Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pink Floyd - The Wall (1979)

So you knew I would leave this one for last. Master Cianan is certain to be verily pleased that, indeed, there will be no more Floyd albums. So here we go. The Wall, as Bob has said, is rotten; but not in a musical sense. It's rotten in its megalomania, its bitterness, its complete and utter soullessness. In a way earlier alluded to on "Welcome To The Machine," Waters himself had become increasingly distant from his audience -- hence, his Wall. And as one would expect, the music itself is a kind of detached emptiness. Rotten? Thematically, yes. But that's the point. This is no longer the Oberon Miranda and Titania of yore where one of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces pieces even if I still need a damned Leer jet to seek shelter from pigs on the wing. This is pure technical musical execution done in the strictest sense; and that is precisely why Floyd is wonderful -- they have transformed their entire career: "Lucifer Sam," "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast," "Echoes," "Time," "Sheep," "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," "Run Like Hell," & etc. The music changed, the themes changed, they changed; and yet, they still sound like Pink Floyd, no matter what album it is. From the crazy days of psychedelia to the epic virtuosity of their golden years to this album, where there is nothingness. Syd is gone; they can't fucking stand each other, and they will soon cease to be, despite subsequent albums.

Furthermore, this is a double album. Such ambition always comes crashing down. Such ambition cannot be sustained. Such ambition is nothing more than wish-fulfillment of hubris. But yet, tell me, other than this album and maybe London Calling, what double album really strides from start to finish? The bloated Tommy opera? Charles Manson's Nightcap? It's simply criminal to not listen to this in its entirety, double album or not. Sure, everyone's heard "Comfortably Numb," "Run Like Hell," "Another Brick In The Wall," "Hey You," etc. a million or so times -- but, no excuses. Secondly, you must be coked the fuck out if Gilmour's guitar work doesn't make you want to run around jumping oh lordy and whammer jammering on your air guitar, especially to his immaculate solos on "Comfortably Numb." Thirdly, this is it. Don't go out and find The Final Cut and think there's more to come; this is it, the proverbial 'hitting a brick wall.' So go out, have a listen or forty, remember not to shit where you eat, and don't listen to Bob, ever. A

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pink Floyd - The Division Bell (1994)

Just when you thought Momentary was a one-off we've-got-to-do-something-without-Roger album, nearly seven years later our fading heroes produce this, The Division Bell. Sure, it's wicked tasty when compared to Momentary -- but, too little, too late. The glimmers of old Floyd appear primarily on the last five tracks (the only ones I will admit to liking) and mostly because of Gilmour's vocals and guitar. But the child is grown, the dream is gone. The band has seen better days. The house is gone and fade away. Fortunately, everything post-Wall doesn't damage anything for me. These guys were amazing, and are every time I listen to them. And tell me, about whom was Gilmour alluding to when he sings, "So I open my door to my enemies / And ask could we wipe the slate clean / But they tell me to please go and fuck myself / You know, you just can't win." C-

Pink Floyd - A Saucerful Of Secrets (1968)

This is the unfortunate successor of Piper -- unfortunate in that Syd is a half-entity and it seems the madness could only be harnessed by him. Like all early Floyd albums, though, A Saucerful Of Secrets is yet another stepping stone the band would eventually use to reach greater musical heights. It starts off promising enough with "Let There Be More Light," a back and forth interplay of loud and soft mingling psychedelia on an epic scale. Then, omigawd, "Remember A Day" happens. And can you remember a day when Pink Floyd didn't sound original -- which is to say, like Pink Floyd? This sounds like a bloody Moody Blues song, and while I still like it, I think I like it only because I also sometimes like the Moody Blues. "Corporal Clegg?" Fucking brilliant. I love the dissonant contrasts and and especially the triumphant kazoo passages. "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun," like the live version on Ummagumma, is just awful. Ditto for "Saucerful Of Secrets," also known as "Drugged Drumming 101" -- awful as well. "See-saw" is just pure up and down, which may be fitting, but I still don't like it. "Jugband Blues," our official farewell to Syd's time in Floyd, is pure bonkers. I love it. It's awfully considerate. Especially that brief descent into horn chaos. C+

Pink Floyd - More (1969)

My sincere apologies , oh darling readers, for my having erred. I thought Obscured By Clouds was a proper Pink Floyd release, and not a soundtrack. You could have fooled me -- it doesn't change my opinion of it one bit; I reviewed it as an album as such. Which is how More is to be treated as well, at which it fares far more poorly. This is not to say More is horrible, but that is decidedly average. "Cirrus Minor" starts off decently, I suppose. It's neither innovative nor boring -- just pleasant enough. "The Nile Song" is a traditional rocker -- which is kind of interesting because when do you ever hear a traditional Floyd song? "Crying Song" is soft and subdued; "Up The Khyber" is a staccato piano and organ piece, and it continues on as such, with the exception of "Cymbaline," the album's standout track. Yeah, classic Floyd. "Ibiza Bar" is another rocker and pretty much at track ten is where I become annoyed: bluesy rambling ("More Blues"), noise ("Quicksilver"), more chaotic noise and stupidity ("A Spanish Piece") and a kind of reprise ("Dramatic Theme") of the "Main Theme." It's a soundtrack, for sure; and while it may sound wonderful as a soundtrack in a film (I wouldn't know; I haven't seen it), it's merely mediocre by itself. And that's why it's a C. The intent with More, it seems, was to create music for a film, whereas it seems Obscured was made as an album and happened to be used as a soundtrack for a film.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here (1975)

Sometimes, usually right after a fresh listen, Wish You Were Here is my favorite album instead of Dark Side Of The Moon. But mostly, uh, no. Rank notwithstanding, this is an amazing album. To think that this had perverse expectations following Dark Side and nearly equals it is almost unthinkable. I mean, who does that? Funny thing is, it doesn't build upon Dark Side musically at all; it's all its own singularity. In fact, it's the only Pink Floyd album that I would call timeless simply because I don't think you can peg it down, whereas all their others you can almost trace their development with your pick. Perhaps it's because this album is the most human of their albums, the most personal. Sure, The Wall was personal -- for Roger Waters; but this is a communal offering -- a poignant and elegantly executed tribute to Syd Barrett.

"Wish You Were Here" has possibly been played with more frequency on a daily basis than the national anthem, and people could probably sing you all the lyrics (sans music) before they could rattle off the Ten Commandments. Still, this doesn't take away from the fact that it's the cornerstone track, a final lament for a good friend long gone. By themselves, each song on the album is powerful, a panoply of different styles; and yet as a whole -- which is how any album, good or bad, should be listened to -- it's just pure aural awesomeness. The "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" bookends are solemn odes to the man that was Syd. "Welcome To The Machine" and "Have A Cigar" are fitting portraits of a band sullying theirs hands with record company filth after they've made it big -- which is to say, after the success of Dark Side. What I really like is the juxtaposition of these two tracks smack dab in the middle. It's as though, in a way, they lost that part of themselves -- that frenetic childish spirit embodied by Syd -- and became international megastars. Sure, it didn't completely destroy them, but there is still that sense of loss, and of mourning, and remembrance -- hence the return to Syd in the last two tracks. That's my feeling anyway. This album truly has to be felt, I think. All in all, I want to be buried with it. A+

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pink Floyd - Ummagumma (1969)

If Atom Heart Mother is a bunch of psychedelic waffling, Ummagumma is undoubtedly its mother. Fortunately for us, the first disc of live material that reflects such sentiment does not continue to the second disc, where the real meat and matters are. Besides a great live version of "Astronomy Domine," the rest of disc one is just pure Grade A distilled psychobabble. Dreck. Drivel. Dross. DRUGS. Disc two is immensely better. There we are treated to three separate suites, a walk through some Grantchester meadows and the unorthodox frontispiece that happens to be in the middle, "Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict," which, etymologically speaking, might have something to do with Ummagumma -- not that I would know, though. It's a fucking highlight, that's for sure, in ways that are impossible to describe. "The Narrow Way" suite is possibly the closest thing people who generally like Floyd will latch onto and like, besides "Grantchester Meadows", simply for its resemblance to their later musical output. This is not to say it's homogenized and contrived -- because later Floyd is good, but comparably to the rest of the album's quirkiness, it's quite tame. The "Sysphus" suite is quite erratic in a good way, but completely train-wrecks in the fourth part. Strange, too, how Sysphus plays into this whole Ummagumma theme. Hmmm, think they're trying to say something to us? The second part of the "The Grand Vizier" suite precedes "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" -- it sucks. Sure, parts one and three are good, but they span a combined 1:41. Otherwise, I suggest a few good listens, but this is more or less a kind of necessary bridge in their development from Piper to Meddle. B

Pink Floyd - The Final Cut (1983)

Having just reviewed A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, The Final Cut is a bit appropriate, I think, in the whole scheme of things Floydian. First off, the album says it all: The Final Cut (A Requiem For The Post War Dream): by Roger Waters; performed by Pink Floyd. I mean, he may as well have made it: Roger Waters, former Arrogant Egghead of Pink Floyd, and his scourged Mind, all things Considerate, being therein on Display, Post War Hootstuffs & etc., featuring sometimes the "Comfortably Numb" Guitar Player. Granted I think Waters was great prior to this; but this is otherwise just absolute dross. I do think the first four songs, ending with "The Hero's Return" are actually pretty good, and hearing Gilmour sing "fuck all that" with gospel-like accompaniment in "Not Now John" is kind of amusing; but otherwise, this album consists primarily of the butt-scrapings of The Wall, minus the music. It's the Roger Waters show at full tilt, except he wasted his equity building a fence -- er, wall -- at his other residence, and here he's just careening by on bad credit in some horrible memorial home. "Boom boom, bang bang. Lie down you're dead." Like Momentary, listen only because you have to. D+

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pink Floyd - A Momentary Lapse Of Reason (1987)

My wife and I refer to this album as "Permanent Lapse Of Reason" because it seemeth as though our musical heroes began a torpid duration in a strait-jacket on methylphenidate and forgot to color outside the lines with crayons like they always did. Surely, Waters' departure had something to do with it, but we had already learned that these blokes just couldn't play nice anymore and that Waters had exhausted his creative faculties on The Wall as evidenced by his genuine lack of anything on The Final Cut. Good show, jolly rabbit! To be nice, this album is a fair representation of the other band members musical abilities. "On The Turning Away" is simply wonderful. To a lesser extent, "Learning To Fly" seems like it was a great song, but they kept working on it to become a hit and so it goes that it's not as good. Icky ick. "Dogs Of War?" Yuck. All this album proves, with the FInal Cut as its companion piece, is that Roger and David needed each other to make amazing music; this is just David's solo album, and apparently he tried to top Waters' shitty post-war dream with this syphilitic ick. This is just blahhhhhhhhhh. You guys are my favorite band -- how could you do this to me ? D+

Pink Floyd - Atom Heart Mother (1970)

Like Obscured By Clouds, Atom Heart Mother is in the unenviable position of being sandwiched between two better albums -- in this case, Ummagumma and Meddle, respectively. Consisting of five songs, the last of which spans an interminable 13 odious minutes of your life, Atom Heart Mother is not for the easy-eared. First things first, "If" is an endearing little song -- not very inspiring -- but still very good. "Fat Old Sun" is nice and contains a vintage Gilmour solo -- which is to say, amazing; and "Summer '68" is my favorite piece on the album, despite the fact that you'd lose a bet over its authenticity as Pink Floyd; it simply doesn't sound like them. This brings us to the bookends, "Atom Heart Mother" and "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" -- two mental flights to Mars via a hallucinatory conduit. "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" is really awful stuff. The absolute udder of the psychedelic scene. Colorful trash, as it were. Or maybe it's de rigueur; what do I know? Listen to it at your own peril. Jeff has a much favorable review for those interested. B-

Pink Floyd - Obscured By Clouds (1972)

Obscured By Clouds is the bastard birthed out of wedlock, the prodigious and stalwart second son secondarily subservient to the grand airs of a more successful first sibling. Meddle was great. Dark Side Of The Moon? Best album ever. So it's easy to forget that Obscured even existed, let alone deserved any kind of consideration. Perhaps "Obscured By Clouds," "When You're In" and "Burning Bridges" -- the album's first three scapegoats are to blame. Do I enjoy them? Yes, but can I cite their chord structures on threat of no more Guinness? Not a chance. 'Tis a shame, methinks, because "The Gold It's In The," "Wot's...Uh The Deal," "Mudmen," Childhood's End" and "Free Four" are incredibly meaty, atypical Floydian compositions. Hell, even if you think me a sometimes hack, a sometimes Viennese Quack -- fuck you, Freud! -- please at least listen to tracks 4-8 -- you won't be disappointed. "Stay" is decent enough and "Absolutely Curtains," the album's closer, seems to halt the album to a fairly tepid, bordering-on-miserable close; but all in all, a solid record deserving of placement in the Floydian pantheon. Oh, and as with Meddle, the guitar work is tasty as usual. B+

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pink Floyd - Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (1967)

Pure madness. How did such an album come to be? Drugs? Most definitely. Zeitgeist? Okay, sure. Syd Barrett? Check. Aurally intoxicating, at times embarrassingly weird, Piper is Floyd's proverbial fist in the face of all music hitherto heretofore. Is it absolutely brilliant? Sometimes. Does it seem positively wretched? Oh yes. But unlike my necessary condemnation of Trout Mask Replica, Piper is far more rewarding in its awkward abundance. "Astronomy Domine?" Delicious. "Lucifer Sam?" Pernicious. "The Gnome?" Who the fuck writes songs about gnomes? The revolting barrage of random cacophony in "Bike?" Genius. And stupid. At the same time. Never has an album (despite my lack of existence in 1967) seemed so perversely fresh. Best ever? Hardly. Important? If I am to conjure up Master Cianan for a moment and his sincere loathing of labeling any album "important," I would say, as I always do, in retort, "Yes! It's important to me!" Just maybe not to you. Rub some oil on your bald soprano. This is the Mad Hatter, over and out. B

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pink Floyd - Meddle (1971)

This is for you, Bob. Meddle, по моему, is perhaps Floyd's transition point between the trippy, not altogether focused and sometimes rambling psychedelia of their first few albums, and the tightly wound musical virtuosity that came to fruition on Dark Side Of The Moon. Simply, it's got a touch of everything, the focal point being the otherworldly "Echoes" -- which is clearly one of the best musical statements of that era. (It sounds even better live.) An ethereal quality, let's call it, seems to permeate the entire album. "Echoes," even at its almost 24 minute length, has this fleeting, pulling away kind of quality despite some incredibly moving and powerful passages. "One Of These Days" is menacing; "Pillow Of Winds" dreamy; "Fearless" like an inevitable marching forward feel; "San Tropez" is a beer in the breeze and a nice bit of sun on your face. All very moody, impressionistic type stuff going on here, but not simply drug music -- stuff you need an amy under your nose for. No, no, this is the kind of music that makes you remember a band named Pink Floyd and not the other numberless psychedelic outfits from that time; they're simply too creative and skilled as musicians to forget them.

"Seamus" for me is one of the worst songs I've ever heard in my life. Pure fucking vulgarity and nonsense. A nasty black blot on an otherwise perfectly written work of a master scrivener. Thankfully it's short and thankfully "Echoes" accounts for half the album. Seriously, folks, if Floyd to you is "Comfortably Numb" and "Wish You Were Here", you are missing out. Dark Side Of The Moon, besides being the greatest album ever, is not the starting point for these fellows. Piper has its merits and flaws; Ummagumma is responsible for some quite exotic divergences in opinion and the poor forgotten Obscured By Clouds, nestled squarely before Dark Side and after Meddle, is quite solid as well. But Meddle is crucial in the band's own catalogue and it should be for you too. No, you don't need to get their soundtrack More like me, but this will still do nicely. Man, and listen to "Echoes" if you haven't already. The guitar is SUPER FUCKING TASTY. A-

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)

I'm considerably aghast at how little I have to say of this album. As I've already professed in the beginning: Best. Album. Ever. Start to finish. Every ooh, every ahh, every timbre and shaft of light. The colours, the lyrics, the dazzling awesomeness of this wonderful little musical prism. It's all here on display, an aura for every ear, an emblem for every ember. A perfect synesthesia. The miraculous graying of forbidden light.

What's not to appreciate? You can choose any colour you like. If you've got no time, you can listen to it on the run. If you've got no money, speak to me; I'll lend you some. No sense waiting for an eclipse; just listen, and breathe. And don't fritter and waste about the Us and Them conflict -- they can keep their hitmebabyonemoretimes and iwantitthatways until they've suffered brain damage. We've got the greatest gig in the sky, circa 1973, always and forever. Besides, there's no dark side of the moon, really. As a matter of fact, it's all dark. A+ (I think I need a Leer jet.)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Talking Heads - Little Creatures (1985)

For being a band frequently described as inaccessible, this record surely has some nice stuff on it. No, I'm not a fan, and I don't concentrate nearly as hard as I do when listening to some of my other recurring faves, but this album is worth a listen every now and again. "And She Was" is a delicious little number that almost leads you into thinking it will remain the awful dreck that tainted nearly everything imaginable during the most egregious musical decade known to man or animal-- fuck you Depeche Mode; you give me daily nightmares -- but it doesn't. "Give Me Back My Name" is pretty creepy. I don't know if the Oxford lads from Radiohead listened to this and wrote "Climbing Up The Walls," but I'm still unsettled by both. "Creatures Of Love" is an alien twang song that somehow works. "I've seen sex and I think it's okay." Maybe it's the way David Byrne sings that ties it all together, I don't know. He's possibly the first lead vocalist who sounds like he's presiding over a demented circus that can somehow carry a tune. "Road To Nowhere" has what sounds like an accordion, I think. I like accordions; you should too. Eat your clam chowder. Ignore tracks 5-8 and enjoy otherwise. B-