Division Bell
Cluster One
What Do You Want From Me
Poles Apart
A Great Day for Freedom
Wearing the Inside Out
Take It Back
Coming Back To Life
Keep Talking
Lost for Words
High Hopes

    This long-awaited album was the one my friend Dave Rhodes was eagerly anticipating as the triumphal return of Pink Floyd.  When he played it for me, he was greatly disappointed to hear me say, "They should have called this one THE BEST OF THE PINK FLOYD IMITATORS."  Though the passage of time has tempered my distaste for it, this album still holds a lesser spot in the pantheon of Pink music, primarily because the removal of Roger Waters from the mix (regardless of your feelings about the reasons for that removal) forever altered the qualities that made Floyd Floyd.  I think the results prove that the band had always been greater than the sum of its parts, and, with one major part missing, the results would never again measure up to past glories.
    According to Dave, the title refers to the bell that rings in Parliament to call the representatives to a vote, and thereby "choose up sides" on whatever issue is on the floor, dividing into two factions.  The figurative meaning for the album relates, of course, to the division within Pink Floyd that resulted in Roger leaving the band, and the other members searching for an identity without him.  Since that split took place a decade earlier, you would have thought that they would be over it by now.  Instead, it almost seems as though the band, responding to the clamor for another album (Please! Anything!) had no real purpose, so they chose to rip Roger at every opportunity.  This is the old "Syd" theme taken to extreme.  In the meantime, a variety of "assistant lyricists" have been added to the troupe, apparently to help David Gilmour, who is either unconfident about his poetic abilities, or considered incompetent by someone.  For the most part, these pairings did not work out well on MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON, and they don't really work well here, either.  The notable exception is Polly Samson, who seems to have a grasp of what Pink Floyd should really sound like.  Maybe that is why David Gilmour later married her.
    The apparent theme of the album is one of communication, and how important it is for us to talk to each other.  Once again, however, it becomes (painfully) obvious that the real theme is "Roger you should have communicated with us, and you need to do so now."  I don't know if it happened, but I hope they reconcile before the next Pink Floyd album comes out.  (Call me guilty of wishful thinking.)  If you ask yourself, "Just what's going on here?", the answer is on WISH YOU WERE HERE, when, in the song Wish You Were Here, Roger says, "Runnin' over the same old ground - what have we found, the same old fears."

    The album opens with Cluster One, an instrumental semi-dreamscape that uses the familiar Pink Floyd "fade-in" technique {CPFS}, taking more than a minute before a recognizable instrument pops up.  Out of the chaos comes a sweet piano and guitar melody that reminds us of the best days of Floyd.  My friend Dan Ondrusek is always amazed how Dave Gilmour can make every single slide, pluck, stop or bend of a guitar string mean so much, and this easy-going piece is a good reminder of that talent. {CPFS}
    We segué effectively into a rock ballad entitled What Do You Want From Me?, Dave's low-key rewrite of In The Flesh?.  Once again, the artist asks the audience exactly what it is that he needs to do to get their attention, love, and respect.  It's a good concert opener, and puts the listener just slightly on the defensive.  Still, as always happens with the best Pink Floyd songs, the flowing melody, subtly impelling rhythms, and pleasing choral arrangements cause us to accept the challenge in a pretty relaxed way.
    One good idea the group resurrected for this album was to find clever and enjoyable ways of linking the songs. {CPFS}  Even though this is not a true Concept Album, the segués make it feel more like one than your average rock collection.  The slide into the acoustic rocker Poles Apart is so gracefully done that we don't realize how much the tempo has picked up.  This is definitely an anti-Roger song, and you can pretty much hear the derision in Dave's voice.  The use of the lyric phrase "Hey you" is no accident, and the dark-carnival middle section may remind us just how crazy things got before the band split up.  Apparently, Dave thinks that Roger has "lost that light in [his] eyes", and is no longer the "golden boy" who was once touted as an exceptional musician.  (But I told you as much, when I tried to explain to you that the group was always greater than the sum of its' parts.)
    Marooned is a seaside instrumental, that never actually reaches the point of becoming a dreamscape.  It has sufficiently pleasant melodic qualities, and Dave does some acceptable guitar work, but it's nothing to write home about.  Maybe the title refers to Roger abandoning the rest of the guys, and how they felt marooned by him.  This would explain why they move on, after being rescued, to A Great Day For Freedom.  If you're slow to be satisfied that the band was thinking about Roger, can you remain unconvinced when this one begins "On the day THE WALL came down..."?  Of course, this plaintive ballad does have a connection to the Berlin Wall, and there may even be reference to other personal relationships.  It contains the usual Pink Floyd sarcasm, since it's really not such a great day for freedom, as the singer (if not Dave himself) retains hard feelings, regrets, and the "bitter residue" of the experience.
    Wearing the Inside Out is a slow jazzy Kenny G sort of piece, that calls to mind Terminal Frost from the preceding album.  Its' notable in that it was written by Rick Wright, who has not been known for turning out memorable tunes.  It goes down fairly easily, but isn't exceptional.  Anthony Moore did the lyrics for this one, and I've never had much respect for him as a lyricist ~ this is another monosyllabic, limited-imagery set of lines, so I can't get too excited about it.  There is a nice effect (very Floydian) in which the background singers insert lines between the main verses in a semi-ambient way, and the lead vocal (probably Wright) is done in a rather haunting way.  There's also a nice guitar solo near the end, though the actual ending doesn't really seem to fit either this song or the next one.  (And you have to wonder about that heartbeat, recalling DARK SIDE OF THE MOON)
    The mood definitely changes with Take It Back, an 80's style pop-rock love song.  It has enough edge to be interesting, but still has too much sentiment to be true Floyd.  The rhythm of the drums and guitars is nice, and you can definitely dance to it, but that's not really why people buy Pink Floyd albums.
    Coming Back to Life is another "We're still mad at Roger" tune, with the added twist of "and I'm a whole lot better off without you!"  I'm not convinced.  This one was totally the product of David Gilmour, and the first part works really well.  The bluesy intro has Dave's usual excellent guitar playing, in which he subtly changes tones and techniques too many times to count. {CPFS}  Once again, we have definitive evidence that Dave has a much better voice than he'd shown us early in his career.  Unfortunately, the song kicks into another 80's techno-pop rhythm that sells out the tone that's been set.  In toto, it becomes a disappointment, because it could have gone to a better, more Floydian place.
    The theme of communication (especially as it relates to Roger) continues with Keep Talking, one of the best tracks on the album, with one of the most inspired ambients ever.  Most people were by then familiar with the image of famous physicist Stephen Hawking, stricken with ALS, tooling around in his high-tech wheelchair, but it took Pink Floyd to figure out how to make him a rock and roll star.  With his synthesized computer voice leading the way, we are reminded how vital it is that we make the effort to communicate with each other.  If, through the miracle of technology, this man can express the most revolutionary ideas in physics since Albert Einstein, then surely the rest of us can find a way to tell those we love our deepest feelings.  (and, by the way, why didn't you, Roger?)  It was an inspired time for Dave to bring back his special talent with the Voicebox, too.  It's another 80's pop-rock tune, but it has more of the Pink Floyd qualities that we expect.  If it were a little more poetic, and a little less rigid in its construction, it'd be one of their top tunes ever.
    Lost For Words brings the tempo, and the mood, back down again.  It's basically an acoustic ballad that takes one last (?) hard shot at Roger.  The boxing ambients remind us just how difficult these relationships have been, but the grousing does get tiresome after awhile.
    The finale of the album turns out to be the best work here.  That's partially why my friend Josh Tennant says High Hopes is his favorite Pink Floyd song ever (the other part relates to the limits of his experience).  In the very best Floyd tradition, it begins with mixed ambients, and that ringing bell.  Some simple piano chords chime in, putting the rhythm into a different pattern than we had expected (much like the beginning of Pigs - 3 Different Ones), then rises and falls with the words that reflect a bygone time of childhood simplicity and fun.  As with most better Floyd tunes, it isn't easy to categorize, but I'd call it a rock ballad.  If you'd been missing the Bob Ezrin influence on this album, it comes out in full glory during the instrumental section that follows the second coming of the verse.  It sounds diabolically like a section on ALICE COOPER GOES TO HELL, which he produced.  (That thought took a little of the enjoyment out of it for me ~ I like to think of Floyd as always at least being original).  It's gone quickly, though, and we get on with the tune, which eventually concludes with another of Dave's sweet ringing guitar solos, and the eventual return of the Division Bell ringing.
    This final piece seems to imply that the separation between Roger and the guys is complete, but if that were true, wouldn't they have then produced another album?  Maybe, if they had fully put their feelings to rest, they could move on to better things, but maybe, with nothing left to complain about, there was no point in going further.  There have been no albums since, more's the pity, and may never be.
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