Momentary Lapse of Reason
Signs of Life
Learning to Fly
The Dogs of War
One Slip
On the Turning Away
Yet Another Movie
A New Machine, Part 1
Terminal Frost
A New Machine, Part 2

    The Show Must Go On!  Or, maybe not.  How different would you be if one of your limbs were removed?  Here, Pink Floyd discovers that there is more to being Pink Floyd than simply having most of the pieces in place.  With this album, we are officially into the 3rd Age of Floyd, where Dave, Nick, and Rick attempt to keep the fire burning.  Unfortunately, most of the characteristics of the best Floyd {CPFS} are gone (dreamscapes) or reduced to insignificant roles (ambient sounds), while the irritating qualities (complaining/whining about someone not there ~ Syd has been replaced by Roger) seem to be gaining an upper hand.  This could have been a great opportunity for Dave to show off his sweet, ringing guitar soloes, Rick to showcase an intriguing synthesizer dreamscape, or Nick to give us something new in the world of synth-drum techniques, but none of that happens.  I think we'd call it "derivative".
    Most of the tracks on this album actually are songs, the concept (if there truly is one) having taken a seat far in the back.  One has to wonder whether the album title refers to the lapse in reason that led to the great argument causing Roger to leave the band, or the one suffered when they decided to record this material.  I don't know for sure if the guys (A) needed money, (B) needed to "create", or (C) needed to prove that they could get along without Roger, but evidence for all three exists.  (If so, they solved A, arguably tried B, and missed C by a mile.)  It did go to #3 on the U.S. album charts, but most of that was due to their reputation and a horde of desperately needy fans.
    Be that as it may, the result is not terrible, even if you are primarily an Age 2 Floyd fan (like myself).  I truly enjoy some of this music (though at times it gets too "Eighties" for my tastes), but I sense an insidious presence here, and it is not one the Floyd can deal with well.  Though I have many reasons to like him, I feel that Bob Ezrin helped the remaining Floyd members continue to slide away from what they had done so well, while telling Roger off.  This is poignantly ironic, since Roger had used Ezrin's talents on THE WALL (you'll recognize his influence on the really over-the-top segments, like The Trial).  The effect Ezrin had on Alice Cooper was simply marvelous (WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE is sufficient proof of the success of that move), but you can feel the same techniques at work here, and it's just not "Floyd".  He seems to have a way of allowing his creative process to override that of the band he's producing, and here the group suffers for it.  [For a really disastrous example, check out KISS's SONGS FROM THE ELDER - even Ezrin admits he screwed that one up.]

    Signs of Life is an obligatory semi-dreamscape that was put here to satisfy Floydophiles (who'd be looking for one.)  It's really too rigid to qualify as a true dreamscape, and really rather unimaginative.  A row boat, mumbled words, some keyboard chords, and two or three spare guitar licks do not a dreamscape make.  Obviously, the title was chosen to immediately let us know that the Floyd is ready (and capable) of pulling itself out of stasis after a 4-year hiatus.  It is not however, proof.
    Learning to Fly is one of the best songs on the album, and one of the tracks truest to the Floyd modus operandi.  Unfortunately, it reveals another trend present on this album, the necessity of introducing multiple partners for Dave to "write" with.  Maybe he doesn't know any rhyming words, or is limited in his imagination.  For whatever reason, most songs on this album and DIVISION BELL have other people helping him get the lyrics right, more evidence that Roger is missed.  This particular ballad flows pretty well, and the Mission-Control ambients add just the right touch. {CPFS}  My friend Lydia Mlot chose this song as one for her class' graduation slide show, because it represented all the hard work done in high school to get ready for the real challenge.  The crashing drums and the ringing guitar riffs are classic Floyd, and the lyrics are sufficiently poetic to keep you thinking. {CPFS}  The song went to #70 in the U.S.
    And then the wheels fall off.  Accompanied by a crashing, pounding, grinding rhythmic musical disaster come The Dogs of War.  Whomever is this Anthony Moore assisting Dave in writing this song, he should have been creative enough to recognize a waste of time sitting right in front of him.  This song is consistently included in lists of "The Worst Pink Floyd Song Ever", because almost nobody likes it.  Besides the unimaginative music and insipid lyrics, there's not too much to dislike.  There is a little gremlin in the back of my head that says this song was supposed to be a play on Roger's admission that he was a "dog" on ANIMALS, but the poetry is so lousy any intended message gets lost when you find yourself laughing out loud.  (That's it, it's a parody!  Yeah, sure.)
    One Slip does not begin auspiciously (sounding like leftover parts from Bike), but picks up a little as it goes on.  It's an up-tempo rocker with a good beat, and has just enough rhythm to keep you from thinking too much about the lyrics, which is a good thing.  Once again, the poetry lets us down.  (I know that modern audiences are not as atuned to lyricism as us "older" folks, but some of this stuff just gets downright ridiculous.)  In the end, it's OK, but unsatisfying beyond the nice beat.
    Things begin looking up during On The Turning Away.  It may be a little trite, but the lyrics deal with one of the great continuing themes of Rock, "can we turn our back on those in need?"  It seems ready-made for one of those benevolent organizations.  It's a plaintive ballad with a little better lyrical quality than most of the songs on this album.  (It pains me to say that, since Moore was the "helper" on this one, too.)  The song does prove that Dave has really matured in his singing, and has a very pleasant voice that we could have used more of in the old days.  Sadly, the extended guitar solo shows none of his usual imagination.
    When you hear the beginning of Yet Another Movie, you may think that The Dogs of War are coming back to haunt you, but just sit back and enjoy the sound effects, it gets better.  It has a very haunting quality, and the effects that are applied to Dave's voice somehow supply more emotion than he usually gives us.  The background ambient sounds {CPFS} from "Casablanca" are probably the best of this effect on this album.  It's one of my favorites on this album (even though it's a song).  It goes directly into a guitar solo that is untimed, but goes by the title Round and Around, though you'd be better off to just think of this as the ending, rather than a separate piece.  (No way it could stand on its own.)
    The next three pieces fit together, but do not necessarily create a whole picture.  A New Machine, Part 1 consists almost entirely of Dave's synthesized voice (a pretty cool effect), without really having a melody.  Since it segues directly into the instrumental Terminal Frost, you might have thought they'd just call it one piece and forget about it.  Again, the music is too trendy to be truly Pink; in fact, for awhile you may think a Kenny G cut ended up here somehow.  There are moments when it seems as though it's going to be just weird enough to be Floyd, but it's always at least a half a bubble off.  (I put that in there for Cheryl.)  I will vote it the "Single Piece of Pink Floyd Music Most Likely to be Heard in an Elevator".  [If you ever get into an elevator and they're playing Welcome to the Machine from WISH YOU WERE HERE, exit immediately!]  It fades quietly off into the distance (and not a moment too soon), when we are suddenly "treated" (note the sarcasm) to A New Machine, Part 2, which is exactly like Part 1, except for the words.  It now seems totally out of place, since it contrasts so harshly with the muzak in the middle.  The Machine part of this is undoubtedly a reference to the song on WISH YOU WERE HERE, except that that machine (the recording industry) was a much scarier place.  Even if this Machine is still the recording industry, it hardly seems like a bad place if you can make Million$ by recording this album.
    The album closes with Sorrow, which is appropriately titled if you're feeling bad about some of the songs in this collection.  A friend of mine says you have to end every round of golf with at least one good shot, so you'll be willing to spend the money to give it another try.  Maybe the band was trying the same principle here.  Sorrow begins with a 2-minute guitar solo that, while not technically challenging, reminds us a little of some themes from WISH YOU WERE HERE.  We want to hear where this is going.  Well, it's going into another 80's style rhythm, but we'll forgive them that.  (It reminds us that no one since Beethoven has been able to do so much with a 4-note theme.)  It's very similar to other songs on the album (Learning to Fly, and One Slip), but the lyrics are much more poetic than most of them {CPFS}.  It seems to be Dave singing about what he thinks Roger is doing these days, and it's not a happy picture.  Unfortunately, it wasn't fully cathartic for him, because the next album would be far more consumed by Roger's non-presence.  The guitar solos here seem to have some real feeling and purpose to them, which is somewhat ironic, because the central section of the tune (where the dreamscape would normally have gone) just sort of sits around the house and waits on the next verse to come along.

    When it's all over, you have to feel cheated, because the Floyd you used to know is dead forever, and it seems unlikely that you'll ever see anything like it again.  Change is part of life, and a force we must accept and deal with, but it can sometimes be a bitter pill to swallow.  If you really like 80's music, like my friend Mark Mallett does, you'll probably think this Floyd is much better than the old stuff, but it's not really my cup of tea.  I can listen to it once in awhile, but only after I've heard those classic Floyd albums 20 times each.
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