Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Division Bell, by Pink Floyd

The Division Bell, by Pink Floyd

It begins quietly. "Cluster One" is little more than silence and static for the first minute, but it has an almost astronomical feel to it. When the piano comes in after the crackling, you get a feeling that you're in space, just floating, looking around. It wouldn't be out of place as the music to a NOVA special with Leonard Nimoy narrating. It's quiet and simple, yet somewhat lonesome. There's a definite feeling of being distant, separate from everything else, like being stuck on a desert island by yourself just looking over the sea. There's even a feeling of contentment with it. It feels like being separate and alone is exactly what you want; you're alone to think.

The next few tracks, "What Do You Want From Me," "Poles Apart," "Marooned" (another instrumental of the same feel as "Cluster One"), and "A Great Day for Freedom," all have a somewhat hopeless sound. Not hopeless in a depressing, giving up sort of way, but more in a "I've tried everything and nothing works" sense. Again, there's an almost quiet contentment where you'd expect sorrow.

"Wearing the Inside Out" is the crescendo of this feeling. The saxophone at the beginning and the guitar combine in a hypnotizing fashion. When Richard Wright's voice starts in -- smooth, soft, almost hollow sounding, like a cotton ball on a bass drum in a drain pipe -- he sings, "From morning to night I stayed out of sight. Didn't recognize I'd become no more than alive. I'd barely survive, in a word...overrun." The guitar is artistic in the background, coming on between verses only for a second, while Wright's haunting voice captures your ears.

Going into "Take It Back" and "Coming Back to Life," there's more of an upbeat feel, something positive. "Coming Back to Life" especially holds this feeling that you've been through hard times but you're going to make it through. You've been alone, you've tried lots of things and they've failed, but you can make it through. It starts off with a guitar solo, then David Gilmour's vocals come in, over a simple background, when he sings "I was staring straight into the shining sun" the drums and other instruments kick in and it holds a great rhythm.

I'll skip talking about "Keep Talking" and "Lost For Words" in detail -- they're both brilliant and the album wouldn't be what it is without them (the guitar intro to "Lost For Words" is so calming, and again holds that simple complacency sound)-- because I desperately want to talk about my favorite song from this album: "High Hopes." A friend of mine pointed out that it's the last song they wrote, the last song they recorded, and the last song on their last album. "High Hopes" is in many ways their farewell song. It starts off with bells ringing, then with just one. Slowly the piano comes in, complimenting the bells ring. As the song continues, the guitar comes in with David Gilmour's voice in a low tone. Towards the end, as the song builds, more instruments come in, Gilmour's voice becomes more sorrowful and longing. You can hear the sadness of remembering the greatness experienced, of the sweet memories of what they had. The final lines of the song are:
Encumbered forever by desire and ambition
There's a hunger still unsatisfied
Our weary eyes still stray to the horizon
Though down this road we've been so many times

The grass was greener
The light was brighter
The taste was sweeter
The nights of wonder
With friends surrounded
The dawn mist glowing
The water flowing
The endless river

Forever and ever
Pink Floyd is among the most legendary bands, but they were done. This song very much describes Gilmour saying goodbye. He's said himself that he wrote it quickly, almost within a day. It came together simply and beautifully. The ending guitar solo fits the tone of the rest of the album but crescendos it in final grandeur. The violin/strings sounds in the background add to the feeling of remembrance. And slowly it fades out, leaving only a bell ringing. For the last minute of the album, there's only silence. They've said goodbye. It's done.

The perfect ending to the one of the greatest bands. Their best song being the last on their last album; their final work being their greatest.

["High Hopes," by Pink Floyd]

1 comment:

Austin said...

*slow clap* Fucking loved the review of Division Bell. Hope you do more Floyd albums in the near future. :)