The sound of the incarnation of Pink Floyd depicted on this album is only vaguely reminiscent of their later work at most. This is nearly completely due to the fact that Syd Barrett rather than Roger Waters helmed this project, shortly before his inevitable drug induced creative collapse.
Thus rather than experimenting with intricate sonic textures the Pink Floyd of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn are more concerned with pioneering the psychedelic movement, be it through the medium of astral workouts like Astronomy Domine and the massively revolutionary instrumental Interstellar Overdrive or chimerical fancies as in tracks like The Gnome and Scarecrow.
The album is almost fully Barrett's vision, with Waters only composing a single song, Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk, a rather inauspicious songwriting debut for one of the pivotal figures in rock and roll history. Nearly everything else is derived from the eccentric genius of Barrett, resulting in a vibrant and imaginative soundscape.
Barrett's songwriting is extremely strong on this album, filling his phantasmagorical musings with a plethora of creative hooks. From the hyper catchy rock of Lucifer Sam to the riff driven sound collage Interstellar Overdrive which mimics the sounds of a journey through space, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is a testament to the crazed brilliance of Barrett, who even manages to transfigure the 24th chapter of Yi-Jing (the Chinese sacred book of divination) into an entertaining song.
At the time of its release there was absolutely nothing in the realm of rock that sounded anything like this album. Barrett launches the band into myriad aural gambits that all eventually pay of, with even the most bizarre tracks (like the jazz/sound collage fusion Pow R. Toc H.) feeling fresh and inspired.
Even with all this psychedelic sonic exploration the album never sounds like weirdness for the sake of weirdness, as no matter how strange a track is it will inevitably prove to be a fully developed, well written song.
Ultimately The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn provides a fascinating journey into the mind of Syd Barrett, containing all the tremendous creativity and quixotic innocence found therein. Both revolutionary and brilliant, the album is a true psychedelic masterpiece, an album that despite being highly influential truly doesn't sound like any album from before or after its release. With strong songwriting married to boundless creative energy and imagination, the album is a hugely entertaining experience that still doesn't sound the least bit dated.
Subsequent to The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn Barrett's mental deterioration continued unabated until it reached the point where he was sabotaging the band's work, both on stage and in the studio. Accordingly the band was forced to replace him with guitarist Dave Gilmour, thus forming the lineup that would carry Pink Floyd through most of the rest of their existence.
Lacking their primary creative force the band was compelled to basically restart from square one, electing which elements of their prior work to retain and which to discard. With the childish, whimsical tunes such as The Gnome and Matilda Mother falling squarely in Barrett's territory, the group opted to rely more on the astral end of their psychedelic spectrum, with Waters tracks such as Let There Be More Light and Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun and the ensemble collaboration of the epic title track.
Waters hadn't yet assumed his tyrannical domination of the band, resulting in two tracks penned by Wright; both are rather light fare, perfectly pleasant if ultimately unexceptional. Prior to his expulsion from the group Barrett contributed one last offering for the album, which sadly enough wasn't one final gasp of brilliance but instead the rather forgettable Jugband Blues.
In addition to the two astral symphonies he composed, Waters also contributed the jokey anti-war anthem Corporal Clegg, a rather amusing track featuring exaggerated vocals and kazoo solos.
The meat of the album, however, is in the album's astral, psychedelic songs, which are quite strong if somewhat weaker than their predecessor Interstellar Overdrive. There had been much more to the band than songs of this nature, but given the crisis that had befallen the group and their lack of clarity over their future these tracks are certainly more than adequate, quite enjoyable if utterly bereft of any sort of progression. They don't quite capture the spirit of Barrett's astral works, but as far as imitations go they're more than competent.
In all A Saucerful Of Secrets is definitely a solid offering, the best the band could come up with given their predicament. The space sagas are enjoyable and quite cutting edge for their epoch, while Wright's contributions help infuse a degree of diversity into the proceedings. The group was relying too much on their old identity, one which had undeniably been irrevocably lost to them, and thus lacked their own voice; this, however, would be rectified in the future, and it's understandable that the band would try to recreate their old sound rather than immediately assume a new direction on such short notice.
For Pink Floyd's first outing that's wholly devoid of Syd Barrett's presence, the band composed the soundtrack to an obscure film about drug addiction entitled More. This was likely a good move for the band, as it gave them a chance to experiment with their musical identity while still bound to a specific framework that would prevent them from going too far awry.
The album indeed sounds nothing like its two predecessors, with a large part of the soundtrack consisting of music of a more conventional nature. Thus the bulk of Waters' contributions to the album are pretty acoustic ballads, a form that Waters proves to have a real knack for, particularly the dark beauty of Cymbaline, the best track on the album.
Unfortunately, not all the stylistic exercises the band embarked upon turned out well, as the band's misguided attempts to rock, The Nile Song and Ibiza Bar, are pedestrian at best, displaying no natural aptitude for music of that particular variety.
Elsewhere the band reverts to their more experimental tendencies, which work rather well in the cosmic jam entitled Main Theme, but fare less well in the tedious sound collage Quicksilver.
While the band still seems a bit muddled with regards to which direction they're headed in, it's a good sign that the group begins to emerge from Barrett's shadow, ironically enough taking risks by performing material that's much less fundamentally risky than their prior work.
While the album is rather lightweight fare in the long run, it's a highly significant step in the band's evolution, depicting their search for their own unique voice. The group proves that they can handle more traditional material and that their expertise isn't limited to hyper-ambitious astral suites. Perhaps most importantly of all, Waters begins to truly progress as a songwriter, and while they're like nothing else in the group's canon his acoustic numbers are both charming and highly well written, betraying his innate skill when it comes to crafting strong melodies.
Thus More is a fascinating listen for fans of the group, portraying their early gambits when it came to music, and while they'd sometimes fail (the group's highly questionable metamorphosis into a hard rock outfit) more often than not they'd prove successful (Waters' acoustic ballads and several of the more accomplished instrumentals). Ergo More isn't merely valuable as a historical artifact from the group's early stages of development, but is also a solid, well written album in its own right, an experience that can be enjoyed independent of its greater context within the group's discography.
Ummagumma is easily the band's most artistically ambitious album to this point though, as is inevitably the case, its experimental nature lends it a rather erratic character. Like Cream's Wheels Of Fire, the content of Ummagumma is bifurcated onto two discs, one live and one studio.
In accordance with the experimental tendencies on the album, Ummagumma contains a lot of diversity amongst its tracks, with material ranging from astral jams to acoustic balladry to mock classical workouts to avant-garde noisemaking. Unfortunately some of these areas fare better than others, as the band attempts to discover its strengths and limitations.
The live disc is nearly flawless, containing an excellent rendition of Astronomy Domine and brilliant versions of Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun and A Saucerful Of Secrets that manage to surpass their originals.
The live disc also contains one new track, the harrowing Careful With That Axe, Eugene, a number that begins with ominous minimalism as the tension slowly escalates and more instruments appear until the tension peaks in the piercing climax, only to slowly reduce the tension until the song comes full circle. The track is masterfully performed and highly effective, mesmerizing the listener for its full running time and striking extremely potently with its climactic crescendo.
The studio disc is far less successful, as the band emulates the Who's mistake on A Quick One by dividing the tracks into solo spots for each member. Waters' acoustic ballad fares predictably well, yet another well written composition derived from a genre that Waters had achieved a mastery over.
His second contribution, however, is somewhat more suspect. Entitled Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict, it amount to little more than a joke, a cacophonous onslaught that may be amusing the first time but will subsequently become an ordeal to listen to.
Gilmour and Wright's offerings both have their moments but are ultimately rather tedious, with the former attempting to educe every sound imaginable from his guitar while neglecting to pen any compelling melodies and the latter aspiring to modernize classical music but faring equally poorly at that endeavor. Portions of both men's work are well written but, as each is lengthy and multi-parted, these moments of quality come too few and far between.
The nadir of the album, however, is Mason's contribution, the three part The Grand Vizier's Garden Party, which is, predictably enough, given Mason's function in the band, a drum solo. While even this drab offering has at least a modicum of redeeming qualities (in the case some pretty flute-work at the beginning and end of the suite), by and large it's just as monotonous as one would expect from a drum solo, with added electronic gimmickry doing little to breathe life into this particular stale musical art form.
In all, Ummagumma manages to be a very strong outing on the basis of the live disc alone. While the studio disc is more problematic it's at least interesting, with each band member trying his hardest to craft something of genuine artistic merit. While many of these experiments fail, their ambitions and risk taking are certainly laudable, and the only tracks that I would call outright bad are Mason's masturbatory drum exercises.
Ummagumma is one of those rare avant-garde projects that actually works, with the strangeness and experimentation being matched by intelligent songwriting and impressive performances. Flawed as it is, it's still a successful experiment, with the good easily outweighing the bad, with most of the band's ambitions being fulfilled. Thus Ummagumma is a very good album, one that no Pink Floyd fan should be without.
Pink Floyd grow even more adventurous, this time with their ambitious nature manifesting itself in the form of the title track, a side-long rock/classical fusion suite. As long as the song adheres to real melodies it's quite good, but unfortunately it sometimes degenerates into uninspired sound collages, disrupting the flow of the suite and marring the melodic nature of the other portions of the track. All the same, the suite is easily the strongest track on the album, the only song that truly demands the attention of a Pink Floyd fan.
As for the rest of the album, Waters contributes yet another of his trademark acoustic ballads, and as usual it's quite good if somewhat familiar. Gilmour and Wright each deliver a track, and they're both inoffensive if ultimately unremarkable.
The other instance that showcases the group's artistic pretensions is the album closer, Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast, which consists of a rudimentary melody accompanying the sound of a man eating breakfast. Somehow the group felt that the track merited a run-time that extends beyond the ten minute mark, a length that, given the song's status as a novelty item, is hardly conducive to an enjoyable listening experience. While it could be construed as amusing, the joke is resoundingly beaten to death over the course of the track, and apparently the group felt that given the added attraction of the sounds of Alan's breakfast they weren't compelled to pen music that would be rewarding in any other context.
Thus the album is bookmarked by two experiments, one successful and the other a failure, with three pleasant if forgettable tracks in between. This makes for a decent listen, but given the ambitious nature of the album the group certainly intended it to rise high above the level of 'decent.' Unfortunately the album is sabotaged by the final track, and as for the middle songs, Waters' If, while good, is simply too reminiscent of his other acoustic tracks to register as a meaningful highlight, while Wright and Gilmour's cuts fail to be astounding on any level.
Ergo Atom Heart Mother is indeed no better than decent. While flawed, the title track is a necessary listen for any Pink Floyd fan, an ambitious enterprise that, for the most part, works. Nothing on the album, save Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast, is bad; the middle tracks are fair enough, but it felt like the band members were expending all of their creative energy on their more artistically ambitious efforts. Thus the album opens with a representation of what the band was capable of at their most ambitious and closes with a track that illustrates the perils of harboring artistic pretensions of this nature, creating if nothing else a fascinating portrayal of the band's negotiations of the progressive genre.
Relics is one of those frustrating albums that seems intent on alienating any conceivable audience it could hope to cultivate. As a rarities collection is has far too much overlap with the group's prior studio fare (only six out of the eleven tracks are exclusive to this album) and it lacks some of the early Barrett singles that would be more apt to attract hardcore fans, while as a sampler for casual fans it's missing a number of the band's better tracks to this point, with a somewhat questionable song selection that seemingly arbitrarily contains misfires like The Nile Song.
Fortunately most of the exclusive material is rather strong. The pretty Julia Dream and the jazzy Biding My Time are pretty good, though the studio version of Careful With That Axe, Eugene is vastly inferior to the live rendition on Ummagumma.
The main reason to purchase the album, however, is the presence of two of the band's best Barrett era singles, the transvestite anthem Arnold Layne and the trippy pop song See Emily Play. Both rank up there with some of Barrett's best offerings, drenched in the brilliantly eccentric feel of Syd's better work and boasting extremely catchy melodies.
Unfortunately rarities collections are by definition aimed at hardcore fans, the type who would already own most of the albums these tracks are derived from, rendering much of the body of this work utterly superfluous. Tracks like Interstellar Overdrive and Bike are great songs, but it's hard to imagine somewhat purchasing this album without already owning a copy of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. It's easier to envision someone who hadn't acquired the soundtrack More, but in that regard, good as Cirrus Minor is, a track like Cymbaline would have been preferable.
Thus Relics is an album that's destined to aggravate fans, a missed opportunity to compile the myriad obscure Barrett era singles by instead professing to be a sampler of sorts, and a flawed one at that. It's worth a look for Arnold Layne and See Emily Play alone, but handled differently it could have been an excellent offering for diehard Pink Floyd fans as opposed to a compilation seemingly bereft of a target audience.
Meddle marks a turning point for the band as the group has finally truly found its own identity independent of the Barrett incarnation. While the group had already attempted this feat on albums such as Atom Heart Mother, it wasn't until Meddle that the band sounded confident in its own voice, establishing the roots of a sound that would carry them through some of their greatest triumphs in the years to come.
This already becomes apparent in the album's opener One Of These Days, an experimental instrumental that manages to rock infinitely harder than tracks such as The Nile Song by adhering to their own style as opposed to mimicking a generic hard rock outfit. The track is immensely entertaining, as the band proves that they're capable of rocking in the context of their newfound identity.
The album contains two more of Waters' acoustic exercises, and while A Pillow Of Winds is pleasant (and helps relieve the tension cultivated in the thunderous opener), it's Fearless that's the true highlight, a riff driven number that easily ranks amongst Waters' best acoustic workouts (though the stadium chanting superimposed over it is a tad extraneous to say the least).
San Tropez and Seamus are both rather slight but are still entertaining, with the latter being particularly noteworthy for containing a dog howling the blues. They help dilute the serious tone of the album, and are far too enjoyable to be called filler.
The album's true magnum opus, however, is Echoes, the band's second attempt at a sidelong epic and one that fares considerably better than the already strong Atom Heart Mother suite. The song is filled with creative musical ideas and beautiful melodies, remaining completely absorbing through its 23 minute length. It's certainly the band's greatest post-Barrett artistic achievement to this point, a highly experimental outing that fulfills each of its ambitions. It contains both moments of sublime beauty as well as portions that rock which all feel completely organic within the context of the song. Gilmour outdoes himself on the track, with his heavenly guitar tone weaving gorgeous melodies and breathtaking solos.
In the end Meddle can be credited with bringing in a new era for the band, acting as the genesis for many of their subsequent artistic successes. Finally establishing a signature sound that was truly all their own they were able to move on into a new epoch for the band, one that would contain many of their greatest achievements.
That's not to say that Meddle is a mere transitional album, however, as it's a true classic in its own right. Echoes is one of the band's greatest artistic victories, while tracks like One Of These Days and Fearless are eminently worthy additions to the band's canon. Devoid of filler, Meddle is a true masterpiece, one that should not be overshadowed by their subsequent triumphs.
During the Dark Side Of The Moon sessions the group was commissioned to provide a soundtrack for the film La Vallee, an album that the band proceeded to compose and record in a mere two weeks. Thus it's natural to assume that Obscured By Clouds is a half-hearted effort cranked out for some extra cash; fortunately, this couldn't be further from the case, as the album is an oft overlooked gem in the band's discography.
Due to its status as a soundtrack the album, much like More, contains some more conventional numbers, hence the catchy rocker The Gold It's In The… and the beautiful, despairing Wot's…Uh The Deal that's all the more moving for its lack of sonic wizardry. The band hasn't forgotten how to pen strong tracks devoid of their customary studio trickery, and the material on the album is a testament to that fact.
The tracks that conform to their new style, however, are very good as well, such as the menacing, apocalyptic opening instrumental title track and the guitar-fest Mudmen, wherein Gilmour launches some impressive experiments with his heavenly guitar tones.
The album is hardly perfect, though, as it includes the banal Stay and the tedious Absolutely Curtains which inexplicably features a prolonged section of tribal chanting lifted from the film. The majority of the album is quite strong, however, easily compensating for these few misfires.
Ultimately the album's hyper obscure status is criminal, as the soundtrack is eminently deserving of more praise and attention. Filled with strong songwriting and tight performances the album is especially notable for its juxtaposition of more conventional and more aurally ambitious tracks, a rarity at this stage in the band's career as they shifted their focus exclusively to their more experimental approach. While it's destined to be perpetually overshadowed by the group's subsequent album, Obscured By Clouds is an entertaining interlude, a refreshing slice of something different wedged between two more artistically ambitious outings. While nothing will dispel its obscurity, it's still a necessary listen for any Pink Floyd fan, a dark horse in the group's canon.
The focal point of Pink Floyd's mythos, Dark Side Of The Moon is one of the most significant albums in rock history, a revolutionary effort of unbridled ambition and meticulous craftsmanship.
Some detractors voice the allegation that when stripped of its studio gimmickry (such as the clockwork cacophony that introduces Time and the profusion of cash registers that opens Money) the album has little merit left, but this claim is preposterous; the album is filled with brilliant melodies, with the overdubs simply augmenting an already excellent package.
While the album is filled with spectacular moments, from the catharsis of The Great Gig In The Sky to the anthemic closer Eclipse, the LP is much more than the sum of its parts, a cohesive vision of madness and despair of profound potency. The flow of the album is truly remarkable, with each track segueing seamlessly into the next to help reinforce the LP's concept album status.
The album is wholly bereft of filler, with nearly each track amounting to at least a minor classic. From the riff propelled Money to the epic Time, each song contains a strong melody, further enhanced by the studio trickery Waters applied to them.
In terms of Waters, his tyrannical grip on the band grows much tighter on this outing, as he assumes full credit for the album's lyrics (which are a dramatic improvement over his prior poetry), also acting as the chief proponent for the studio overdubs that fill the album. The album truly feels like his vision, an intimate look within his psyche that largely excludes the creative involvement of the other members.
The performances on the album are universally strong, with tracks like Any Colour You Like acting as showcases for the band's instrumental prowess. The album also greatly benefits from guest vocalist Clare Torry, whose gorgeous, moving vocals truly make The Great Gig In The Sky.
The marriage between the melodies and the studio gimmickry is truly wondrous to behold, denoting the painstaking efforts put into them by the band. The transition from the sound collage Speak To Me to the excellent song Breathe is truly a magical moment, and instances of this nature pop up throughout the album, an extremely revolutionary approach to music that would remain highly influential for years to come.
Ultimately Dark Side Of The Moon is an amazing experience, a work that transcends the limitations of simple song collections and crafts a sonic journey of extreme depth and richness. The songs are universally incredible, with even the more gimmicky tracks like On The Run contributing to the album's atmosphere. Intricately planned to the smallest detail the album is truly a work of art, a perfect melding of strong songwriting and studio wizardry.
In the wake of the monumental success of Dark Side Of The Moon that instantly propelled the band to superstardom, it appeared that Waters was compelled to look at the group's past, thus inspired to compose, with the aid of his band mates, the nine part suite (with the first five parts opening the album and the latter four closing it) Shine On You Crazy Diamond dedicated to the group's erstwhile, ill-fated frontman Syd Barrett. A musical vision of indescribable beauty, Shine On You Crazy Diamond is a deeply moving ode to Barrett filled with moments of transcendental splendor and catharsis.
There's far more to the album than this multi-part behemoth, however. From the cold, mechanical, sterile Welcome To The Machine to the gorgeous title track, the album is bereft of filler, with each track amounting to a classic in the group's oeuvre. Elsewhere Have A Cigar is Waters' vitriolic diatribe against the record industry that, despite overflowing with bile, manages to be extremely catchy.
The band continues its heavy reliance on studio trickery, with the segue from Have A Cigar to Wish You Were Here through the medium of a crackling radio being especially effective.
The songwriting on the album is uniformly excellent, while the caliber performances reach a new zenith for the band, with Gilmour in particular distinguishing himself with his heavenly passages on Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Experimenting with his guitar tones once more, Gilmour has a knack for always conjuring the perfect sound for each note.
In all Wish You Were Here is yet another masterpiece from the band, a worthy successor to the group's magnum opus Dark Side Of The Moon. Filled with moments of sonic majesty and aural beauty, the album depicts the group in top form, with the band on a streak of classic albums that would continue for some time to come. While there's little in the way of progression from DSotM, the band had truly found their voice, a distinctive identity that sounds like nothing else; given this fact, the group can be excused for failing to take their sound in new directions. WYWH is an incredible album, a timeless work of art that captures the band at their best.
Waters' despotic domination of the group reaches new heights here, as he receives solo credit for every song on the album save Dogs, which he shares co-authorship with Gilmour for. This further progression into the realm of dictatorship doesn't have a terribly profound effect on the album, however, as the band had been heading in this direction for quite some time, and while Waters had yet to completely strip the band of any degree of creative input into the proceedings as he subsequently would on The Final Cut, the band had clearly become Waters' group by this point, with the group acting as a medium through which he'd cast his artistic visions.
The album is a collection of metaphorical ruminations inspired by Orwell's Animal Farm, indicative of the fact that Waters was growing more and more ambitious with his lyrics with each successive LP. While a tad heavy-handed, his lyrics on the album are quite strong, infusing a degree of intelligence into what would otherwise be rather transparent, clumsy and pretentious meditations on psychology and society.
The caliber of the songwriting is quite high, with nearly every track cycling through several strong melodies, a necessity given that the album only contains five tracks, three of them over ten minutes in length.
It's not only the lengthier tracks that are the recipients of strong craftsmanship, however; the album is book-ended by two versions of Pigs On The Wing, an excellent acoustic offering in the tradition of songs like Cymbaline and Wish You Were Here. Despite his focus on dramatic, complex and innovative soundscapes Waters has managed to retain his aptitude for penning more minimalist and direct acoustic tracks, and thus Pigs On The Wing acts as the perfect introduction and closer for the album.
All the same, the longer tracks are the true highlights, from the misanthropic rocker Dogs to the contemptuous sneering of Pigs (Three Different Ones) to the energetic paranoia of Sheep, the latter containing one of the album's best moments as Waters' vocals fade into synth lines. Each track is deftly composed, and more importantly each track fully justifies their extended lengths.
On the whole Animals is yet another masterpiece from the group, a continuation of the band's streak of classics that had been ongoing for the last several years. Filled with strong songwriting and bleak, intelligent lyrics, the album features all the staples of a classic Pink Floyd release, resulting in another timeless masterwork.
While the band had certainly composed thematically unified albums before, The Wall was the first instance in which the group (basically meaning Waters) actively endeavored to tell a coherent story.
Likewise, albums such as Dark Side Of The Moon gave the listener insight into the tenebrous depths of Waters' psyche, but never before had he crafted as personal and intimate an LP as The Wall, an album that acts as a journey through Waters' formative years up to his present status as a rock superstar.
As a ramification of the album's confessional nature the other members are excluded from influencing the course of the album more than ever, another step toward their imminent total banishment from the creative process in the group's subsequent album The Final Cut.
As for the quality of the album, like DSotM the album had received so much hype that most appraisals of the album are more of a reaction to this phenomenon than the actual merits of the LP itself.
If one can get enough distance from this controversial cacophony to perceive the album with a greater degree of clarity, however, the listener will find an excellent album, filled with brilliant songwriting and the band's most emotionally potent work.
Waters weaves a moving tale that affects the listener more directly than the less personal introspection found on earlier albums, musically and lyrically conveying the chthonic ordeal that constituted his life.
As for the caliber of the songwriting, nearly each song has something to offer the listener, from the atmospheric masterpiece Comfortably Numb that features masterful guitarwork from Gilmour to the wrenching desperation of Hey You to the dark cynicism of the album's most famous track, Waters' bitter depiction of public education Another Brick In The Wall Part Two.
While some tracks are undeniably weaker than others, each song earns its place by forwarding the story or atmosphere of the album, working better as a unified whole than if they were assessed independently of the context of the LP.
Ultimately The Wall is one of the band's greatest achievements, a deeply moving portrayal of Waters' fractured psyche. While its recurring themes of alienation and isolation are more than a tad heavy-handed in their representation, when paired with the album's music they become infinitely more potent, constituting one of the more emotional voyages that can be found in the world of rock. While Waters' despotism is, overall, a cause for concern, The Wall benefits from this creative tyranny, allowing the listener to explore the inner workings of his mind. Most importantly this introspective approach doesn't dilute the quality of the melodies, resulting in a true classic that can be enjoyed thoroughly both musically and lyrically, as a personal, artistic statement or simply as a collection of excellent rock songs.
Waters makes no illusions about the balance of power on this album; on its back cover it plainly states 'A requiem for the post war dream by Roger Waters performed by Pink Floyd.' This completes the group's gradual descent into the role of Waters' backing band, wholly eliminating any creative input the other members ever had into the proceedings.
Furthermore Wright, once the band's second primary songwriter, was fired by Waters before this album, enabling Waters to completely monopolize every creative facet of the LP's developmental process.
Waters' ascension to the position of the absolute dictator of the band dramatically alters the sound of the album; nearly all of the melodies are completely rudimentary, relying solely on atmosphere to captivate the listener. Waters greatly neglects his responsibilities as the music composer for the album, opting instead to devote all of his creative energy on the lyrics.
Fortunately this gambit pays off, as The Final Cut represents the pinnacle of Waters' abilities as a lyricist. The album focuses on anti-war messages, and Waters has come a long way in that regard from the whimsical protest anthem Corporal Clegg. Waters' lyrics are intelligent and insightful, and while hardly subtle they display the innate gift for poetry and erudition that Waters possesses.
As for the dearth of strong melodies, at least the atmospherics of the tracks perfectly complement the lyrics, which are the main attraction anyway. The music can often border on nonexistence, with highly limited drumming from Mason and a general lack of Gilmour's presence (and when he does engage in solos they're invariably generic-Gilmour guitar passages). Sometimes the music solely consists of Waters playing minimalist piano melodies, but once more this works in the context of the album.
In all The Final Cut is a very good album, a fitting closer for the Waters era of the group. Waters had reached his zenith as a lyricist, and the result is a moving, provocative piece of work. While he'd explored anti-war thematics before (largely stemming from his father's demise in the war) this represents his most sophisticated attempt at that particular endeavor.
While one would expect superior melodies and more elaborate instrumentation from the group, this is only a Pink Floyd album in the loosest sense. As it stands, The Final Cut is ostensibly a Waters solo album, and a very good one at that. Nearly bereft of musical merit it can't compare to the band's better work, but for what it is it's very strong, a potent marriage of intelligent lyrics and haunting atmospherics.
There was no tour run to promote the release of The Final Cut, so Pink Floyd was suspended in a kind of limbo until 1985 when Waters officially disbanded the group with the intent of irrevocably terminating the band's existence.
Subsequently, however, Gilmour decided to resurrect the group (a natural impulse given how lucrative the band's name value was), and after Waters failed in his legal attempt to prevent Gilmour from using the name Pink Floyd was reborn.
Gilmour recruited both Wright and Mason to rejoin the band though their presence on the album is minimal at best, with session musicians dominating almost all of the performances. Gilmour acts as the group's vocalist, with most of his guitarwork confined to hastily grafting overly familiar, overextended solos to the end of nearly each track.
Sadly, without a visionary of the nature of Barrett or Waters to helm the group Pink Floyd was consigned to perpetual mediocrity, with Gilmour lacking the talent to lead the band on his own. His songwriting ranges from average to atrocious, and each song on the album invariably sounds like a bastardized version of the original group.
Invariably the worst tracks are the ones wherein Gilmour desperately tries to recreate the band's classic sound; resultantly the best song, Learning To Fly, is a charming number with a solid refrain that sounds absolutely nothing like a Pink Floyd song.
In truth the album lacks almost every aspect that made Pink Floyd a great group, from solid songwriting to clever studio trickery to the tenebrous vibe the band invariably cultivated. Gilmour's attempts at employing sound effects to augment the tracks are laughable at best, transparent efforts to emulate the band of old without the skill to truly place them with any degree of precision or cleverness, rather sounding like sound effects for the sake of sound effects.
Overall A Momentary Lapse Of Reason is a pale imitation of the Pink Floyd of old. Largely bereft of strong melodies or intelligent lyrics there's little to justify the band's continued existence, as all they do is desecrate the group's legendary status with painfully inadequate impersonations of the band at its peak.
On their second go round the Gilmour-led incarnation of Pink Floyd sound at least somewhat more reminiscent of the band in their prime (superficially, that is), so fans of the group may be able to derive at least a modicum of entertainment from the album, but it's still a rather lackluster product.
The material is thoroughly inoffensive, but it's also rather bland, derivative and enervated, with melodies all too often sounding like rehashes of classic material and a general failure to cultivate any level of energy or excitement.
It's natural that the album would resemble the band's older material to a greater degree than its predecessor, as Wright and Mason play on every track this time around so that three quarters of the group's classic lineup remain intact. All the same, the band is never able to recreate the magic of the group's peak period, sounding inert and lifeless compared to the rock outfit of old.
The album simply becomes a tedious experience at a certain point, with a uniform atmosphere being suspended over the entire duration of the LP. There are nearly no divergences from this static vibe, resulting in a monotonous experience that offers no surprises of a melodic, atmospheric or lyrical nature.
At least some enjoyment can be educed from the album if you simply allow yourself to become lost in its atmosphere, but as a collection of songs it's severely lacking, with few standout melodies or moments to engage one's attention.
Overall The Division Bell reinforces the notion that without Waters the group is condemned to an existence of mediocrity and banality. The album tries very hard to sound like a classic Pink Floyd album, but the group is simply incapable of reaching the heights attained in their past. The songwriting is average at best, the performances familiar to the point of redundancy and Gilmour has little to say from a lyrical perspective. From a creative standpoint the group was dead, desperately attempting to coast off their past glories with little new to offer the music world.