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Pink Floyd – The Division Bell

Columbia Records, 1994

I am not a big Pink Floyd fan.  There, I said it.  I do like some Pink Floyd, though, yet I have always felt that the band is a little beyond me and that I’m missing something.  Okay, some may say I am missing a dark room, a laser show, and a few extra substances on hand, but I would like to think that anything by Pink Floyd can be enjoyed without the excess additives.  Seeing “The Division Bell” lying in a cheap bin, as well as those rather intimidating metal statues staring at me, gave me some incentive to at least try out an album of theirs I was unfamiliar with.  As it turns out, I was much more familiar with the album than I thought I was going to be.

Very early on it is clear that although many years had passed since Pink Floyd’s hey day, the band still sounds as consistently ethereal as it had ever been.  The first half of the record is a little sleepy, as the opener “Cluster One” and the so-so “What Do You Want From Me” casually stroll in without much fanfare.  David Gilmour’s guitar work is already plucking away in lengthy solos while the band puts you in that Pink Floyd state of easiness.  Despite the slow start, the first two tracks set up most of the tone for the rest of the record.  The songs sorta hint to the listener to get ready to sit back and immerse oneself.

The instrumental “Marooned” reminds me of every Pink Floyd song I have heard before.  Gilmour is central to the song with his sky high guitar solo that seems to speak to the listener about some unknown conflict or conversation.  The booming drums from Nick Mason as well as the pensive keyboard work from Richard Wright give the five minute track an added sense of meditation.  Really, in the right frame of mind, this song could go on forever without anyone thinking it has gone on too long.  It’s such a Pink Floyd song.

Once “Take It Back” comes on, the record finally shows a little spark of life.  I also got flashbacks of the nineties, for this song as well as a few others were all over alternative radio at the time.  It’s no wonder that “Take It Back” was chosen as a single since it has one of the few musically invigorating tempos and vocals on the record.  Like a few other songs, “Take It Back” uses backup singers to help flesh out beyond Gilmour’s lower vocal range, which likely help in the energy department.  “Keep Talking” is a lot more somber, even with the backup singers, though its pace, mood, and echoed guitar remind me of “Comfortably Numb”.  The third familiar song, “Lost For Words”, has a lot of Dylan-like inflections as well as resignation, which sets up the stirring build up of “High Hopes”.  At eight and a half minutes, “High Hopes” ends the record on an emotional note as Gilmour sounds like he’s reminiscing about his life or the band that started many decades ago.  It’s quite a send off.

The official website for Pink Floyd allows you a few songs, but Last.fm delivers on quite a bit of listening enjoyment if you need to hear some Pink Floyd right about now.

I have to say that I enjoyed the record, though the few solid songs on the second half of the record still make this only a middle of the road recording in my opinion.  I think I’m still a little perturbed about the slow beginning, though maybe I’m just spoiled by the more interesting second half.  “The Division Bell” is still a good enough album to relax to or put in the background, (like a jazz record,) and I’m sure the band could have put out even more of its signature sound if it wanted to.  However, after this record the group decided to finally hang it up and pursue other projects.  I don’t know if “The Division Bell” will ever come to mind when someone thinks about Pink Floyd, but given its strong resemblance to traditional Pink Floyd sounds there is not much to complain about.

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