Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Division Bell

The Division Bell CD cover
The Division Bell is the final Pink Floyd studio album, released in 1994. It saw the end of one of prog rock's biggest bands, and one of the world's favourites.

The album has received mixed reviews in the past, and was slated by ex-band member, Roger Waters at the time of it's release, although he's never mentioned it (or it's predecessor, A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)) since.

Work began on this album, rather slowly at the start of 1993, when David Gilmour that the band needed to make an album which sounded more like a "real Pink Floyd album..." and not simply a David Gilmour album with a Pink Floyd tag. A little known fact is that the late Richard Wright did not even perform on A Momentary Lapse of Reason, Gilmour (along with session musicians, including Jon Carin) performed the keyboard parts, the bass parts were handled by Gilmour and Guy Pratt. The Division Bell would be different. The album contains, for the first time since 1975's Wish You Were Here, music written by Wright ("Cluster One", "What Do You Want From Me", "Marooned", "Wearing the Inside Out" & "Keep Talking"). Another first since Wish You Were Here is a track about former band mate, Syd Barrett ("Poles Apart") with lyrics written by Gilmour, Nick Laird-Clowes (from The Dream Academy) and Gilmour's wife (then girlfriend) Polly Samson. Samson wrote a majority of the album's lyrics.

The album's overall theme is communication, or lack of it. "What Do You Want From Me" is about an argument between a couple who do not talk enough. Musically and lyrically it's very pleasing, another example of Floyd writing a song which the everyman can relate to.
"Poles Apart" is another song about Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's 'lost genius', the following tour also showed images of Syd during the show, as well as the first performances of "Astronomy Domine" since the early '70s.
Pink Floyd performing "One of These Days" in Philadelphia, 1994
"Marooned" is a very peaceful instrumental co-written between Gilmour and Wright with some outstanding use of a pitch-shifter pedal on Gilmour's guitar to get a very oceanic sound. Part of it features on the Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.
"Wearing the Inside Out" is a Rick Wright written track (with lyrics by Anthony Moore) and also features him on lead vocals (first time since "Time" from Dark Side of the Moon). It's a very sombre song, featuring the return of Dick Parry on saxophone (who plays sax on "Money", "Us and Them" and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond") and toured extensively with the Floyd. This song was never played on the '94 tour but did feature on Gilmour's 2006 On An Island tour. This was due to Rick not having the confidence to sing it live.
"Coming Back to Life" is the only song entirely written by Gilmour, and like "Sorrow" from the previous album, it stands out as being one of the album's best pieces, with some great guitar soloing, it was also a favourite on future Floyd and Gilmour shows.
"Take It Back", "Keep Talking" and "Lost for Words" are some of this album's lower points for me. "Take It Back" sounds a little too much like a U2 song for me, a little too 'pop' for Pink Floyd, though it worked well live (see the PULSE DVD). "Keep Talking" continues the communication theme and features some spoken phrases by Stephen Hawking, in all honesty I don't know if these phrases were picked from somewhere or if Hawking recorded them for the Floyd, I find this a little hard to believe, but you never know. I can't find any reliable info on this. "Lost for Words" let's itself down with the line "they tell me to please go fuck myself...", I've always believed that swearing isn't necessary in songs, especially with bands of Pink Floyd's calibre (and I know "fuck" appears in "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" from Animals too), but other than that it's a mediocre acoustic number which rarely got played on tour.
The album closes with "High Hopes", definitely the album's most liked track by Floyd fans, it's an electro-acoustic song, featuring some of Gilmour's finest music, it was played at every show on the Division Bell Tour and at nearly every gig that Gilmour has done since. It is also the longest track on the album, and features one of Gilmour's most notable solos.

All in all this is one of the better Pink Floyd albums, up there with Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall. Whereas Waters purists will probably dislike the album, dismissing it as "not Pink Floyd" other, less closed minded people should enjoy it. It's varied sounds and textures as well as very well written lyrics by Samson make this album a delight to listen to.

If you like this album then I strongly recommend the PULSE album and DVD. The live releases from the 1994 Division Bell tour.


  1. Cluster One (5:58)
  2. What Do You Want from Me (4:21)
  3. Poles Apart (7:04)
  4. Marooned (5:29)
  5. A Great Day for Freedom (4:17)
  6. Wearing the Inside Out (6:49)
  7. Take it Back (6:12)
  8. Coming Back to Life (6:18)
  9. Keep Talking (6:11)
  10. Lost for Words (5:14)
  11. High Hopes (8:31)
QoQuaq recommends:

"Poles Apart", "Marooned", "Coming Back to Life" and "High Hopes".



Title: The Division Bell
Label: EMI
Genre: Progressive rock / soft rock
Release date: 28th March 1994

This album is available at Amazon and iTunes.

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