(All Album Reviews by Sean)
After reviewing 1987's A Momentary Lapse of Reason I started to think about the differences and the similarities between that album and this one, it's 1994 follow up The Division Bell. That of course led to this review. The biggest thing they have in common is they both feature the artistic vision of guitarist David Gilmour. Both of these albums were made after bassist Roger Waters left the group in 1985.
For many fans his absence would be too much to take. To them there was no Pink Floyd after he left. Personally I think that angle is not particularly fair to the other three members. They all contributed a lot to the band's overall sound and even without him in tow they manage to conjure up the sound of Pink Floyd. Certainly the dry wit and pessimistic angle that Waters provided is gone. But musically things have not changed much. In fact in terms of music these two albums have more to offer than a great deal of Waters driven music the band recorded. Lyrically probably not though. I miss Waters input the most in that dept. Still there is much left to enjoy, especially if you are a fan of Gilmour's guitar playing.
The Division Bell is an improvement over Momentary Lapse in a number of ways. First and foremost this is an album that was written by Gilmour, Richard Wright and to a lesser extent Nick Mason. This is something that had not happened since the late 70's and it brings a unity to the proceedings, and some heart. The next thing is the production. It is much more along the lines of classic Floyd. Momentary had an 80's sheen to it. Cold and sterile are the words that come to mind when I try to describe it. Not very Floydish. Toss in some 80's electronic drums and the typical synth patches of the day and you get an album that reeks of the year it was recorded (in that case, 1987). The Division Bell luckily avoids those pitfalls for the most part.
This album is a sampler of all the best Floyd offered from Dark Side of the Moon onward. For instance "What do you want from me?" sounds like "Have A Cigar" part two with it's funky minor riff played on the Hammond organ. "Keep Talking" is a nod to The Wall era tunes that were driven by Gilmour's digital delay pedal. Think of tunes like "Another Brick Part Two" or "Run Like Hell" for digital delay driven riffs like this tune has. "Cluster One" is a nod to "Shine on You Crazy Diamond", another tune that builds up from nothing and then lumbers along in a minor key. The acoustic noodlings on "A Great Day For Freedom" recall "Wish You Were Here".
Standout tracks are the closer "High Hopes"- probably the most ambitious cut here. Seems to be something new for the band in some ways. Sort of a mini epic. Gilmour's lap steel at the end of the tune really knocks the ball out of the park. "Poles Apart" is a great tune in an alternate tuning. The symph weirdout section in the middle is particularly interesting. "Marooned" is a yearning instrumental featuring Gilmour's best electric playing on the album. The music evokes being miles away from anyone.
On the downside, the tunes that seem to parrot older songs have their charm, but I am sure many would just look at as spinning nostalgic wheels. Also this was the first Floyd (and so far only) album made in the age of the compact disc. This is the longest album they ever did because of the space available. That often translates into filler tracks. This album is no exception. "Take it Back" is probably the worst offender. This U2 meets solo Gilmour type tune should be 'taken back'. But hey! There is still a solid 40 or so minutes of music here. Give it a try if you have a craving for something familiar and are sick of the band's 70's catalog.
Personally I find the music on side two of Momentary more satisfying/interesting than just about anything on The Division Bell. Still it is a cool album to take in and hangs together better as a "Floyd" album. Your mileage may vary.....