Home > Music > Who cares about a new Pink Floyd album? I do

Who cares about a new Pink Floyd album? I do

Pink Floyd in January 1968 Left to right: Maso...

Some people contend this is the real Pink Floyd (January 1968; Left to right: a group who haven’t worked together in almost fifty years; Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The news that Pink Floyd will release a new album this October shocked me so much that I could barely breathe. My thoughts raced, comparing the possibilities. Although I had just stopped at the library to do some rarely available quiet-time work, I knew that the first thing I would do was to look up the news on the internet to confirm it. It was the first thing I talked to my kids about over dinner, and I made sure they were sitting down before they heard the news. I was really glad that I had not heard the news before the lunch date I had just come from, since I would have talked of nothing other than Floyd. That probably would have been the end of that friendship.

My first set of thoughts was basically “Is Roger going to be on this album? Are they seriously going to produce an album of new material with Roger? What would that sound like?” Right away I realized that this was a ridiculous idea. Roger would totally swamp the other members beyond the point of having them there.  Roger Waters has been doing his own thing for close to thirty years, and has made it clear that although he’s willing to reunite with members of the old lineup, he’s not trying to be Pink Floyd anymore. I’ve seen him perform twice, and it was mostly Pink Floyd material, but it was clearly the Rogerest of the Pink Floyd repertoire (in fact, once it was The Wall).

These thoughts of “reunion” vanished when I looked up the news and found that instead of a reunion they were actually doing something far more interesting. They still have material from the Division Bell sessions, including songs written by the late Rick Wright. After thinking about Roger, I immediately thought “Oh, how are they going to do things without Rick?” He will be there in Notorious B.I.G./Nat King Cole form, it sounds.

Sadly, before I found the actual news article, the first search items returned were a bunch of articles about people whining over a new Pink Floyd album. Pink Floyd, much more than other rock groups, seems to be subject to this kind of complaining from so-called fans. When Led Zepplin reunited with John Bonham’s son on drums, people didn’t complain, they said “Wow, now we can hear more than Page and Plant.” Nobody seemed to notice when Natalie Merchant left 10,000 Maniacs, and when David Byrne accused the remaining members of Talking Heads of fooling the audience, I remember their fans saying “That’s sad; he’s not the whole band.” So Roger definitely helped this happen with Pink Floyd by not only giving interviews about Momentary Lapse of Reason, but by suing Nick Mason and David Gilmour. I was glad that he decided to patch things up for Live 8, but fans don’t ever need to get involved in that kind of behavior.

Here’s why: musicians are not static entities, and neither are rock bands. Musicians are people, for one thing, and artists for another. They like to try new things, experiment and they don’t stop working, especially not when they have the creative skills of members of Pink Floyd. Musicians are always trying to produce something beautiful, and they would do it no matter what label you slapped on it. Consider that David Gilmour has been a member of other groups, and lent his studio and guitar skills to some of my other favorite artists, like Bryan Ferry and Kate Bush, and produced two (no wait, three) solo albums that are also great to listen to. Nick Mason and David Gilmour (and once Rick Wright) have twice toured as David Gilmour’s solo band, rather than Pink Floyd. The Division Bell is a great album: it increases the dynamic and harmonic range of one of the most dynamically and harmonically challenging rock bands, and also has moments of drama and comedy. The fact that it was the subject of a bitter feud between two people who you’ve never met has little to do with the content of the music (although one of the songs does come awfully close to making this matter).

When people complain about a new album not having the lineup they want, they are not complaining about music. I have always been puzzled by people at concerts who are not listening to the music, but might be looking at the stage persona of the performers (most of them are facing away from the stage or drinking beer). For many people, rock and roll is not at all about listening to the music itself, but about personalities. Again, I say, the personalities involved rarely have an effect on the music, save for changing the personnel that produces the music. I got over the lineup problem a long time ago when I realized that even in bands valued for their lineup, e.g. The Beatles, their albums contained scores of other performers, some of whom are very skilled, and some who are never credited. What matters is the content of the music, and it’s sure interesting who produces that, but it’s not the most important thing. Music is not baseball.

Imagine if Floyd had (a) “stayed together for the kids” and (b) kept on producing sequels to Dark Side of the Moon. They could have done The Darker Side of the Moon, followed by The Even Darker Side of the Moon. But they didn’t. None of their albums sound quite similar when listened to carefully. The only two that are fairly similar are Animals and Wish You Were Here, but neither of those sound anything like Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall. Do you want them to? If I’m really on a DSOTM kick, I can listen to the original, bootlegs and recent live versions. I don’t need the band to reunite so I can have more versions of a masterpiece.

Then there’s the question of authenticity: some people would claim that only the original lineup is worth being called Pink Floyd. Again, Roger actually made this claim. For some people only Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett is the real Pink Floyd. Now come on! I was puzzled with yet another reporter referring to Pink Floyd as a “psychedelic rock” band, which they haven’t been since 1968. This is just an extreme form of golden-age thinking.

All of these claims and complaints ignore the fact that the people involved don’t need to listen to your idea of what they should do. And again, I don’t think you would want them to. How could they produce anything interesting if they were doing it by polling their fans? Real artists surprise people, and I applaud Pink Floyd for doing just that. Roger Waters surprised me by how he put on the shows I saw — I never expected to hear “Dogs” live and I would have been disappointed if he had just replayed The Wall they way I listened to it at home. No, instead I got to see G.E. Smith and Snowy White on the same stage. I never expected that.

As for me, I’m still digesting what David Gilmour did in the eighties. I haven’t even gotten to his later solo work or work with Elton John and B.B. King. He was also a member/producer of Arcadia and Dream Academy, and I still don’t have any of their albums. The chance to hear new work from David Gilmour and Nick Mason together is a great opportunity, especially when I had thought it would never happen. Why bother to complain? Anybody who complains thinks they want Pink Floyd to be what they were in the seventies. However, if you had a time machine and could go see them, you’d probably be shocked at what you saw. It would probably far surpass your expectations in terms of great music and a great show, just guessing from the bootleg recordings that were available. However, a Pink Floyd record on its own is also a work of art that you can listen to any time, and there’s no reason that Nick Mason, David Gilmour, or Roger Waters need to produce another one. However, it’s awfully nice that they will, so let’s not complain.

  1. July 15, 2014 at 08:55

    Let me amend what I said about 10,000 Maniacs. People cared that Natalie Merchant was going solo, but to my knowledge not she nor anyone in the press ever questioned the group’s right or authenticity in calling itself 10,000 Maniacs.

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  2. sandklef
    July 22, 2014 at 07:15

    For me Floyd was best when the dynamics of all the band members was there – just listen to echoes on Meddle. I’ve played the live version at Pompeii to my kids, after having visited the actual ground where it was recorded. They were not as amazed as I was (when I was 7 years old listening to it) but they understood that I liked it.

    Dark Side is great with all members participating but with one person taking a leading role in the theme of the album. Wish You Were Here is, imo, ok. Animals is great – really, it’s an amazing album – but you can hear more Roger Waters in it than in previous albums. One album (The Wall) later it’s even more Rogerish. And with Final Cut it’s more or less only Waters. Final Cut is a good albums, with great lyrics, but it’s not, imo, a Floyd album in the dynamic group sense.

    After Final Cut comes a serie of Gilmourish albums. I never really liked any of them, but since you bring up Division Bell as a great album I will give it a try again.

    What the f%¤k am I trying to say. Nothing so far I guess. Just laying the foundation or background to my comments – even though you know I am a huge Pink Floyd fan.

    So what are my expectations on a new Pink Floyd album?

    I guess I will not be as open minded as you when listening to the new album. I liked the years when Floyd was more of a band more so I am not expecting that much. But that’s not what you’re aiming at in your post. I will salute if they break some new ground or make me listen to the album constantly for a week. I do have high expectations on a Floyd Album. Being a band who have released albums like Atom Heart Mother, Meddle, Darke Side Of The Moon, Animals and The Wall will automatically a way higher expectation from me than most other bands.

    The same would go for a Talking Heads. I remember listening to Remain In Light the first time. I was amazed. When done I looked at my album collection and thought that I had to sell every album and just keep Remain In Light. Same thing happened when I listened to Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. If Sonic Youth was to re-union I’d have expectations higher than Mount Everest – simply because the albums they’ve done are amazingly awesome.

    So, regardless of the members, I will have high expectations of new albums from bands like Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Sonic Youth.

    But there’s an underlying question how many or which band members own the band name. Lynyrd Skynyrd (great band!) kept the name after the plane crash. The Band still toured with Robbie Robertson. Pink Floyd without Wates, and as some say without Syd. Talking Heads without Byrne. Led Zeppelin without Jones and Bonham. The Who without Moon. To this I have no answer but I’d hate musicians writing contracts before embarking on a musical adventure.

    Man, these were random thoughts – haven’t read them myself. Will boldly (or lazily) press submit hoping you will appreciate the text as is.

    /h

    And if Jimi Hendrix resurrected I’d have pretty high expectations🙂

    BTW: I liked David Gilmour’s second solo album, About Face, a lot. It’s way to much 80’s production but the songs are good.

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    • July 23, 2014 at 16:02

      It’s interesting to hear you say your expectations are higher, because I think my expectations are lower for Pink Floyd (or any other band I greatly admire) than they are for a less-established act. If I am going to bother to listen to someone I’ve never heard of, they better be good. For Pink Floyd, all I expect is that they surprise me. And I think they will.

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      • sandklef
        July 24, 2014 at 08:47

        Hmmm, let me put it another way. As a consequence of being a band who has released tons of great albums I think that my interest threshold, the threshold of when I think an album is worth a second listening time, is higher.

        If an album from a new band is getting 3 interesting points (out of 5) I might consider listening again. Where as if PF releases an album which gets 3 I will probably put it on halt for a while.

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  3. sandklef
    July 22, 2014 at 07:17

    BTW, some years ago I made a top ten album list. Things have changed a bit since then…. anyhow;

    http://sandklef.wordpress.com/my-favorites/my-top-ten-music-albums-of-all-time/

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  4. August 4, 2014 at 10:44

    Let me put it this way: Pink Floyd’s worst would probably be a lot better than many other groups’ best.

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