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Pink Floyd - A Momentary Lapse Of Reason CD (album) cover

A MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.06 | 1602 ratings

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Frankingsteins
2 stars Despite being the most enduringly revered band of progressive rock, Pink Floyd's artistic integrity nonetheless managed to burn out after little more than a decade. Different fans will have differing views of the point at which the band peaked, 'sold out' or ran out of ideas, largely depending on whether or not they loathe Roger Waters and deify Syd Barrett, but the common consensus tends to be that 80s Pink Floyd, through creative differences, exhaustion and legal fracas, sucked. The only debate that remains is which of 'The Final Cut' or 'A Momentary Lapse of Reason' sucked the biggest.

The debate isn't a pointless one, as both albums represent polar opposites of the band's output. 'The Final Cut' was the final album to be produced under the totalitarian thumb of Roger Waters, whose creative control had been progressively spiralling out of control since 1977's 'Animals.' Bearing the unflattering subtitle 'A requiem for the post- war dream by Roger Waters, performed by Pink Floyd,' the album is most palatable when viewed as the first Waters solo effort, with a couple of nice guitar solos from David Gilmour, used very sparingly. Waters' angst-ridden departure from the band shortly thereafter, and its subsequent reformation under Gilmour, led to the third David Gilmour solo album effectively becoming Pink Floyd's 'A Momentary Lapse of Reason,' with one major difference: Gilmour was expected to tailor his songs to sound like Pink Floyd. Or, as the irritable Waters later put it, 'a pretty fair forgery, or a good copy' of the distinctive Pink Floyd sound.

A Momentary Lapse of Reason was the first Pink Floyd album for five years, and as such was inevitably destined to be a hit, whether it was critically well-received or not (for the record, it largely was not). Three hit singles fuelled a sell-out tour on which the majority of the new material was played, free as it was from the copyright blight inflicted by Waters. The material itself is largely forgettable, but not completely without merit: a couple of stand-out tracks successfully update the Pink Floyd sound to the 80s electronic scape, amidst a load of bland, tedious and intrusive noise. Pink Floyd staples such as a backing female chorus and overlong guitar solos (especially) set this up to be almost too much like an imitation, but like all Pink Floyd albums it doesn't really sound too much like anything else. The dominant tone is still dingy, slow and brooding, though not to the extent of 'The Final Cut,' but the song structure and arrangement of the album is fairly unique, and in some places noticeably radio-oriented. At the very least, this stands out from the collection.

Gilmour's incarnation of the band was perhaps doomed to failure, its structure being something of a shambles after the five-year absence, and was fortunately able to scrape together a far more consistent release with their final album in 1994, largely due to the involvement of keyboardist Richard Wright in the writing process. Wright is largely absent on this album, and is still not officially a member of the band, which consists solely of Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason, amidst a throng of gathered session musicians. Mason himself was disappointingly out of practice, meaning that even his contributions are limited and extremely ineffective, leading Gilmour to program his own drum machine to jam along to in the final song, in absence of a suitable human to provide the repetitive backing beat. As many critics note, Gilmour's lyrics pale in contrast to those of Waters, but at least that leads to an album that's less angry and bitter, and doesn't mourn for a dead daddy that the singer never even knew.

'A Momentary Lapse of Reason,' (EMI, 1987)

1. Signs of Life (instrumental) 2. Learning to Fly 3. The Dogs of War 4. One Slip 5. On the Turning Away 6. Yet Another Movie 7. Round and Around 8. A New Machine Part 1 9. Terminal Frost (instrumental) 10. A New Machine Part 2 11. Sorrow

For the first time, all songs are written by David Gilmour, though the majority were co- written with producer Bob Ezrin and session musicians - neither Mason nor Wright had any creative input. This immediately lends a sense of repetition to the album, a far cry from the rather insane juxtaposition of styles on the early Pink Floyd albums for which each member would provide a song tailored to his own speciality. Gilmour's speciality appears to lie in long, identical-sounding guitar solos and raspy vocals, which sound like he suffered from a sore throat during every stage of the recording.

The instrumental tracks are particularly noteworthy and well thought-out, the opening piece setting the scene for an intensely spacey and atmospheric album, perhaps the pinnacle of the band's achievement at truly conveying a sense of outer space in music ('Astronomy Domine' succeeds better, but for different reasons). This is aided exquisitely by the foregrounded keyboard and organ, but the use of a distorted vocal sample, what sounds like communication between NASA and a shuttle, ruins the atmosphere a little for me. It would have been more impressive to rely entirely on the music to conjure the intergalactic image, perhaps with a little help from the title, but it wouldn't be a Pink Floyd album without extensive audio sampling would it? Right, Dave? 'Signs of Life' is a great mood piece, though a little long and a bit of a 70s new- age throwback, reminiscent of Vangelis' 'Mare Tranquillatis' from the superb space-jazz record 'Albedo 0.39' (right down to the transmission sample).

The other instrumental comes in the form of 'Terminal Frost,' and is a little more like the jams a Pink Floyd fan is used to, starting softly with a piano, soon to be joined by a nice melodic guitar wail and expanding to greater density as the minutes slowly tick by. It works really well as an instrumental piece, but is hindered by its hideous bookends in the form of the pointlessly excruciating 'A New Machine' parts one and two. This represents the peak of Gilmour experimenting with ever-more-distracting ways of keeping the listener's attention, as we're subjected to around three tormenting minutes of screeching a capella, distorted through some device or other. Separating 'Terminal Frost' from these segments, which really are completely unnecessary, it's one of the better pieces the album has to offer, even if John Helliwell's sax solo is more reminiscent of a gameshow opening theme than the great contributions of Dick Parry to 'Money' and 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' in the 70s.

Disappointingly, alternating between so many hired musicians really adds very little variety to this recording. The drums on 'One Slip' are played by Jim Keltner, but aren't that different from the machine Gilmour programmed for 'Sorrow,' or Mason's competent-but-unremarkable work on 'Learning to Fly' and others. The bass is equally reliable to the point of unoriginality, only really audible in the bass-led 'Dogs of War,' which is easily one of the weakest songs Pink Floyd ever recorded. Shattering the chilled atmosphere at such an early point in a similar way to 'A New Machine' later (though not quite as bad), this is several minutes more than necessary of Gilmour barking half-arsed politics far too close to the microphone, while intrusive organs erupt every several seconds. There's a guitar solo too, but that's really stating the obvious. It's a shame really, as the songs surrounding it are fairly enjoyable, and would work much better if the mellow atmosphere had been allowed to pervade the recording without these uncomfortable jarring moments.

First single 'Learning to Fly' would probably have remained a live staple of this 'new' Pink Floyd if it had remained active to the present day, and was an unsurprising presence on both of the live albums it released. A good, catchy and enjoyable pop-rock song, this sees Gilmour in full melodic mode (think 'Comfortably Numb') over a background of pseudo-electro instrumentation. The chorus is nice and subdued, and the solo nice and relaxed, making this another highlight of the album. It's perhaps aimed a little too directly at MTV play, in contrast to the 'art rock' indulgence of earlier albums, but that doesn't really count against it. After 'Dogs of War' has run its discordant course, the album jumps into a slightly higher gear for the U2-like 'One Slip.' Only one gear though, it's nothing radical. Probably the most positive song on here, it's also enjoyable in a poppy sort of way, even if it doesn't strictly belong on a Pink Floyd recording. Much better is the dismal 'On the Turning Away,' a slow song with a vast and booming echo, dominated by impressive acoustic guitar that interacts well with the throbbing synthesiser. This is my favourite piece of the album, succeeding far better than the closing song, though an abrupt fade as the guitar solo lasts just a little too long spoils it, as does the repetition of very 'Wall'esque riffs.

The remainder of the album is fairly dull, mainly for coming after these earlier songs have already exhausted the ideas. 'Yet Another Movie' is similar to 'On the Turning Away,' though not as good, and fades out with the fairly pointless fifty second epilogue 'Round and Around,' which might as well have been the same song. 'Sorrow' is the biggest disappointment for me, beginning with ominous and earth-shaking keyboards and melancholy vocals from Gilmour in yet another vast, empty space, before the drum machine comes in after two minutes and it just becomes a waiting game until the final guitar solo fades out after reaching the point of tedium, and I can go on with my life. The bragging title and excellent set-up lead only to a repetition of what we've already heard five or six times over the course of the previous fifty minutes, but the fault lies largely in the rubbish drum machine. Would it really have been too hard to draft in one of the hired hands to play something more interesting to close the album? As evidence, the song is improved on live recordings with Nick Mason handling the drum beat and Gilmour's indulgent solo being allowed to properly run its course, without feeling stunted and unsatisfied, as it does at the end of this mediocre release.

'A Momentary Lapse of Reason' is probably the least essential item in your Pink Floyd collection, especially as some of the best songs appear on the excellent live album 'Pulse,' as well as the rather less excellent live album 'The Delicate Sound of Thunder.' Gilmour's Pink Floyd is little more than a shambolic money-making exercise for a man whose solo career was faring only adequately, and it's a shame that 1994's 'Division Bell' is the only effort the band made in remedying this problem and maintaining their credibility. The best songs on here can be found elsewhere, while the worst ('Dogs of War' and 'A New Machine') should have remained on the cutting room floor. To address the all-so-important debate I mentioned earlier, Waters' 'The Final Cut' is probably better than 'A Momentary Lapse of Reason,' though both show a band in a decade of unmistakable decline.

The only Pink Floyd album that's probably less appealing is the studio disc of 1969's 'Ummagumma,' which is really, really terrible and even something of an embarrassment for those involved. A momentary lapse of reason by a young and stupid band, before they became old and rich and should have known better. By 1987, there were plenty of bands imitating the Pink Floyd sound and achieving far greater results than this.

Frankingsteins | 2/5 |

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