For people who are on the same quantities of drugs as Syd Barret was during most of this recording, this album is Pink Floyd's great lost masterpiece. For the rest of the world it is an interesting footnote to the career of a band that went on to record truly classic shit like Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall. For me, I think this album's true worth is somewhere in between these two assessments. For all the brilliance of Barret's concepts and lyrics and for all the raw talent of the band backing him on this, the simple fact is that a lot of this material sounds dated and juvenile compared to what Pink Floyd was doing a few years later. Syd Barret has some fairly dedicated fans who believe this is the greatest album ever released. Most people aren't even aware that it exists. The casual Pink Floyd fan isn't going to get this. Some random steakhead who picks this album up because he likes to listen to that "we don't need no education" song while warming up for wrestling practice is going to be fucking horrified by most of this. In fact he's probably going to have to beat the shit out of somebody to feel better about himself after listening to fruity songs like The Gnome and Flaming.
Barret was a fucked up drug addict who for some reason had a really big thing for nursery rhymes and Lewis Carroll books. That type of thing will happen when you drop that much high grade acid in a short period of time. It's pretty obvious listening to this that Barret was completely out of his fucking mind by the time this was recorded. The lyrics are mostly centered around fairy tales with elves and castles and shit like that, with some eastern philosophy ( Chapter 24) and space rock (Astronomy Domine) thrown into the mix for good measure. Barret likes to play around with wording and concepts so that a lot of things have double meanings and sentences and phrases don't really seem to make any sense. A good deal of this is purely psychedelic and that is played out to maximum effect on the album. Pink Floyd doesn't sound anything like this today, they are too modern rock oriented to be able to write off the wall experimental stuff like this. Random instrumentation is scattered across the entire album without much meaning or sense of continuity. Atonal jarring sound collages and tape effects are thrown in at times as if to fully illustrate the insanity of the author behind this music. Barret was good for writing hit singles when Pink Floyd was playing clubs, but at this point he was almost through writing music altogether. It reminds me of a story that I once heard about his last tour with the band when Barret would stand mute on stage playing a single note over and over again for the whole show while the rest of the band would try to play their songs. Barret by this point was more interested in dropping acid and reciting nursery rhymes than playing in a rock band.
There are times however when Barret's unusual approach does work with the rest of the band and a few good songs actually do emerge. The results are phenomenal and illustrate the true genius that he had for writing music. The menacing surf guitar tone and heavy bass on Lucifer Sam shows off Pink Floyd's dexterity for taking psychedelic source material and writing great hard rock songs with it. Likewise the instrumental freakouts on Astronomy Domine and Interstellar Overdrive make today's space rock bands sound like fucking amateurs by comparison. These songs make the album a worthwhile purchase for dedicated fans of this band. The unfortunate fact is that due to Barret's drug induced psychosis, a lot of the material is just too strange even for a Pink Floyd album, relegating it strictly to cult status. Most people who don't know much about Pink Floyd won't understand or appreciate much of this, but there is true genius at work here.* * * * Reviewed: March, 2003
Outside of a few soundtrack albums from the early 70's, Saucerful of Secrets is probably Pink Floyd's most obscure album. It is also one of their most interesting. The CD starts off great with three opening songs that are as good as anything Pink Floyd ever wrote. The album is inconsistent though and falls short when the drugs begin to take their toll and the experimental side of Pink Floyd starts to take over. When you listen to this band, especially their late 60's albums, you have to expect some strange sounding material, but even by Pink Floyd standards this record is definitely pretty fucked up. There are two songs which prominently feature marching band music, and one song has a kazoo solo. I'm not kidding about this, there is actually a solo by a kazoo player.
Pink Floyd was well known in London at this time as an experimental acid band that played thirty minute guitar and keyboard solos to psychedelic slide shows for people who were all fucked up on various drugs. They weren't very big yet, and they were still looking for a sound. Their main problem in this area was the loss of their founding member and certified band lunatic Syd Barrett. Barrett wrote all their early songs and was a major contributor to Pink Floyd's experimental psychedelic approach to music. However one day, right before this album, Barrett took too much acid and decided he was a tree. Then he stayed that way for the next 35 years. This album is a record of the friction in the band's sound that came about from losing such an influential member. A few of the songs feature Barrett and were written at least in part by him, the rest feature the remaining members of Pink Floyd trying to write their own songs and find their new sound. The Barrett material is uneven, brilliant in some places and infuriating in others, just like he probably was at the time. The other material is more consistent, but lacks the confident approach that made great songs suddenly start appearing a few years later.
The set piece on this album is a 12 minute experiment in annoying instrumentation that even most die hard Pink Floyd fans have a hard time getting through. Pink Floyd was known at this time for writing extended instrumental pieces like this. The song here isn't up to par with other instrumental material from the same era like Astronomy Domine and Careful With That Axe Eugene, and definitely not with later material like Echoes. They did a much better job with this song on the Live at Pompeii video, but the album version is just unsettling and annoying. Corporal Clegg is a bass heavy psychedelic song about the futility of war, with excellent lyrics and a great chorus. Unfortunately it also features marching band music and a kazoo, so there you go. You take the good with the bad. See Saw is an unremarkable Wright composition that tries a lot to sound like something Syd Barrett would have written. It probably would have made a good single in the 60's but sounds dated by the standards of later Pink Floyd and doesn't fit well with the rest of the album's tone. The first three songs, Let There Be More Light , Remember A Day , and Set The Controls For The Heart of The Sun are all excellent and among the best songs Pink Floyd has ever written. Remember A Day is especially effective as a composition that bridges Pink Floyd's earlier psychedelic sounds with the space rock that would define their next few years. Set The Controls is all bass and keyboards with hypnotic drums and Roger Waters chanting passages from a book of ancient Chinese poetry in the background, truly effective and dark. The album closes with Jug Band Blues, which unfortunately contains more marching band music but otherwise is a very good Barrett song in which he oddly enough questions his own sanity and link to reality. The lyrics, "Its awfully considerate of you to think of me here but I must oblige that I'm not here, and I'm wondering who could be writing this song" are especially unsettling considering that this is the last Pink Floyd song to feature Syd Barrett. The album closes with Barrett's open question, "what exactly is a dream and what exactly is a joke?" By that point in his schizophrenia, he probably didn't know the answer to either question.
Saucerful of Secrets contains quality material that is plagued by its unevenness and need for constant experimentation. The band sounds unsure of itself. The CD is worth buying for the first three songs alone, after that though you take your chances. This is an idea of where Pink Floyd was heading before Barrett shaved his head and started talking to plants. Listening to this album will probably lead you to the conclusion that it wasn't a bad thing that he left the band at this point. Still, it has its moments and they are quite good. My advice is to smoke copius amounts of marijuana and maybe drop some acid before listening to this CD. Just be sure to skip over the 12 minute song or you will probably never be the same again. Compared to Pink Floyd's later work, this isn't great. Compared to anybody else, it's fucking brilliant.* * * 1/2 Reviewed: January, 2003
Pink Floyd released this double album in 1969 to kill time while deciding how to write songs without Syd Barrett. The first disc is all live material from their shows that year and the second disc is free form experimental sound collages and songs put together seperately by each member of the band. I am really at a loss in rating this because the first disc is fucking amazing and will blow your mind, and the second disc is just absolutely pointless. Pink Floyd was an experimental band above all else at this point in their career. Without Syd Barrett to write 3 minute hit singles for them the band completely fell back on what it did best, taking drugs and fucking with people's minds. There is a good side and a bad side to this as the Ummagumma disc illustrates more than adequately. Pink Floyd were driven by their art and compelled to do things that no one else before them had dreamed of. The problem is that they weren't really focused enough at this point in their career to make this experimentation consistently good. It was more hit or miss at this point. The second disc here is a band more focused on being artists than musicians. The only people who will enjoy this are people who have questionable facial hair and hang around in coffee shops all day. Everyone else would be well advised to keep the first disc and use the second one for target practice. Or maybe if you wanted to torture somebody like in Clockwork Orange, you could lock them in a room and put this CD on repeat. Either way, the second disc is worthless and it's good that Pink Floyd got their act together or shit like this would have ruined their career.
And then there's the first disc, which demonstrates everything that was good about this band in 1969. There are only four songs but it's well over a half hour of music, averaging to about 10 minutes per song. This could really be considered an instrumental disc, even though half the songs have vocals, because without the dominating presence of Barrett the focus was completely on the music, with vocals added low in the mix basically as another instrument. Pink Floyd was legendary for live shows in the 60's and this material must have been incredible to witness live. The songs are enhanced by free form instrumental experimentation and extended pieces involving each separate instrument. Rick Wright really proves his worth as an outstanding keyboardist with the organ solos on Saucerful Of Secrets and the electronic sound effects featured on the incredible live version of Careful With That Axe Eugene. The fact that they included this song, which is not on any other studio album except for the box set and Relics greatest hits collection, makes the disc worth owning. Roger Waters' full out death shriek halfway through this song must be heard to be believed. Easily the most unsettling vocal on any Pink Floyd record. Their resurrection of Saucerful Of Secrets is also completely amazing here if for no other reason than that the album version was so badly produced. Performed live, it is probably the best song on the disc, and it shows off the talents of the individual band members. Also included here is an extremely dark atmospheric version of Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun with Roger Waters' chanting and vocals amped up higher than on the album version, giving the song a much more sinister edge. Astronomy Domine is the only song included off the Piper At The Gates album and is actually better than the album version. This song is pure psychedelic experimentation set to lyrics and vocals which bridge that gap between the Beatles and Dark Side Of The Moon. Just like with Saucerful Of Secrets, you take your chances with this album. At least here it is neatly divided into one disc of great material and one disc of fucking horrible material. You should still buy this album, but if you're smart you'll sell the second disc to somebody who works at a coffee shop, use that money to buy drugs, and then listen to the first disc.* * * 1/2 Reviewed: February, 2003
By 1976, Pink Floyd had arrived at a point somewhere in between the lushness of Dark Side and the stark cynicism of The Wall. The product of this middle ground was the Animals album. Animals was a concept album in the truest form, but the concept is a little less overt than those of The Wall and Dark Side Of The Moon. The concept this time around was loosely based around George Orwell�s Animal Farm. The visual on the cover of a giant pig floating over a dark industrial landscape just about says it all. Roger Waters, much like Orwell, was trying to make a statement about the dehumanizing effects of capitalism. He does this by dividing society into three groups: the dogs are ruthless opportunists, always trying to get ahead and make money by any means possible; the pigs are self-absorbed tyrants and government figures running the show for their own benefit; the sheep are the mindless masses following their leaders (much like Orwell's proles from 1984).
The album begins with Pigs On the Wing (one of only two songs which clock in under ten minutes). This is a deliberately self-absorbed acoustic, discussing the fleeting nature of relationships and perhaps revealing the tragic human side of Waters' concept. From there it moves on to Dogs. The music changes pace frequently and is built around one of the most complex and moving narratives ever to appear on a Floyd album. The song describes the life of a corporate businessman who spends his life screwing others to get ahead. In the end, he winds up dying bitter and alone, "It's too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw down". Social commentary at its hardest, a Floyd trademark witnessed in full strength here. The vocals are perfectly cynical and the guitar solo is among Gilmour's finest work. The soundscape of barking dogs and the mournful keyboard arrangements capture some of the lushness sadly missing from Floyd's later work. Pigs tells the story of three different pigs and exposes them as sad, pathetic, and weak despite their charade of power and prestige. The simple guitar riff fades in and out above a fat bass line. Musically, this is one of floyd's better songs. The only thing which kept this song from achieving radio hit status was its 10 minute plus track length. The 4th song, Sheep attacks the listener with power chords and seething hostility, featuring a driving guitar riff set perfectly to vocals which drone and fade with the music. Waters actually sounds really pissed off in his vocals, a sign of things to come in later years. The concept here describes a flock of sheep as human society, sitting in a pasture, obeying the dogs and waiting for slaughter. In the end, the sheep rise up and fight the dogs off. This triumph of human will over oppressive conformity would be explored further in The Wall two years later. Pigs on The Wing Part II ties the concept up again with the human aspect of this struggle.
While it is not the best Pink Floyd disc, I would have to say that Animals comes god damn close at least, and in my opinion is one of the best floyd albums. The concept, while dark, is brave social commentary at its best. It still applies today. The music combines metal influenced hard rock, progressive rock, and psychedelia in a way which only Pink Floyd could pull off. This is brilliant, creative, and nearly fucking flawless. Classic Pink Floyd.* * * * 1/2 Reviewed: November, 1997
With the exception of Momentary Lapse Of Reason, there probably isn't another Pink Floyd album that has taken as much derision as this one. Coming directly after the huge success of a phenomenal album in 1979, The Final Cut is easy to overlook, and for the most part it was, which no doubt contributed to the band's eventual demise shortly after its release. Although by the sounds of this, there wasn't much left of the band by the time The Final Cut was recorded. In all honesty this is really the first Roger Waters solo album, at least as much as Momentary Lapse Of Reason was a David Gilmour solo album. Waters by this time had taken complete control of Pink Floyd and the band were basically treated as hacks and session musicians with minimal creative input on this album. The fact that there's only one band member actually writing this album illustrates the fatal flaw that doomed Waters' solo career. He is an interesting writer and has a lot to say which is worth hearing, but without Gilmour's guitar solos or Rick Wright's keyboard effects the music isn't as engaging or interesting and it basically comes off as a rock opera written by the bass player. Listening to this you can almost pick out the moments when Gilmour and Mason were allowed to contribute to the writing process. These are the moments that snap you out of your stupor and grab you by the fucking throat to remind you that this is a Pink Floyd album. The amazing guitar solos in The Fletcher Memorial Home and Your Possible Pasts come immediately to mind as something that should have happened a lot more often on this record.
Musically this album is lacking most of the hard rock guitar driven fury that made The Wall and Animals such interesting albums. The music here is understated and mellow by comparison, with a lot of piano and fucking horrible saxophone solos. The inclusion of so much piano is disturbing considering that Rick Wright was kicked out of the band by Waters directly before the recording of this album. The music suffers as a result and despite some fairly good effects in The Hero's Return and Paranoid Eyes, Wright's absence from this record is notable. Musically, Waters is writing some decent music here but is obviously constrained by his need to control everything. Your Possible Pasts, Not Now John, and The Final Cut are all amazing songs and deserve their place among Pink Floyd's greatest. However so much of this record is just piano and understated acoustics that it doesn't even sound like a rock album. A lot of Water's minor key melodies and sad arrangements fit the tone of the album perfectly and some of it is quite incredible, especially on the title track and on The Post War Dream. But there does need to be more guitar and a whole lot less saxophone and that much should have been blatantly obvious to whoever was producing this.
By default then the main emphasis of this album is on Waters lyrics which are quite simply fucking amazing. The fact that Waters is a gifted writer and has so much passion for the material is what saves a lot of this from mediocrity. The concept is basically the imperialistic nature of cold war politics and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. Waters handles this material with the skill of a scientist. His cynicism and constant need to attack the system gets to be overbearing at times. Margaret Thatcher who was previously referenced as one of the three society pigs on Animals is brutalized in pretty much every track of this album. But despite his confrontational nature, Waters has a gift for narrative lyricism that is unreal, placing a human face on the tragedy of war and imperialism at every opportunity. The Gunner's Dream as an example is told from the point of view of an air force gunner shot down and dreaming of home and peace and family "in the space between the heavens and the corner of some foreign field". Southampton Dock tells the story of a woman who was at the docks to greet her husband who didn't return home from World War II and is now years later standing at the same docks to send her son off to die in another war.Two Suns In The Sunset studies what goes through a person's mind in the moments before nuclear annihilation with the second sun representing a mushroom cloud on the horizon. With Roger Waters writing lyrics with this much emotion and depth, The Final Cut was already an excellent album before a note of music was even written. And it could have been a true classic if the rest of Pink Floyd had been there for it. This is by far my favorite Roger Waters solo album.* * * * Reviewed: March, 2003
For those of you keeping track, it's at this precise point in time that Pink Floyd became a mockery of themselves, another dinosaur band trying to make a ton of money by releasing bland radio rock for secretaries and investment bankers and A&R men with ponytails. This shit is supposed to be like some kind of updated 1980's Pink Floyd and yet it comes off as more contrived and outdated than anything else they've done. And what the fuck's up with all the backup singers and saxophones, is that some kind of prerequisite for weak 1980s modern rock. If the band that released Echoes and Saucerful Of Secrets could be transported through time to hear Momentary Lapse Of Reason they would fucking kill themselves. Rick Wright's effects and keyboards are about the only interesting thing on this album. Mason's drums sound completely synthesized like a Def Leppard album except that Mason's got both of his arms so there's no excuse. And Gilmour can't decide whether he wants to be Phil Collins or Dire Straits so he decides to try doing both at the same time.
Find the missing link here, it's Roger Waters. Waters may have been an egomaniac and a complete prick by the mid 80s, but he probably could have at least made this album interesting. Waters wouldn't write songs or lyrics this bad if he had been clubbed in the fucking head. Gilmour was always an excellent guitar player, but Roger Waters carried the conceptual weight of Pink Floyd, the thing that made them unique and interesting in the 70's and the thing that is missing from the new Pink Floyd, a sense of purpose and direction. The music sounds nice sometimes but it just kind of hangs there as mediocre background music with an occasional guitar solo or keyboard effect to make you remember that it's Pink Floyd. What is the concept of Momentary Lapse Of Reason? To make Pink Floyd a fuckload of money that's what it is. Did it work? Yes it did. Is it good? Hell no it isn't.
Signs Of Life starts the album off on a promising note with a really effective and creepy intro. Keyboards are the first instrument to be heard on this album, signaling Rick Wright's reappearance in the band and the rebirth of Pink Floyd for better or for worse. Learning To Fly, their big hit from this album, follows with the type of slightly edgy but bland modern rock radio music that Pink Floyd would now be known for. Somehow this song is still pretty good though with 80's synth effects and heavy echo to disguise Gilmour's diminishing vocal ability. Still, when Learning To Fly is a highlight of the album, you know things aren't looking too good. And what's up with all the cockpit voices in the background. Does England even have a fucking space program? So the album starts off at least promising for the first couple of tracks but then it goes straight to hell. The Dogs Of War? Holy shit this is fucking horrible. Is this some kind of fucking joke. Just try not to laugh your ass off when Gilmour hits those high notes. This shit sounds like Phil Collins. Really bad Phil Collins. One Slip is once again kind of passable 80's radio rock with nice vocal harmonies, not horrible but nothing to start wacking off about either. This song features a hilarious Michael Jackson sounding synth breakdown. I think it was supposed to be a bass solo. Do they even have a fucking bass player anymore? Roger Waters would probably kill this guy if there wasn't that restraining order keeping him away from the band Oh yeah and Gilmour rhymes "being in love" and "fits like a glove". Absolutely fucking priceless, you can't make shit like that up. On The Turning Away features a decent guitar solo but is otherwise pointless. Gilmour proves he can still play even if he's not a great songwriter or lyricist. Yet Another Movie is an improvement. This song is eerie and dark, and it sounds like a really good Queensryche song with slow bass and a bunch of voices and shit talking in the background. Of course Queensryche was supposed to be ripping off Pink Floyd in the 80s and not the other way around. Was Queensryche even a fucking band at this time? I don't know. I've got to start checking my facts. Excellent keyboard effects on this song anyway that aren't completely ruined by Gilmour's pointless guitar wanking which sounds nothing at all like the song being played. And then there's New Machine Part I & II. What the fuck is this shit, is this even a song. I don't think it is. Terminal Frost is some more new age sounding keyboards and guitar solos with lots of really bad saxophone playing. More background music but at least it's not as annoying as the New Machine tracks that surround it. You could listen to this I guess, but what would be the point really? Sorrow closes the album with powerful strange sounding guitar and lots of heavy echo effect on everything. Good way to close an album but too little too late to save MLOR from its own mediocrity.
Is Momentary Lapse Of Reason the worst album in the world? No not by a long shot, that title would probably go to something by Celine Dion or Yanni. Is MLOR the worst Pink Floyd album? Yeah, sorry but it is and if you think this album is great you might as well own up to the fact that you're a fruitcake. I mean maybe this album isn�t really so bad, it has a couple of good points (Yet Another Movie, Sorrow), Rick Wright is back in the band, and after all it is a Pink Floyd album so it really can't be that bad can it? No fuck it, it is bad and I'm not making excuses for this band.* * Reviewed: October, 2003
For all the shit that David Gilmour talks about Roger Waters on this album, it's fairly obvious in listening to this that his creativity and songwriting talent are sorely lacking in Pink Floyd's later albums. It's pretty much common knowledge that fame and popularity turned Waters into a raving megalomaniac sometime around 1979. But it's also obvious when you listen to their records that Waters was largely responsible for most of Pink Floyd's best music. The Division Bell is a vast improvement over anything the band has done since the early 80's, but unless you drive a Saab and are really excited about the upcoming Billy Joel concert this should not be the first Pink Floyd album you buy. Considering the fact that their last album sounded like a fucking Phil Collins record, The Division Bell is a great return to form for this band. Despite the obvious bland modern rock radio tendencies which overshadow the band's present writing style, this does in fact sound like a Pink Floyd record.
There are certain sins which I cannot forgive here, not the least of which is the fact that David Gilmour's girlfriend co-wrote half of this album. The armies of backup singers and musicians are also a particular sore spot, considering the talent that this band obviously has. I noticed while watching a live video recently that it's hard to tell which of the people on stage are actual members of the fucking band because there are at least thirty or so random fruits up there with them singing and playing different instruments. That's a good indication that a band has jumped the shark and is past it's point of relevance, when other people are playing and writing their songs for them. Pink Floyd should be the last band that needs that kind of help and it pisses me off to see it happen to them.
These things aside however, I have to give this album three stars. The music is definitely watered down and more blatantly commercial than what you'll hear on their classic records, but for the most part it is quite good. With one notable exception there are no instant classics here. The whole record kind of takes on an atmosphere of resignation to a certain formula which works for this band. For the most part, they don't fuck too hard with their formula and there aren't a lot of surprises here. The instrumental tracks on their classic albums were free form experiments in sound and art with unsettling atonal sound effects and strange patterns and shifts in the music. Here they are more or less pleasant background music to set the mood for the rest of the album and serve as a break from the radio hits. The keyboards set the tone for a good deal of this album, and it is good to see Rick Wright back in the band after Waters more or less kicked him out. Wright is Pink Floyd's greatest asset now as a musician and his keyboard effects more often than not are what makes this sound like a Pink Floyd record. Gilmour is not writing great songs but he is still a damn good guitar player. His vocals lack the biting cynicism of Waters, but are more pleasant to listen to. Considering the fact that it was Gilmour who sang on Dark Side Of The Moon, most fans should see this as a good change for the band. There are a lot of effects on this and a lot of times vocals are layered to achieve that deep chorus tone heard on Comfortably Numb. The concept of this album (Pink Floyd always has a concept) is the breakup and dissolution of the band in the 70's and their rebirth from all of that hatred and litigation. The thinly veiled shots that Gilmour takes at Roger Waters are sometimes brutal but in all honesty probably well deserved. Lost For Words is the most obvious track directed at Waters, with the lines "Can you see your days blighted by darkness, is it true you beat your fists on the floor? Stuck in a world of isolation, while the ivy grows over the door" probably striking a raw nerve with Waters wherever he is these days. High Hopes is probably the best song on this disc, and unlike the rest of the album's more mediocre performances this song definitely has the sound of classic Pink Floyd. Rick Wright's singularly haunting piano tone sets the backdrop for what is the most well-written Pink Floyd song in at least 10 years. The lyrics close the concept with a sad tone that recalls the band as it was in the 60's and early 70's, young and having a good time. The lyrics lament the loss of this youth and freedom and what it all became in the end. For the last Pink Floyd song ever written I couldn't have said it better myself.* * * Reviewed: March, 2003