Much as you might like your favourite bands to last forever, there’s something very respectable about them deciding to call it a day. It’s two decades to the week now since Pink Floyd‘s last album The Division Bell, and frustrating though I can see that might be for the fans, I can’t help but think it’s admirable that they haven’t done anything new since.
Following seven years after A Momentary Lapse of Reason, it was famously named by Douglas Adams, apparently in exchange for a significant contribution to his favourite charity. And, perhaps most importantly, it was originally released twenty years ago this week.
But I’m no expert on Pink Floyd, so I’ll have to leave it to the real fans to comment on what this album means. All I can do is listen to The Division Bell, and write down my thoughts as it goes along.
The album opens with the ethereal sound of Cluster One. It’s reminiscent of some of their work from the 1970s, with all the slippery guitar work and atmospheric backing, and there’s a bit of gentle piano, as a few drums build towards the end. It’s all very pleasant, although there perhaps isn’t a huge amount in the way of energy.
The same cannot be said of What Do You Want from Me, which despite lacking the question mark that it deserves, is an extremely good song, although there’s something slightly difficult to place about it. To an expert’s ear it probably doesn’t sound as though it belongs with Pink Floyd‘s earlier material, but to me it certainly doesn’t sound as though it was released in 1994. I suspect there’s something in it that belongs to the 1970s, but that’s OK.
Poles Apart doesn’t really offer much for me, although the lengthy prog rock sections are entertaining as always. And for many acts, Marooned might have seemed a bit pointless, but on here it fits perfectly. I get the feeling that a lot of this album is about the mood, as much as the tracks themselves.
I’m not entirely sure about the piano-driven A Great Day for Freedom or Wearing the Inside Out, the latter sounding only a little better than some kind of eighties mood music piece at times, but Take it Back is quite brilliant. For perhaps the first time on this album, it almost sounds contemporary for the mid-1990s, sounding at times not entirely unlike U2 (obviously I realise the influence is probably the other way round, but you take my point).
There’s something very pleasant about Coming Back to Life, although I’m not sure I completely understand it. The “lost in time” lyric seems completely appropriate, as it is somewhat true for the entire album – for the most part it really doesn’t sound like something from the 1990s.
Keep Talking is another of my favourites – the message is particularly strong, and there’s something about the vocal style that works especially well – plus the gospel backing vocals and the guest appearance from Stephen Hawkings from off of Science.
After that there are just two tracks before the end – Lost for Words and High Hopes, neither of which grab me particularly on their own, although the latter is a good closing track. But ultimately, both fit together to form important parts of an extremely strong album. It may not have received great reviews on release, or – for all I know – be particularly well regarded by the fans, but it’s still very enjoyable.
For about three decades, Pink Floyd were at the top of their game, and while most of us may only know them for Another Brick in the Wall, there’s plenty of good work to be found in their back catalogue. So the fans will no doubt disapprove of much of what I’ve written above, but I’m glad I took the time to listen to this album.
You can find the new remaster of The Division Bell at all major retailers, such as here.