A Bad Case Of Eightiestrebleosis

What a difference actually sitting down and listening to an LP makes on your pre-conceived ideas of it.  Sometimes.  Well, dear readers, I’ve just had that experience with Pink Floyd A Momentary Lapse of Reason, which is the station I left the Floyd train on.  When this came out I was so excited as I was 15 and I had been a Pink Floyd fan for a few years, completely obsessed beyond all reason with The Wall* and due to the various legal savagery taking place this was the first time they had released an LP during my fandom.  It was my Christmas present that year** and I liked it, really liked bits of it even.  But it never had the staying power of their earlier releases which I went back to and though my parents were polite about it I could tell they weren’t overly impressed, although to be fair they had seen them in all their psychedelic glory at the UFO Club in London.  So I’d play it occasionally, as you do and hadn’t really thought much about it, other than giving it a spin once last year, for a good 15 years.

The original draft design from Hipgnosis. Honest!
The original draft design from Hipgnosis. Honest!

In fact, much as I was unimpressed with The Division Bell despite it’s ace artwork, I tended to lump A Momentary Lapse of Reason in with it and forget about this LPs’ merits and it was only really the memory of the blander, less-inspiring bits that remained.  Because I am a bit pushed for time tonight – real life, Pah! it really gets in the way of blogging sometimes, I opted for this LP yesterday because I thought I knew the whole story already.  Having spun it twice now though, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and certainly more than I remembered.

Straight up I’d say that A Momentary Lapse of Reason suffers most egregiously from that most 80’s of ailments, a horrible trebley sound – there’s just not enough bottom end here at all.  It’s also pretty well-known that excessive weedy synths tend to be co-morbid with Eightiestrebleosis and, again, that is the case here too – apparently Rick Wright was retained to play on this LP as a hired hand at $11k/week, obviously a mere fraction of my take home pay, but you would have thought a man of his talents could have sneaked some proper sounding piano in here and there.

However my main gripe with this LP was (and is) that it’s just missing the cussedness of their previous LPs.  You see I’ve always been a sucker for spite, bite and sneer in music and Roger Waters has always been a trusty purveyor of weapons-grade spite and to my mind this is what is missing here, that jaundiced world view.  Similar to elements of the Lennon-McCartney dynamic, Gilmour and Waters balance beautifully, you take out Waters from the mix and it just lacks some impact for me.  I loved The Final Cut, which is a bleak, bitter LP if ever I heard one, whereas I just liked this one.

A momentary 01

As I said, playing it again today I was pleasantly surprised by ‘Learning to Fly’ which reaches for and hits a certain level of detached grandeur.  ‘The Dogs of War’ is a damn good attempt to stir up some bite, I really like the music and rhythm on this one and the lyrics were a lot less trite than I remember them being too.  ‘One Slip’ is a particularly pessimistic take on relationships, which whilst a bit 80’s sounding (think of the sound in Yes ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’) works for me, although try as I might I can’t really picture Dave Gilmour ‘whirling without end’ to the music and pulling a hot chick on the dance floor, as described in the song.  Maybe he should bust a few more moves on stage for us?

I have a bit of a problem with ‘On the Turning Away’, whilst perfectly well-intentioned it does suffer from a certain post Live Aid overly earnest portentousness.  As is a bit of a common fault in post-waters Floyd the whole song seems to be an excuse to hang one of Gilmour’s epic, slo-mo, emotional guitar solos on – which is no criticism of that by the way, no-one can touch him in that sphere at all.  It’s just that if you take that out, you’re left with a bit of a soggy mess of a song on the lino.

‘Yet Another Movie’ takes a while to get going after a few minutes of, umm, atmospheric atmospherics but I do like it when it does.  This song boards the Pessimism Express and rides the Downward Spiral straight to Bleakville, NE.

A man who ran, a child who cried
A girl who heard, a voice that lied
The sun that burned a fiery red
The vision of an empty bed

Dave Gilmour’s voice is so perfectly suited to this type of miserabilism, it could have been made for it, and that’s no criticism at all.  It, rather perversely, makes me happy.

A momentary 03

But on the second side, apart from the ‘Welcome to the Machine’ -esque, umm, ‘A New Machine’ (both parts) that’s it for me.  A couple of polite instrumentals and ‘Sorrow’, whilst opening with a fabulous guitar sound really is just Floyd-by-numbers and all-round just a bit pants.  There are tales that A Momentary Lapse of Reason was originally destined to be a Dave Gilmour solo LP and I can well believe that.

So all-in-all, this patient definitely contracted a bad case of Eightiestrebleosis, but by no means a terminal one.  I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, but I’m not sure when it will get played again.

230 Down.

P.S – am having new shelf added = chaos!  Vinyl stacked all around downstairs – check out these refugees! (still scrupulously stacked in alphabetical order though!). I need to get out more.

P - R

*still one of my favourite LPs ever in the history of everosity.

**and the 14th LP in my collection – I know you live for details like that.

14 thoughts on “A Bad Case Of Eightiestrebleosis

  1. One moment I’ve never met ANYONE who liked The Final Cut (pompous, self-pitying, devoid of invention) and the next moment I encounter two (count them) ‘loves’. Mark this day in the Floyd almanac, boys. (Me? Provocative?)
    PS> My sister, normally a reputable source, claims she danced with David Gilmour in Melbourne in the 80s (probably the tour for this album). She said he was short.

    1. Three of us, if you read the comments!

      I genuinely love it, it’s a jaundicothon! Well, that’s what I say without spinning the thing.

      Way to go sis!

  2. I remember that album as an excuse to tour. It’s better than the Rolling Stones tour-excuse albums, though. I remember loving “Learning to Fly” but now I only hear Tom Petty in my head. That’s a problem requiring immediate remedy.

  3. I love this post, even though I don’t agree with every point. You’re certainly spot-on regarding the production; it definitely suffers from ’80s-ness. I was 21 when this came out, and was not only a huge Floyd fan (still am) but just as much a fan of Gilmour’s two solo albums at the time. Although he was clearly trying hard to make it sound like a big, Floyd-ian creation, I often thing of this album as a grandiose Gilmour album. I played it nearly every day of my senior year in college, and that’s not an exaggeration. My second most played album that year was Roger Waters’ incredibly underrated Radio KAOS. That one hasn’t aged well, so I would never recommend it to anyone but the most devoted fan, but it was released at the perfect time for me (and I still love it whenever I play it). I saw both tours, at Madison Square Garden, in approximately the same seats, four months apart. Believe it or not, in my opinion the Waters show was better. It was certainly an improvement over his Pros & Cons Of Hitchhiking tour of ’84, which I also saw. Eric Clapton was the best part of that show.

    “On The Turning Away” continues to blow me away, even if the lyrical content was a little too earnest (as you eloquently stated). To me “Sorrow” is one of the standout tracks, if for no other reasons that Gilmour’s monster guitar work and what may be the bleakest lyrics ever written: “The sweet smell of a great sorrow lies over the land, plumes of smoke rise and merge into the leaden sky, A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers,but awakes to a morning with no reason for waking.” Think about that the next time your alarm wakes you up from a pleasant dream. Haha.

    Thanks for bringing attention to a great if slightly flawed album that just happens to be one of those touchstone releases in my life. Oh, and I love love love The Final Cut too. Talk about back-to-back albums that have next to nothing in common.

    1. Thank you, thank you.

      I just think Gilmour and Rogers need each other as balance. I’m not a fan of Waters’ solo stuff either – clearly no one around to say ‘no, that’s not such a good idea Roger’, but most solo LPs suffer a bit from that.

      I’ve never seen Floyd (once in utero doesnt really count!) but I have seen Waters twice now and was surprised at how warm a man he seemed.

      I get your point on Sorrow too. It’s no ‘chirpy chirpy cheep cheep’ is it?

      1. I actually think Gilmour does pretty well on his own, when he’s not trying to “be” Pink Floyd. His first two solo albums are amazing, and even his third one, which came out years later, is very good. Waters, on the other hand, gets too bogged down in concepts, so many of his great musical ideas are harder to digest. Of course, I say that as a huge fan of Radio KAOS, but the rest of his solo work was in need of some levity and maybe an additional creative viewpoint. Based on the footage I’ve seen of Waters over the last couple of years, he seems to be more of an inviting/engaging performer. His vocals at the 121212 Concert were as strong as I’ve ever heard them.

  4. I love The Final Cut. That album struck a chord with me, for all its bombastic silliness in spots, I love it and I think it’s very underrated.

    As for this album: I haven’t played it in probably 7 or 8 years. I hear Learning To Fly on the radio all the time, and I love that song, but I remember being disappointed with the album. May have to revisit.

    1. Worth a quick spin again I’d say, it’s definitely second division Floyd, but I liked it more than I thought I would.

      The Final Cut, I just love – nasty, nasty, nasty LP.

      1. Bob Ezrin produced it I think? And Rick Wright, I think there was some legal wrangling going on regarding his firing, or something? They couldn’t have him as a “member” on this album or something like that?

      2. Right on both counts, there was some savage legal wrangling going on over the name.

        Ezrin co-produced with the band. I need to get myself a proper Floyd book for all the details.

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