on November 1, 2001
A boring album especially when you put it up against Dark Side of the Moon, Animals, Meddle, Piper at the Gates, and even Final Cut. The lyrics throughout the album are as fantastic as anything they have done - but the melody to Welcome to the Machine and the title track are dull and too self conscious. It seems that they had put their all into the magnificient Dark Side of the Moon and were totally spent to go in and make another album. Shine on You Crazy Diamond and to a lesser degree Have a Cigar (with a guest vocal from Roy Harper, who has some pretty classic albums from this period as well)are the only songs that have any redemible qualities from this album- and they were so desperate for material the had a Shine On Crazy Diamond part 6-9 which really was mindless jamming and a reiteration of the original melody. But hey, its Pink Floyd. A much more admirable album, Animals had material that was from around Dark Side album but it has a freshness to it that Wish you were Here just doesn't have.
on July 4, 2000
Purposefully, I am writing this without having viewed any Amazon customer reviews of this album. Deliberately, I am writing this drunk, for as Latin speakers amongst you know, in vino veritas. The sober are a cautious lot.
I start, therefore with a handful of assumptions (to wit: the received wisdom that Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" is one of the great statements of the rock 'n' roll idiom), and an express intention (to debunk that received wisdom: to say, not only is "Wish You Were Here" an inessential piece of art, but it is, by miles, the most dispensable Waters-era Floyd record of them all).
I would like to think, of course, that vocal Amazon readership, for whom by and large I have the greatest respect, are one with me, but I realise that Floyd-heads are a peculiar, un-self-reflexive bunch. So I'm skeptical that anyone other than a spotty eighteen year-old stirrer with a Limp Bizkit (or whatever it is THIS month) fixation will agree with me. Nevertheless, I present my arguments to the best of my ability, and gleefully flip the bird to the dogmatic foot-soldiers of the Floyd faith:
"Wish You Were Here" is a load of old rot.
Argument # 1: Fifteen minute instrumentals in the key of G do not a tune make: "Shine on you crazy diamond" is an elegy, so we all rehearse, for Syd Barrett. Syd, if we are all honest with ourselves, was a short-fused acid-head who, in a short-fused career, produced a couple of minor-league - and quintessentially Cambridge-educated - gems ("See Emily Play", but little else, leaps to mind) and a lot of completely impenetrable pap. The FIRST PART of the song in his honour drones on for fifteen minutes largely in ONE CHORD, says little of any significance (even about Syd Barrett), and then fades out, only to be met with a reprise at the end of the album, of a further twelve minutes. Same key. No further message. Instrumental solos which can only be described as indulgent. Syd Barrett, after all, wasn't even especially good at the guitar. David Gilmour, as we all now know, is. Tremendous Café Music, but of little use other than to (i) those, toked up to the eyeballs, who enjoy staring at candles; and (ii) those young men who think they *understand* the electric guitar.
Argument # 2: An extension of "Dark Side of the Moon" it is not: This one is particularly baffling: where "Dark Side of The Moon" at least purports to comment on (and therefore connect with) the lot of the "Ordinary Man", traversing themes such as time, carpe diem, sex, money, sanity and amateur astronomy, "Wish You Were Here" comments solely on the lot of the Cambridge-Educated Rock Star. Not even Roger Waters, so adept at feeling that his listener ought to feel sorry for him, can score a sympathy vote here. So, Syd had too much Acid. Shame. So, Floyd's accountants ripped them off. Diddums. So, the nasty record companies were made money out of Floyd. Capitalist pigs! All such railing, mark it, from the comfort of one's stately castle in Oxfordshire, is hardly calculated to make any form of connection with the casual listener. Or the intent listener. A more copybook case of champagne socialism (other than The Beatles' "Taxman") it is scarcely possible to imagine.
Argument # 3: The songs simply aren't any good: The histrionics of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and the self-absorption of "Welcome to the Machine" and "Have a Cigar" are dealt with above. "Shine on" has (when it finally arrives) a pretty enough chord progression, but the best part if half an hour of it? Methinks that urine is being extracted. Neither of the other two is particularly memorable for its tune, tone or sentiment. The harder edge may have laid the way for the content of "Animals", but the content is so self-centred as to defy belief.
Which leaves the song "Wish You Were Here". It is a beautiful song; as good as any Waters - or the Floyd, with or without him - have ever devised. It says, more elegantly than in three entire discs, almost everything of merit which Waters was getting at in The Wall and the Final Cut (and, for that matter, most of his solo material). But it only goes for five minutes, and five subliminal minutes cannot justify forty other minutes of rubbish.
Go on , vote me as unhelpful as you like, but I say that "Wish You Were Here" is, bar none, the silliest record the Waters-involved Floyd ever came up with, by a country mile. (I'm afraid however, Mr. Gilmour, this does NOT include (or excuse) either of "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" or "The Division Bell".)