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Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here CD (album) cover


Pink Floyd


Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.62 | 3871 ratings

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5 stars There's not a great deal I could say about Pink Floyd's 1975 album that hasn't already been said. But obviously, you know, I'll try and stuff. (This is why I normally write about bands like Subterranean Masquerade, whom you've never heard of).

The sequel to the phenomenally popular 'Dark Side of the Moon' was always going to be a huge seller based on legacy alone, which is a shame as this inevitably led to the band adopting a more radio-friendly and commercial sound forever after. The crazy kids whose boundless musical (and, I suppose, substance) experimentation produced such inspired 20-minute classics as 'Echoes' and such ridiculous 20-minute embarrassments as 'Atom Heart Mother' in equal measure, were now making albums targeted at the mass international audience they had snared. The band's early discography is packed with incredible highs and lows, and though much of it is inherently rubbish, the audacity alone makes it enjoyable. Now a sensation thanks to the single 'Money' (I won't bother pointing out the irony. Oh, whoops), the band were locked on board the gravy train, and the only way to de-rail it would be through an exhausting process of relentless alienation. This was almost accomplished before the 'Household Objects' project was scrapped, which would have seen the band producing an entire album by playing household appliances and things as instruments. They wisely chose to just continue being good, though it would have been interesting to hear a toilet solo.

'Wish You Were Here' was the not-too-long-awaited next album, and is easily the band's most blatantly commercial effort so far. This doesn't come at a cost to artistic integrity, and indeed it's difficult to consider an album book-ended by two incredibly long halves of a nine-part suite as a 'sell-out' record, but by this point Pink Floyd knew how to make popular music, and how to present it to the public. The album's production job is polished to the point that Rick Wright's keyboards and David Gilmour's melodic guitars, both the highlights of the album, seem almost to slip off the edge of the CD as each track fades into the next. The innovative samples famously incorporated into 'Dark Side of the Moon' are even more prominent here, and are arguably unnecessary in bridging these afore-mentioned gaps. The throbbing machine at the opening of track two is perfect, but the fuzzy crowd noise at the end, and the long wind that segues between the title track and the final song, seem more like deliberate attempts to make this all one piece of music in the way 'Dark Side' almost was. Gilmour and Roger Waters take turns at the microphone, and there's even time for a nice, short acoustic song for people who don't really like Pink Floyd. Add Storm Thorgerson's cool photographic album sleeve and this becomes the archetypal album of Pink Floyd hereafter, the template Gilmour would fall back to after escaping from Waters' domination in the late 80s.

'Shine on You Crazy Diamond' is one of Pink Floyd's most famous songs, and I might as well say one of their best. The last great long song they would ever record, and probably only the second great long song after 'Echoes,' this nine-part suite is split in two and shoved to alternate ends of the record. It would make more sense as a complete song, but the interference of major record labels saw that this wasn't allowed to happen. Who wants to buy a four-song album that takes half an hour to get going? The first half of fifteen minutes or so is the best, as the second half is largely a reprise aside from some great bass and guitar solos. Beginning in grand minimalist style with Wright's booming and hypnotically slow spacey keyboards, Gilmour's famous four-note melody creeps in, soon to be accompanied by drums and a whole load of other loud sounds. Waters' vocals follow the trademark 'whispered' style of singing, but the chorus is bombastic and energetic. Some peoples' attention spans will be too short to appreciate this song in its entirety, so it's probably fortunate that it's divided this way.

The middle of the album is notoriously weak in comparison to the incredible opening and closing pieces, but what we're given is still highly enjoyable and a little diverse, at least in terms of which instrument is being favoured. 'Welcome to the Machine' is an ambiguous anthem of conformity that makes great use of faux-acoustic guitar over the hubbub of noises, but it's nothing too exciting. 'Have a Cigar' is more upbeat and satirical and a chance for Wright's keyboards to shine, even if that mostly means playing a prominent and potentially irritating riff between the verses. The vocals, criticising the music industry, are weirdly handled by Roy Harper, as Waters apparently had a cold and Gilmour wasn't prepared to groan the hateful lyrics. This was probably the right decision, as his later attempts to handle such issues on 'A Momentary Lapse of Reason' were really terrible and unconvincing; he's just not a nasty man. Following some phony radio transmission, presumably from an irritated listener who just couldn't handle the satire of the last track, a tinny acoustic guitar is heard. The penultimate song sticks out from the synth-washed atmosphere and is the acoustic title track, 'Wish You Were Here.' With some nice lyrics and a catchy melody, this has remained a live favourite, but sounds a little out of place so far into this recording, a void escaping Wright's Rick-Wakemen-esque domination of the airwaves elsewhere.

Another great Pink Floyd album, produced by a band with a different aura. Waters would take full creative control after this release, leading to the less impressive 'Animals' and the pop-rock-opera 'The Wall' that's actually really good, whiney as it is. If Pink Floyd under Gilmour ever release another album, which is incredibly unlikely but not impossible, 'Wish You Were Here' will be their main reference point to make it 'sound like Pink Floyd,' just as they did for the last release 'Division Bell' thirteen years ago. The majority of this album, excluding tracks two and three, will continue to form part of any future live setlist, and the other two make quite a nice pair, their morals not being mutually exclusive. Wright recalls this album as one of the only Pink Floyd records he can listen to for enjoyment, and he really is at his best here, before his talents and contributions were watered down and finally fired the hell out of the band several years later. Gilmour is excellent too, while the bass aspects of Waters' bass guitar and Nick Mason's drums don't impress in the same way, but keep the whole thing grounded. Dick Parry has a great squealing sax solo in 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' too.

'Shine On' was being performed by the band before they had even made plans for a new album, and as such the rest of the material is a little weaker and forced in an effort to fill up space, making me wonder what other delights or atrocities may have appeared if this had been produced in the digital world of longer playing times. A tribute to their old comrade Syd Barrett, a mad visionary with a penchant for gnomes, bikes and LSD, there was a famous incident where Syd turned up to the studio half-way through its recording and asked if he could 'do his bit.' There were tears and hugs from his former bandmates, and the spirit of Syd would dominate this entire recording. Some crazy people claim that this album syncs up with Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner' in the same way 'Dark Side of the Moon' fits tenuously with 'The Wizard of Oz.' These people are wrong, and mad.

And if they really liked Syd Barrett that much, they probably would have let him do his bit, or at least a bit of something. But no cigar.

Frankingsteins | 5/5 |


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