The Division Bell
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/27/2005
The last thing anybody expected in 1994 was a new Pink Floyd album.
After all, the band still did not have Roger Waters, had not released a new album since 1987 and were dangerously close to becoming progressive rock dinosaurs if they did release something new. Add to this the popularity of grunge and alternative and resurgence in pop-punk, and Pink Floyd were all but a fading memory.
But guitarist/crooner David Gilmour decided to tackle old glories one last time, and grabbed his old mates (appropriately) for a modern Floyd album. And while this one sounds like it belongs in the early '80s, it has enough Floyd techniques and solid music to make it a pleasant, if melancholy listen.
From the title to the lyrics, it's clear Gilmour and Waters have not made up. While some say the songs refer to the Berlin Wall falling, it's more plausible that Gilmour is exercising his frustration at his former bass player/bandleader, who was off making obscure solo albums at this point. Lines such as "So I open my door to my enemies / And I ask could we wipe the slate clean / But they tell me to just go fuck myself" prove Gilmour was still hurt by Waters' refusal to cooperate ("You can sell your soul for complete control / Is that really what you need" is also a nice little jab).
But some of the words are about relationships, especially in "Keep Talking," with a spoken intro by Stephen Hawking and a husky vocal performance by Gilmour. The band rocks a bit more than usual here, which comes to play on "What Do You Want From Me?" and "Poles Apart," but some of the rockers tend to drag on a little bit near the end, as in "Lost For Words."
Most of the album is pure mood, like any good Floyd album, and this one seems to be the melancholia of having a loved one who just won't understand you. The atmospherics of "Marooned" (which won a Grammy) sum this up nicely, as do the slower pieces "Coming Back To Life" and "A Great Day For Freedom." Keyboardist Rick Wright gets to sing one song and co-wrote five others; one wonders why he didn't attempt to do so before.
The centerpiece is the last track, "High Hopes," which starts with a lone church bell and moves from a piano/guitar/vocal track to adding on layers of guitar and sound before ending with the bell. It's beautiful and sad, just like the whole album, and works nicely as a farewell to the band's output. As a coda, a Floyd album, a soap opera and a relationship examination, Division Bell hits on all levels, even if it was very out of step for its time.