight dissonance adds an eerie touch to an already-disturbing song.

Drake's lyrical tendency toward introspective songs turns fully inward on this album, and it is clear that this is the voice of a person hanging - just barely - onto his last threads of hope. One hears not just the pain of human misery, but the sound of a person singing from beyond the edge of sanity. The four-line song "Know" is exemplary of the deep abyss into which Drake was falling:
Know that I love you
Know I don't care
Know that I see you
Know I'm not there.
Beautiful melodies, exquisite instrumentation, and haunting lyrics are the stuff of Nick Drake, and all are in abundance on Pink Moon. For those who enjoy happy, easy-to-digest corporate pop music, this is not your record. For those able to handle the harsh realities of listening to a life about to end, Pink Moon offers an aural trip that is sublime, forlorn, and unforgettable.


Anonymous said...

I love this album. Thanks for the reminder!

microdot said...

Music from my past which I misplaced and now have found.