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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*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.