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3WA 2018 #18: Pink Floyd – A Momentary Lapse of Reason

It occurred to me, after I clicked the “schedule” button on last week’s post, that there is in fact a relevant and natural follow-up subject in the spreadsheet. Queensrÿche’s Promised Land is often referred to as their take on Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, so why not bring out the selected Pink Floyd record next?

Sure, it’s a flimsy kind of segue, but I’ll take what inspiration I can get.

What is it?

A Momentary Lapse of Reason is the 1987 album release from the band which legally retained the name of Pink Floyd despite Roger Waters’ efforts to the contrary. In some ways it’s a first album. In some ways a it’s a last hurrah.

How does it sound?

Sampler mix rise and swirl into the leaden sky:

Why this pick?

1987 was a weird year for weird classic-rock bands releasing big, popularly successful records. The Dead did it with In The Dark, Fleetwood Mac did it with Tango In The Night. And so with the venerable Pink Floyd, having parted ways with one of its key members. I find this aspect rather interesting, seeing what the remaining members decided to do once freed of Waters’ particular stylistic and lyrical demands.

Mind you it’s also a great sounding record. It’s very 1980s, sure, but excellently so.

There are individual songs on earlier Pink Floyd albums I like more than nearly anything on Momentary Lapse. There are, however, no Pink Floyd albums I like more, song-for-song, than this one. Even the great and powerful Dark Side of the Moon doesn’t have much to offer other than “Money,” “Us and Them,” and “Time” in terms of individual-song listening material. (And I don’t even like “Us and Them” all that much. Blasphemy, I know.) Early records were crafted for listening all the way through, usually after having recalibrated your brainpan with chemicals. Later records with Roger Waters are… polarizing, to say the least.

Momentary Lapse is just nice. It’s what you get when what’s left of a highly creative long-running act settles down in the late 1980s to bash out a few good songs, gosh darn it.

Which songs are the highlights?

The first half (or side, if you prefer) consists mostly of a string of three radio singles and one song that should’ve been. “Learning To Fly” and “One Slip” and even “Dogs Of War,” they’re all good cuts. For my money, the best of the popular songs is “On the Turning Away.”

My favorite songs here are toward the end of the album, though. “Yet Another Movie,” the closing track “Sorrow,” and the instrumental “Terminal Frost” are just fantastic.

Which songs don’t work so well?

There are no real duds here. “Signs of Life” is a typically (for Pink Floyd) odd little opening number, more ambient sounds and partial melodic noodling than an actual song. The pair of “A New Machine” tracks add up to barely more than two minutes of David Gilmour doing kind of a riff on Genesis’ “Guide Vocal” tracks on their Duke album. Take them or leave them, the album isn’t damaged either way.

Which album did you almost pick in favor of this one?

The temptation to go with Wish You Were Here after last week’s Queensrÿche commentary was nearly too strong to resist. Problem is, there’s not much to say about that record. It’s basically made up of three songs surrounded by two long tracks full of musical noodling-around.

I could also have taken a stab at talking about The Wall. I’m not sure I could have done it justice. My feelings about that record are complicated, to say the least.

Any final thoughts?

I stated above that this is kind of a first album. Any major line-up change results in a debut, of sorts. What does the band do now? What new sounds do they try for, if any? By any measure this is a respectable result, even if in the end it’s really kind of a glorified David Gilmour solo record.

I also stated above that this is kind of a last hurrah. Sure, the live album which followed this is pretty good and sold well, but after that? The Division Bell is an utter snooze-fest. (Sorry, die-hard fans. I simply cannot connect with that record.) Apparently there was a final album released a few years ago; the fact that I only learned about it while researching this project post says it all, really. So I consider Momentary Lapse to be the high note that Pink Floyd really went out on. And that’s okay. It’s a good album, Brent.

Even if it does succumb to the 1980s fascination with adding saxophone solos to things.

3 Comments

  1. “Dogs of War” is one of my favorite songs, period, and I could listen to the first side of this album on loop for hours and still be entertained.

    And did, repeatedly.

    • It’s not a groundbreaking record, it’s not a musically important record, it’s just a really really good record. Also, an indictment of the notion that Waters was solely responsible for Pink Floyd’s best classic songs.

      • I can think of one way how “Reason” was important.

        It introduced a BUNCH of people to Pink Floyd. “Learning to Fly” actually got pop-radio airplay, after all.

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