A Momentary Lapse of Reason was the first Pink Floyd album since Roger Waters had left the band in 1985 and it didn’t nearly happen. Originally intended as a David Gilmour solo album, Momentary… suddenly became a vehicle for David Gilmour to show that the Pink Floyd name wasn’t dead and buried, “a spent force” as Roger Waters had suggested. Joined by drummer Nick Mason, the only member of Floyd to have played on every album, Momentary… was for the new look Floyd as The Final Cut was for the band as they started to disintegrate and ultimately go their own way.
The Final Cut was for all intent purposes a Roger solo album in which Nick Mason and David Gilmour joined in on, the same could be said for Momentary…a very good David Gilmour album in keeping with About Face (released in 1984) in which Nick Mason on drums, the appearance of Richard Wright on piano (although legally no longer a member of Pink Floyd) and Bob Ezrin, who also produced the album with David. The result was something completely different to what Pink Floyd fans had got used to and it divided opinion sharply with sections of the enthusiasts who had followed the band since the days of Syd Barrett or as they grew up listening to various albums after the release.
The album opens with an instrumental piece, the eerie Signs of Life which bled neatly into perhaps the albums most well-known and most Floyd like song Learning To Fly. It’s a sweeping, majestic and powerful statement of intent that showed that even with Roger Waters no longer in the band, the remaining members and Gilmour in particular, could still do grandiose, the inexplicable flash of brilliance that was a staple of every album the band had produced. Learning to Fly quite conceivably could sit on another album post Animals and it would have been lauded as one of the greats, however whilst it still retains its cult status and worthy inclusion in the top ten of Pink Floyd tracks, the fact that it rests in A Momentary Lapse of Reason just about gives it the aura of being the only track alongside On The Turning Away of being truly brilliant.
As with Roger’s debut solo album The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking, the audience perhaps expected more. Whilst the idea behind Roger’s solo album traces back to 1977 and could have been what The Wall became, it also suffers from a sort of nervousness, the thrill and desire that you can do something on your own but not wishing to go too far with it in case it fails badly. This is how A Momentary Lapse of Reason comes across, inspired in places but ultimately flat, too much reliance on the name and with it the knowledge that it would be a while before the real sound that both camps, Floyd and Waters, were striving for to come to fruition.
The next track of Dogs of War doesn’t fit into the notion of a Pink Floyd or David Gilmour track. It has all the charm and allure of something else entirely different. It comes across as wanting to be another version of Dogs from Animals, a more reckless, more demanding on the ears and sensibilities of the listener and in parts more violent than anything Floyd had tried before and it doesn’t quite work. Again in any other variation, even on a solo album it may have sat well but here it just blends into the background as the listener tries to get through it before the next track.
On the Turning Away is perhaps the best song on the album, it is clever and poetic, undemanding and beautiful, it takes the soul on a journey of interest and points to conversations that may have happened between the former band mates as they drifted apart. The themes of human suffering, of darkness with humanity and the failings that are ever present would be more in keeping on the band’s next album, the excellent The Division Bell. Again, like Learning To Fly it always has the nagging doubt attached to it that it is a song that holds the rest of the album up, it gives it credence and respectability. Unfortunately both songs do not quite inspire the rest of the songs to match their quality.
Perhaps it’s the lack of theme or concept in Pink Floyd’s case that ultimately divided fans, this was not Floyd were known for, the ability to be the story teller as well as the incredible sound that emanated from David Gilmour’s guitar. Unlike Dark Side of the Moon, Animals, Wish You Were Here and even the concept album of them all The Wall, the power behind each album was instant.
The fluidity between all four members, the inspiration they gave each other was a thrill for everyone who listened to these other albums for the first time and still manages to catch someone’s breath when they hear it for the initial first time or even after 30 plus years. A momentary Lapse of Reason doesn’t have that appeal, possibly the worst platitude to be labelled at the overall recording is that is that it is very good rock album but it’s not Floyd.
Ian D. Hall