I was raving about the Rolling Stones exhibition last year, saying they have utterly rewritten the template for what a successful rock memorabilia exhibition should look like and set a new global standard. So when a Pink Floyd exhibition was announced at the V&A I was expecting something really creative. Surely, an arty band like Floyd, and one that has always loved spectacle and grand statements, wouldn’t allow themselves to be outdone by the Stones?
The Pink Floyd exhibition is meticulously curated and a fascinating insight into the band’s history but for the most part I found it very, very traditional. Whereas, the Stones went for breathtaking recreations of their squalid Edith Grove flat, of the studio where many Jagger/Richards classics were laid down and of the very private world of the Stones’ backstage area, Floyd have gone for things displayed neatly in glass cases in chronological order. Don’t get me wrong I loved seeing these items but an exact recreation of the interior of the UFO Club in 1967 or a mock-up of the studio where Dark Side Of The Moon was recorded there was none.
Towards the end of the tour we did get some 3D installations of images from The Wall and Battersea Power Station – and the room devoted to the sculpture from the Division Bell album cover was particularly poignant. Overall, however, while I felt with The Stones I was being taken on a very personal journey through the life of the band, with Pink Floyd I never really felt much more than a visitor to a museum looking at some artefacts, albeit very, very interesting ones.
Only a year after releasing what was billed as Pink Floyd’s final album, The Endless River, late 2015 saw David Gilmour bring out a new solo album, too. Rattle That Lock is his first solo offering since 2006. While Sid Barrett and Roger Waters both have their enthusiastic advocates as the holder of the creative genius behind Pink Floyd, for me it was always David Gilmour I looked to first and foremost. Gilmour’s vocals and guitar are the sound of Pink Floyd for me. I found the Waters-inspired The Final Cut little more than a self-indulgent ranty dirge, but hugely enjoyed both of the post-Waters albums, A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell. And Gilmour’s 2006 solo offering, On An Island, very much continued in the same vein.
So what, then, of Rattle That Lock? I’ve played it several times over now. All of the musical ingredients you would expect from a David Gilmore album are there: the beautiful melodic guitar solos, the lush atmospheric keyboards, the deliciously rich backing vocals and that clear, sensitive unmistakable lead vocal. But somehow, unlike previous offerings, it doesn’t quite seem to add up to something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not a bad album and there are some really beautiful moments on it. But in places it does begin to sound a bit like Pink Floyd by numbers. On An Island followed exactly that same formula, of course, but perhaps had the benefit of featuring a number of really well-written memorable songs that added to the creative output of, rather than merely sought to copy, the classic Floyd back catalogue.
There are some lovely stand-out tracks, like Faces of Stone and In Any Tongue. And apart from the truly horrendous disco beat on Today there are very few low points on this album. But overall, although it’s mainly songs rather than instrumentals, Rattle That Lock is more in the business (like 2014’s The Endless River) of offering atmospheric Floydish soundscapes rather than genuinely classic new material. Having said that, it’s still a thousand times better than The Final Cut…
Released: September 2015