Friday, April 08, 2005

records that ruined my life, part one

PINK FLOYD - 'Momentary Lapse of Reason'

The first Pink Floyd album I ever owned was a tape cassette copy of 'Delicate Sound of Thunder’. And it wasn’t even the entire live album. It was only tape 2, which started off with ‘One of These Days’ and then moved straight into Darkside-era classics. Side B contained the encore, with more harmless tracks from the classic era. This live album was released after the 1987 tour with the Dave Gilmour-led line-up. Roger Waters was well into his lyrically intriguing but musically boring solo career. Startled by the sound of this legendary band crackling through my worn out cassette, I went to the mall with my buddy and made two life-altering purchases:

#1 Bjork - ’Post’
#2 Pink Floyd - ’Pulse’

I would soon fall in love with the Bjork album (as well as Bjork herself, which culminated in my very first concert…Bjork). I purchased the 1995 Pink Floyd live album for two reasons. Firstly, I wasn’t yet familiar enough with the band to know where to start (this was obviously before the ‘Best of’ was released). Secondly, the cover featured a really cool eye and a blinking red light on the CD spine. I’m a sucker for visuals. This album provided a more complete overview of the band than my crummy tape. It also introduced me to the difference between Waters-era songs and Gilmour-era songs.

Before purchasing ‘Momentary Lapse…’ a couple years later, I was the proud teenage owner of a majority of Pink Floyd’s back-catalog. ’Pulse’ contained a few ‘Momentary Lapse…’ songs and other Gilmour tunes, but in the context of the live performance, and due to track sequencing, I was rarely too harsh on the songs. I recognized that Gilmour wasn’t as strong a writer as Waters, but felt that he had his own charming and inoffensive style. Hell, I’d read books on the band and understood the various feuds, and had primarily been a Dave Gilmour apologist…

Until THIS album became mine. At this point in his career, realizing that no one wanted to buy his solo albums, Dave Gilmour roped Nick Mason back into the fold and decided to revive the happily dead Pink Floyd moniker. Much to Roger Waters' chagrin, it was a phenomenal success. An obvious example of hype and name brand recognition outshining quality (or lack there of). Man, this album had everything. The worst in over-processed, over-reverbed 80's production; soulless sythn tones and lifeless drums (or drum machines); multiple rewrites of that 'Comfortably Numb' guitar solo; stupid experiments ('New Machine'); and bad saxophone playing. Even the songs that I had liked or tolerated off the live album were pale shadows of their live selves. 'Sorrow' should have been re-titled: 'Boring'. And 'Learning To Fly' should have been re-titled: 'Learning To Falsely Market My Solo Album'.

No one should have to see a band they love become such a thing. And what a traumatic way for it to happen! Some of these titles sounded so cool!!! And the cover was so inviting. But its not Pink Floyd. I think Nick Mason played drums on maybe one or two songs. And Rick Wright was brought in on salary to make the venture seem more legit. I can pinpoint the ONE harmony he sings on the album. And I'm sure his keyboard parts are just as sparse. It's like resurrecting Marlon Brando, keeping his speech pattern and mannerisms, but leaving his talent in the grave...and not bothering to dust him off either. Ok, gross. But do you get my point? This album hurts to listen to. My one moment of happiness occurs when 'One Slip' plays. Co-written by Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music, the song is a rare moment beauty in this sea of tar. Though the bass in the song is processed to the point of vomit.

The moral of the story is, know your idol's limits. Protect yourself and avoid any work that is universally paned. I don't put much stock in reviews. After all, Rolling Stone magazine gave Britney Spears' third album four stars. Eh? WTF? But when an album like 'Momentary Lapse...' is disregarded by EVERYONE, its a good chance they're onto something...

PS. And yes, I noticed the obvious joke inherent in the title of the album. If that's not bad enough, the real kicker is that they almost named the album after the first track - 'Signs Of Life'. Too perfect...ha ha ha...


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