Pink Floyd’s MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON turns 30 this year. Like so much of “prog” (yes, I put this in quotes) of the 1980s, it’s still controversial.
The same thing happened to Genesis, of course. Is ABACAB really a Genesis album? Or, how about ELP? Is EMERSON LAKE AND POWELL really an ELP album? Or Yes? Are 90125 or BIG GENERATOR really Yes albums? Ok, I won’t drag this idea into the ground. But, it’s fair to note, that the question regarding MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON is not unique.
At the time MOMENTARY LAPSE came out, I was living in Austria for my sophomore year of college. My great friend, Liz Ehret (now Bardwell), was visiting an American Army base in West German and picked up a copy of it as well as copies of Rush’s HOLD YOUR FIRE and Yes’s BIG GENERATOR for me. Of the three, the only one that floored me was HOLD YOUR FIRE. Still, I very much liked MOMENTARY.
I’d first come to Pink Floyd in late 1979. I was a fifth grader, visiting my oldest brother at the University of Notre Dame. One evening, one of my brother’s friends played THE WALL. I was blown away by it. As it turned out, at least one of my close friends knew Floyd well, so we listened to DARK SIDE, WISH YOU WERE HERE, and ANIMALS quite a bit. Though I was always a bigger Rush than PF fan, I listened to Floyd so much that I got burned out on it for a while. Then came THE FINAL CUT. I loved that album when it came out, and I’ve never gotten tired of it. To me, it has everything the earlier albums have but with humor replacing (at least to a certain extent) depression.
When I first heard MOMENTARY LAPSE, I remember liking it, but I liked it as a rock album, NOT as a Pink Floyd album. I wasn’t a Waters-diehard, by any means, but I could still hear the absence of his presence rather strongly this 1987 album.
What struck me most about MOMENTARY LAPSE was its clean but claustrophobic production. Indeed, listening to it today, I still feel the same way.. Unlike the rather boundless and spacious production of the previous PF albums, MOMENTARY LAPSE possesses an almost Trevor Horn-like production, but without Horn’s cleverness. Everything on the album is just so tight, so fragile.
As I listen to it now, in 2017, I find what I found in 1987. I love the instrumental parts of the album best. And, I’m a fan of Gilmour’s voice, but his lyrics are just way too straightforward for my tastes. I’m not hearing lyrics, but lectures. As such, I think side two is the much better of the two albums. The songs on side one all feel as though the company decided each should be a potential AOR hit. Side two has much more creativity. Spacy keyboards, weird electronic basses, and pregnant bongs give side two a much stronger sense of cohesion. Even Gilmour’s voice has more character when mixed with the unusual electronica. On “Yet Another Movie,” the best song on the album, Gilmour’s staccato lyrics feel true and earnest. Finally, it feels as though this is real Gilmour, not the Gilmour trying to sound like an AOR star.
Regardless, Happy 30th Birthday to MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON. Not the best Pink Floyd album, but still a thousand times better than most of the music that came out in 1987. Additionally, it clearly opened the path to the DIVISION BELL, which is an extraordinary album, as well as to THE ENDLESS RIVER, a far greater album than most have been willing to acknowledge.
But, now I’m sounding preachy. . .