Review Summary: David Gilmour steps out from the shadow of the Floyd.
The years-long rift between Roger Waters and David Gilmour that ultimately led to the demise of psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd is a tale that has been told and re-told so often in the annals of rock history that it may just have outsold the Bible at the end of the last quarter. By now, it is a bit of an old chestnut, and truly bears very little worth repeating. Yet, it is rather surprising to observe that the most important offshoot of this tale is one that has been frequently lost between the lines: it is truly a very poorly-appreciated fact that both artists actually ended up releasing solo albums, in part due to the gulf that had recently sprung up between them. Roger Waters' The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking
was the bassist's attempt to prove that he was Pink Floyd (an endeavour ultimately met with mixed results), whereas David Gilmour desired nothing better than to step out from beyond the specter of his hugely successful band and reclaim his eclipsed individuality. Esoteric it may be, but About Face
is where Gilmour truly marks his last stand against the obliteration of the self.
Indeed, as the guitarist himself explained in a 1992 interview, "I guess we all feel restrictions within everything we attempt, just because of the types of personalities and role you've created for yourself...For me, the restriction was the scale of what Pink Floyd had become more than anything. It's nice to get out and do something on a slightly different scale; go out and do theaters, which is not really a possibility with Pink Floyd until we get a lot less popular." Despite this rather tough talk from Gilmour, it is unfortunately inevitable that anything he produces will still be immediately compared to his work with the Pink Floyd, and it is no different even for About Face
. Such juxtaposition can be quite damning. Indeed, at several points on About Face Gilmour actually finds himself staring right back into the shadow of The Floyd - despite his insistence that he not become a prisoner of his own sound. Take, for instance, the album's lead single "Blue Light", which opens with a shimmering riff that is immediately and disturbingly reminiscent of "Run Like Hell", from the classic rock album The Wall
. Clinton himself would likely abstain from swearing that these two songs were never sexually related at any point.
But if one is prepared to overlook the occasional lapses in integrity, About Face
still manages to present itself as an album that has many strong points. The first half of the album is near flawless, with each number featuring a simple pop-sensibility that is absent only too often on the common Floyd release. The song "Murder" is particularly beautiful, and the sense of desolation that Gilmour feels is palpable when he ponders, "What was it brought you out here in the dark/Was it your only way of making your mark"". The presence of a couple of tracks that were penned by Pete Townshend (of The Who fame) is also a treat, with "Love On The Air" making a particularly strong claim to being the best track on the album. There's also enough textural guitar-playing from Gilmour to satisfy even the most ardent of fans, with the instrumental "Let's Get Metaphysical" coming closest to impersonating a religious experience, or a catheter (by taking the piss out of Roger Waters).
Although it lacks the concept-driven style and the smarts of the Floyd's best work, Gilmour does make a decent enough claim that there's still some merit to keeping things mind-numbingly simple. Indeed, even after nearly three decades, the former Floyd guitarist's stand that one should always be allowed to write music for shi
ts without being too concerned about having something to say is as relevant as it was many years ago, back when the rift was still raw.
To Roger Waters: the strains of economic debauchery and societal depravity will always have a place for discussion, but it is certainly not here.