careful with that axe, eugene....
AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

 

Pink Floyd

 

Oh, what is there to say about Pink Floyd that hasn't been said already?

Nothing, that's right. So let's move on.

lineup: oddly enough, the only constant member was drummer Nick Mason (though he probably doesn't play on Momentary Lapse at all). other members include Syd Barrett (vocals, guitar, acid [Piper and bits of Saucerful]); David Gilmour (vocals, guitars, and sometimes credited/sometimes uncredited bass [Saucerful through Division Bell]); Roger Waters (bass, vocals, acoustic guitar, cynicism [Piper through The Final Cut]); Rick Wright (keyboards, vocals [Piper through Animals, minimally on The Wall, credited but probably doesn't appear on Momentary Lapse, actually does appear on Division Bell]); and half the population of Los Angeles (various instruments & vocals on Momentary Lapse).

review index: Piper at the Gates of Dawn / A Saucerful of Secrets / More / Ummagumma / Atom Heart Mother / Relics / Meddle / Obscured By Clouds / Dark Side of the Moon / Wish You Were Here / Animals / The Wall / The Final Cut / A Momentary Lapse of Reason / The Division Bell

solos & sides:

Syd Barrett: The Madcap Laughs
Roger Waters: Radio KAOS

missing albums: just the crappy live stuff

apex: Wish You Were Here
nadir: Ummagumma
overlooked: Atom Heart Mother


Piper at the Gates of Dawn - 1967

Rating: ***
Best songs: Astronomy Domine, Lucifer Sam, Scarecrow, The Gnome
Worst songs: Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk, Pow R Toc H, the last seven minutes of Interstellar Overdrive

 

No Gilmour in sight yet -- at this point the lead axeman and vocalizer was of course Roger "Syd" Barrett. Unfortunately, even at this stage, Syd was unpredictable -- for every wonderful acid-washed riff-rocker ("Astronomy Domine", "Lucifer Sam") or trippy nursery rhyme ("Scarecrow", "The Gnome") he penned, he also scribed a dull psychedelic jam ("Interstellar Overdrive" -- yeah, cool riff, but TEN MINUTES?! -- and "Pow R. Toc H.") or aimless doodle ("Chapter 24"). Bass player Roger Waters also shows that he can't write a song yet -- "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk" is a pretty awful exercise in rhyming. Nevertheless, the good mostly outweighs the bad, and other clichés may also be used on this page.


A Saucerful of Secrets - 1968

Rating: ***
Best songs: Let There Be More Light, Remember a Day, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Worst songs: A Saucerful of Secrets (except the last part), Jugband Blues

 

Syd's gone (in more ways than one), and new guitarist/singer David Gilmour is brought onboard. The Floyd begin to find their own sound on this record, but this is still far removed from the 70s mega-excesses that would dominate their career.

The first half of the album is dominated by Roger Waters: "Let There Be More Light" is introduced with a neat bassline, then the song takes a wide left turn before taking ANOTHER left turn in the chorus. "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" is a neat groove/mantra, and "Corporal Clegg" is, uh, how do I put this? Strange. Most people hate it, but I kinda like it. The "another drop of gin" part is nice. Rick Wright contributes to side one "Remember a Day", which is also nice.

Side two is kinda, uh, crappy, though. "A Saucerful of Secrets", despite the beautiful requiem part at the end, is just way too long, disjointed, dissonant (pick your favorite descriptor) to justify its presence, and Syd's final PF song, "Jugband Blues" rambles on for three minutes without accomplishing much. "See Saw" is pretty, though. Rick Wright's contributions to Pink Floyd are underappreciated, I think.

Um, er, in conclusion? It's pretty good, yeah.


More - 1969

Rating: **
Best songs: Cirrus Minor, Green is the Colour, Cymbaline
Worst songs: The Nile Song, Ibiza Bar, Quicksilver, Up the Khyber

 

Okay, I started writing this review, then while listening I realized it's not as bad as I thought it was! That sucks. I like trashing stuff, it's fun.

Anyways, nearly half the album is worthwhile listening: you've got your folky pop "Crying Song", "Cymbaline" and "Green is the Colour" and your ambient loveliness "Cirrus Minor" (wonderful organ coda!) and "Main Theme". But the album still isn't the best -- half of it is taken up by soundtrackish stuff that should have been left in the movie ("Up the Khyber", "Party Sequence", "More Blues", and the seven-minute tour de yawn "Quicksilver"). Also present is a pair of cock-rockin' tunes (actually the same one with different words) "The Nile Song" and "Ibiza Bar". And "Dramatic Theme" is just a reprise of "Main Theme". Ripoff! Still, this one's only for completists. I'm glad I don't actually have to buy these things!


Ummagumma - 1969

Rating: *1/2
Best songs: Careful With That Axe Eugene, Astronomy Domine, Grantchester Meadows, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Worst songs: A Saucerful of Secrets and most of the rest of disc 2

 

You know you've got trouble when the live disc of a 2-disc set kicks the ass of the studio disc. And the live disc is the only live material the Floyd released for twenty years!

Anyway, discount most of the vocals on the live disc, they're not very good. "Astronomy Domine" is missing Syd's voice, and the only good part of "A Saucerful of Secrets" is ruined by the horrid singing. The band does what they excel at (or at least, did in the late-60's period) -- jamming.

But it's not live material that I enjoy discussing with you, the reader. It's the studio creations that I enjoy. Or at least I would if they didn't suck. Anyway, each band member gets half of an album side to do some sort of solo thing. Rick Wright's starts out promising with a bombastic introduction, but then he just spends the next five minutes doodling on a piano and making some weird noises, and ends with seven minutes of mellotron and more noisemaking. Next, Roger Waters creates (surprise) a nice folky tune, "Grantchester Meadows", but creates five minutes of aural dentistry with his other composition, the title of which is way too long to reproduce here.

Moving on to side two, David Gilmour does some guitar-based instrumentals, one country-ish and the other minor-key ominous, both of which feature more stupid noises! He also contributes possibly the first song he wrote the lyrics to. It's not that bad. Finally, Nick Mason plays a drum solo. How do you think I like that?

So in conclusion: BLEAHHHHHHH!!! Take your copy of this album, throw it into the garbage, set it on fire, pour acid on it, just don't listen to it!

Well, unless of course you like it.

Note: Kids, don't handle acid or fire by yourself. Get your parent or legal guardian to help you.


Atom Heart Mother - 1970

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: If, Fat Old Sun, Atom Heart Mother, Summer 68
Worst songs: Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast

 

This is more like it. Okay, it's not perfect -- the album ends with an annoying 13-minute sound collage linked with a few musical themes -- but the rest is ko-a with me. The first half of the album is dedicated to a really long classical/rock fusion -- y'know, the kind of stuff that the Nice were doing around this time. The thing is, this has the dial set more to the "rock" side than "classical" (rather than having an entire orchestra, the band just adds on some horns and a choir), so it's more accessible to the typical rock fan (assuming they're not all brain-dead Creed worshipers by now). And boy, is that main theme catchy! The only problem with the suite is the annoying noise part before the "silence in the studio" bit.

Side two, other than "APB", features one song by each of the three Floyd songwriters. Rog and Dave each contribute a nice folky song, and Rick sings a song about one-night stands that keeps bursting into a trumpet-filled racket. Damn kids! Good song, though.


Relics - 1971

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Arnold Layne, See Emily Play, Julia Dream, Paintbox
Worst songs: Interstellar Overdrive (yeah, again), Careful With That Axe Eugene, The Nile Song

 

Half a compilation of early Floyd album tracks, half a singles/oddities collection. Five tracks are culled from the first three albums -- "Interstellar Overdrive" and "Bike" from Piper, "Remember a Day" from Saucerful, and "Cirrus Minor" and "The Nile Song" from More. I think the only one of these I didn't comment on in the respective albums' reviews is "Bike", so I'll say that it's a funny track from the Barrett era, with a great organ part! (happy, Robert?)

That leaves us with six "new" songs. Luckily, only one sucks -- a studio take of "Careful With That Axe, Eugene", which is stripped of all the positive qualities of the live version! Silly Floydsters. The long-gone Syd Barrett has two tracks on here taken from singles -- "Arnold Layne" is a great way to kick off the album, and "See Emily Play" is a pretty song that keeps breaking into psychedelic craziness. Rick Wright contributes the nice "Paintbox", and Roger Waters sings the Syd stylization "Julia Dream" (it sounds like a ripoff of "Matilda Mother", but it's still a good listen!) and the hilarious lounge/blues/big-band jazz "Biding My Time".

So let's see, 5/6 good new tracks, 3/5 good old tracks... What's that worth? 2 1/2 stars? Yeah, that's about right. The album should have been all previously-unreleased-on-album tracks (there are plenty of extra songs left out of here: "Apples & Oranges", "It Would Be So Nice", "Candy and a Currant Bun", etc), and for that reason I can't give it a very high grade, even if there are only three duff tracks.


Meddle - 1971

Rating: ****
Best songs: One of These Days, Echoes, A Pillow of Winds
Worst songs: none

 

Continuing further into the "space-rock" image, the Floydo Four craft an even-more enjoyable album than the last (AHM, that is, Relics doesn't count). This time, side one is full of the individual songs, and side two is the 23-minute epic piece.

So let's start with side one. "One of These Days" kicks off the album, and boy does it kick! Butt, that is. The next two songs are more folky acousticish stuff -- I prefer "A Pillow of Winds" because "Fearless" goes off into that annoying football chant at the end. Then there's the humorous loungey "San Tropez" and the blues-with-dog "Seamus". A lot of people hate "Seamus", I think it's cute -- I mean, it's only like two minutes. Take it off and you've still got a full album side.

Then there's side two, "Echoes". It's not as tightly composed as "Atom Heart Mother" was, but man the first five minutes or so are gorgeous! And I just love that descending/ascending riff! As a 23-minute-long suite, I think it works slightly better than "AHM" did, even if it is, as Mark Prindle might call it, a five-minute rock song stretched out to four times its length. Overall, I'd say that this is the most coherent album the Floydsters have done up to this point. And this is only the first five years!

Say, notice a pattern developing? No, I don't either.


Obscured By Clouds - 1972

Rating: ***
Best songs: Burning Bridges, Wots...Uh The Deal, Free Four, Childhood's End
Worst songs: When You're In, Mudmen, Absolutely Curtains

 

Another soundtrack album? Were these guys hard up for cash or something?

Well, this one's better than More, anyway -- rather than making a bunch of noise, the band concentrates on writing coherent songs, mostly slow folky spacey ambient kinda stuff, if you catch my meaning. If you don't, get out!

Er... That is, Rick Wright sounds like his usual self on "Burning Bridges", Dave Gilmour sings an uptempo number entitled "The Gold It's In The..." -- which is really annoying. WHERE is the gold?! You have to listen to the song to figure that out! Roger Waters sings "Wots...Uh The Deal", which is basically the more upbeat stepson of "If". Who came up with these stupid song titles? Dave's "Childhood's End" contains a neat spacey intro, sort of a precursor to "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". The actual song is good as well. Okay, I'm tired of these vocal songs, let's move on.

There's also four instrumentals on here. The only one really worth hearing is the title track, which is very nice and pretty. As for the rest... Well, "When You're In" is annoyingly repetative (it's 2 1/2 minutes, but it sounds like it's twice that!). Also, "Mudmen" mainly just reprises "Burning Bridges", a song that we just heard three tracks ago! The album ends with "Absolutely Curtains", which is nice and ambient but a little dull. It's also got some stupid chanting at the end. As if we didn't hear enough of that in "Fearless"!

So what's the final word on Pink Ford? Pretty good, much more consistent than More, but doesn't jump out at you like their other 70s work do.

Historical note: this was the first Pink Floyd album to feature synthesizers.


Dark Side of the Moon - 1973

Rating: ****
Best songs: Time, Money, Us and Them, Breathe
Worst songs: Any Colour You Like

 

Sigh.

Why do I even bother writing about albums like this?

This is friggin' Dark Side of the Moon! You've HEARD this album! Hell, heretofore-undiscovered Amazonian tribes have heard this album! So what's the point of discussing it? Huh? Huh?

See? You don't have an answer!

To be honest I'm a bit tired of it constantly being praised as "the [second] greatest album of all time". So, instead of it getting the expected five stars, I'm docking it an entire star for "Any Colour You Like", because David Gilmour's guitar tone is really ugly. Take that, Floydsters!


Wish You Were Here - 1975

Rating: *****
Best songs: Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Wish You Were Here
Worst songs: none

 

This is more like it. Sure, everyone knows the title track, but at least you don't hear "Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Parts 1-infinity plus one" on the radio every half hour.

Song one (and five): "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" is possibly my favorite Floyd track. The first eight minutes of "SoYCD" is one of the most aurally blissful pieces of music I've ever heard. (Actually, this whole album contains some of the most tasteful, understated synthesizer work ever laid to vinyl.) And the actual song part ain't too bad neither.

Song two: "Welcome to the Machine" is a song most people don't like. Well, screw them, I say! The stereo synthesizer pulses alone are wonderful.

Song three: "Have a Cigar" is probably my least favorite song. It's still a nice catchy song, and it's responsible for introducing me to Roy Harper (check out Stormcock, it's excellent!).

Song four: "Wish You Were Here" is kind of a cliche, since it's Floyd's most well-known non-DSotM/Wall song, but that doesn't take anything away from it. And boy am I glad Gilmour sang it, and not Waters -- there's no way he could've pulled it off.

So there you have it. This is definitely my pick for "best Floyd album", and if I had to actually buy all the Floyd albums (thank heavens for iTunes and my brother's CD collection!), this would be the first I'd get.


Animals - 1977

Rating: ****
Best songs: Dogs, Pigs (Three Different Ones), Sheep
Worst songs: none

 

Apparently the extended piece "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" inspired Roger Waters to write a few really long songs. And to think this was done in the Year of Punk. Johnny Rotten, eat your heart out!

Well, okay, so the really long songs are bookended by "Pigs on the Wing", a pair of identical 1 1/2-minute love songs with different lyrics. Did that sentence make sense? Who cares, it's just 3 minutes of the album. Let's move on.

Part one of Waters' spiteful little allegory is "Dogs". At 17 minutes, this is the Floyd's third longest track! Unless The Final Album of Roger Waters Being Mr. Bitter-and-Spiteful has some sort of 20-minute epic on it. It manages to justify its 17-minute length, just about. I love those harmonized guitar lines in particular, and the endless repetition of "stone" halfway through with vocoder-ized dog barking is just so awesome, like totally! For sure! Then Roger Waters starts singing! Oh crap. Well, Rog doesn't do too bad. The "Who was born in a house filled with pain" part is goddamn excellent. Tip: think of the song as two separate songs (song 1 is sung by Dave, 2 by Rog), connected by the vocoder dogs. Then it'll be easier to digest, yes?

Should that have been two separate paragraphs? Nahhh. One paragraph for "Dogs", and now a paragraph for "Pigs" and "Sheep"...

Side two starts out with some excellent basswork. I somehow suspect David Gilmour's responsible for that, though. No offense to Roger, but he's not the most musical of musicians. (?) So yeah, "Pigs" is about as funky as "Young Lust", but hey, it's nice for them to try. Finally, we get "Sheep", which I know how it goes, but I'm at a loss to say much about it. I guess it's my least favorite track on here. I was gonna give this 4 1/2, but it seems kind of a chore to listen to, so it's only getting 4.

In closing, I'd like to thank the Academy, the entire cast of "Godfather IV: Don Corleone's Spring Break", and my--oh, sorry, wrong paper. This album = good. Ummagumma = bad. Any questions?


The Wall - 1979

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: disc one...too many songs...
Worst songs: disc two...too many songs...

 

On Animals, it was clear that Pink Floyd had become Roger Waters' show. Here, he goes off the deep end, creating the second-most-infamous rock opera ever.

Unfortunately, Roger Waters' talent lays mainly in his ability to do silly concept albums like this and make them sound believable -- considering he wrote all the songs on this (collaborating with Dave and producer Bob Ezrin on just a handful of them), there's going to be more than a few go-nowhere tracks.

Luckily, disc one for the most part manages to avoid that right turn to dullsville. Even songs like "The Thin Ice" and "The Happiest Days of Our Lives", which are more like song snippets than actual compositions, work well in this album's context. The first disc kind of goes downhill near the end, with a rehash of "Another Brick in the Wall" that doesn't work 'cause it's not connected like the first two parts were. Also, I find "Don't Leave Me Now" incredibly boring.

So we have disc two. Despite the strong opening trio of songs "Hey You", "Is There Anybody Out There?" (spooky acoustic guitar!), and "Nobody Home", this disc delves right into the meaning of "filler". I mean, "Vera", "Bring the Boys Back Home", "The Show Must Go On" -- what's the point of these songs, other than to pad out the album? (Coincidentally, if you were to remove a couple of these songs from the album, you could probably fit the album on one CD. Ripoff!) And "In the Flesh" is mostly a rehash of the opening song. Is this my idea of a fun listen? No, I don't think so. Okay, so the second album does contain two more classics, "Comfortably Numb" and "Run Like Hell", but it ends with 10 minutes of absolute silliness -- "Waiting for the Worms" and "The Trial". The hell? Whatever, yo.

Anyway, you'll still probably want to pick this up. There's too many good songs on here to let the bad ones bring you down.


The Final Cut - 1983

Rating: ***
Best songs: The Post War Dream, Your Possible Pasts, The Gunners Dream
Worst songs: Not Now John

 

Now this doesn't sound a whit like any Pink Floyd record I know. This is Roger Waters being bitter (as usual), singing really quietly THEN REALLY LOUDLY, backed mostly by either a piano, Hammond organ, or acoustic guitar. On a scant few tracks, Dave Gilmour and perhaps even Nick Mason pop up to play a few notes.

I wasn't really expecting much -- The Wall was nearly all Roger, and that was spotty to say the least. I guess in the four years between that and this, he managed to come up with a decent set of melodies, because damned if there aren't some absofrigginloutely wonderful tunes here -- the opener "The Post War Dream" and "The Gunners Dream" should be recognized as classics, dangit. Nobody ever talks about this album.

Anyway, there's one really awful tune on here, coincidentally the one sung by Gilmour: "Not Now John" is a terrible bastard child of "The Nile Song" and "Young Lust". Also, some songs feature Waters's annoying loud singing, and a couple tracks are just minute-long snippets, which is kind of pointless. Nevertheless, I'm quite impressed that Roger didn't screw this up. It almost makes me want to try one of his solo albums.

Hahahahahaha! Yeah, right.


A Momentary Lapse of Reason - 1987

Rating: **
Best songs: Learning to Fly, On the Turning Away, Sorrow, One Slip
Worst songs: A New Machine, Terminal Frost, The Dogs of War

 

Since The Final Cut was essentially a Roger Waters solo album, Dave Gilmour thought "hey, I should do that!". So he did. Dave rounded up a bunch of session players (including Tony Levin!), then put Rick and Nick in the album credits and pretended that they played on the album.

Okay, first things first -- this wasn't a "sell out". To sell out, you have to not be popular before. And considering DSotM sold twenty-five million copies, I don't think Gilmour was hurting for the money.

Anyway, the problem here is the album isn't very good. I can single out four songs that are excellent -- "Learning to Fly" and "One Slip" are good uptempo synthy rockers, "On the Turning Away" is a pretty ballad, and "Sorrow" is a kickass ending to the album. Unfortunately, in the middle you have the absolutely moronic "A New Machine" (in two parts! aaaagh!), the Weather Channel-quality instrumental "Terminal Frost", and the just hilariously bad "The Dogs of War". The only thing I haven't mentioned is the opening instrumental and "Yet Another Movie", which are both 'ehh'.

Thankfully, this was not the last Pink Floyd album, and as such their reputation (what reputation?) has not been totally sullied by Dave.


The Division Bell - 1994

Rating: ***
Best songs: Poles Apart, Wearing the Inside Out, Take It Back, Marooned
Worst songs: Keep Talking, Cluster One, High Hopes

 

Well, this is better -- an adequate swan song for Pink Floyd's career. This time, Rick Wright and Nick Mason actually play on here, and Rick gets his first song on a Floyd album in 20 years!

Okay, let's get the bad stuff out of the way first -- "Keep Talking" is absolutely annoying and silly, "Cluster One" is a cheap ripoff of the opening track from the last album, and "High Hopes" is an anticlimactic ending to the album.

Remove those offenders, and we have -- hey, look -- a normal-length album! (45 minutes or so) The album is a pretty blatant attempt at returning to the old PF sound (the acoustic guitar in "Lost for Words" is almost exactly like "Wish You Were Here", and "Marooned" is a gorgeous 'spacey' instrumental), but hey, it's a nice listen! "Poles Apart" harkens back to the acoustic balladry of Atom Heart Mother/Meddle era Floyd, and despite the silly carnivalesque middle section, it's an excellent slab of notes. "Wearing the Inside Out" is a mopey Rick Wright song, but it's still just about as good as his early PF work.

I'm not really sure what I'm trying to say here.

Anyway, it's a whole bunch better than AMLoR, and it's also certainly better than, say, Ummagumma.

Did I mention I don't really like Ummagumma?

Oh, one more thing -- Dave Gilmore is a fucking sellout!!!!!!!11

But it's still a good album.


Appendix: Solo Albums and Side Projects


Syd Barrett, The Madcap Laughs - 1970

Rating: ***
Best songs: Love You, Here I Go, Golden Hair
Worst songs: this section bites

 

I don't know whose idea it was to put Syd in the studio again, but thankfully he still had some good songs in him. To whit, my personal favorite of this album's tracks is "Love You", an upbeat bouncy number with silly free-association lyrics (sample: "ice cream 'scuse me I seen you looking good the other evening"). Others are good too, particularly the drearier (?) "Here I Go" and "Golden Hair", and the ever-popular "If It's In You" ("yes I'm thiiiiiiiiiiIIIIIIINKing of you!"). Main problem is it gets rather monotonous after a while. Nevertheless, fans of early PF would be well-advised to purchase this disc.


Roger Waters, Radio KAOS - 1987

Rating: *1/2
Best songs: The Tide is Turning, Home
Worst songs: Me or Him, The Powers That Be, Who Needs Information, Four Minutes

 

Roger had no trouble producing a couple albums after he split from Pink Floyd. Unfortunately, he did have trouble making them interesting. Radio KAOS is the story of a Tommy-esque Welsh kid who can only communicate via cell phones and speech synthesizers and those sorts of things. The plot's kinda silly, and revolves around some anti-war statements (which I like), but the main problem is that the majority of the music is crappy late-80s synth-rock. Furthermore (ooh, new word!), things are not improved by the fact that Roger's the one writing all the music here. His penchant for cynical lyrics and grand concepts were bouyed in Pink Floyd by the melodic skills of Gilmour and Wright. Here, uh, they're not. So we're stuck with Roger's rudimentary melodies backed by generic 80s pop instrumentation.

It's not a total loss, though. The ending track "The Tide is Turning" has a nice choral arrangement, and the uptempo opener "Radio Waves" is the most catchy thing on here. Like that's saying much. Of course, there's also the pleasantly dramatic "Home". But then a bunch of songs (such as "Who Needs Information" and "Me or Him") just plod along for five minutes or more, and there's an awful synth-disco number ("The Powers That Be") where I think Roger Waters is trying to rap... or maybe it's just the lack of a melody that's confusing me. And it doesn't help that the album skids to a halt occasionally for a section of dialogue, though it's not as annoying as it would be if there were good songs on here.


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