Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Pink Floyd

  • Atom Heart Mother [Harvest, 1970] D+
  • Meddle [Harvest, 1971] B-
  • Obscured by Clouds [Harvest, 1972] C
  • The Dark Side of the Moon [Harvest, 1973] B
  • Wish You Were Here [Columbia, 1975] A-
  • Animals [Columbia, 1977] B+
  • The Wall [Columbia, 1979] B-
  • A Collection of Great Dance Songs [Columbia, 1981] B+
  • The Final Cut [Columbia, 1983] C+
  • A Momentary Lapse of Reason [Columbia, 1987] C
  • Delicate Sound of Thunder [Columbia, 1988] C
  • The Division Bell [Columbia, 1994] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Atom Heart Mother [Harvest, 1970]
Believe it or not, the, er, suite on the first side is easier to take than the, gawd, songs on the second. Yeah, they do leave the singing to an anonymous semi-classical chorus, and yeah, they probably did get the horns for the fanfares at the same hiring hall. But at least the suite provides a few of the hypnotic melodies that made Ummagumma such an admirable record to fall asleep to. D+

Meddle [Harvest, 1971]
Not bad. "Echoes" moves through 23:21 of "Across the Universe" cop with the timeless calm of interstellar overdrive, and the acoustic-type folk songs boast their very own melodies (as well as a real dog, rather than electronic seagulls, for sound effect). The word "behold" should never cross their filters again, but this is definitely an improvement: one eensy-weensy step for humanity, one giant step for Pink Floyd. B-

Obscured by Clouds [Harvest, 1972]
(Very) occasional songs from the Barbet Schroeder film La Vallee. The movie got buried, now skip the soundtrack. C

The Dark Side of the Moon [Harvest, 1973]
With its technological mastery and its conventional wisdom once-removed, this is a kitsch masterpiece--taken too seriously by definition, but not without charm. It may sell on sheer aural sensationalism, but the studio effects do transmute David Gilmour's guitar solos into something more than they were when he played them. Its taped speech fragments may be old hat, but for once they cohere musically. And if its pessimism is received, that doesn't make the ideas untrue--there are even times, especially when Dick Parry's saxophone undercuts the electronic pomp, when this record brings its cliches to life, which is what pop is supposed to do, even the kind with delusions of grandeur. B

Wish You Were Here [Columbia, 1975]
No dumb tribulations-of-a-rock-star epic here--the dedication to long-departed crazy Syd Barrett gives it an emotional resolve that mitigates what little self-pity lyricist Roger Waters allows himself. Even more remarkable, the music is not only simple and attractive, with the synthesizer used mostly for texture and the guitar breaks for comment, but it actually achieves some of the symphonic dignity (and cross-referencing) that The Dark Side of the Moon simulated so ponderously. And the cover/liner art is worthy of all the stoned raps it has no doubt already inspired. A-

Animals [Columbia, 1977]
This has its share of obvious moments. But I can only assume that those who accuse this band of repetitious cynicism are stuck in such a cynical rut themselves that a piece of well-constructed political program music--how did we used to say it?--puts them uptight. Lyrical, ugly, and rousing, all in the right places. B+

The Wall [Columbia, 1979]
For a dumb tribulations-of-a-rock-star epic, this isn't bad--unlikely to arouse much pity or envy, anyway. The music is all right, too--kitschy minimal maximalism with sound effects and speech fragments. But the story is confused, "mother" and "modern life" make unconvincing villains, and if the recontextualization of "up against the wall" is intended ironically, I don't get it. B-

A Collection of Great Dance Songs [Columbia, 1981]
With the rerecorded "Money" sporting a livelier bottom to protect them from truth-in-titling and felonious injury charges, this gathers up their tuneful moments, which have always been far between--so far between, in fact, that even the unconverted may miss the ersatz symphonic structures in which they're properly embedded. B+

The Final Cut [Columbia, 1983]
Though I wish this rewarded close listening like John Williams, Fripp & Eno, or the Archies, it's a comfort to encounter antiwar rock that has the weight of years of self-pity behind it--tends to add both literary and political resonance. With this band, aural resonance is a given. C+

A Momentary Lapse of Reason [Columbia, 1987]
"One Slip," which provides the title at just the moment the singer is so "decadent" as to copulate with a woman, is no less sexist than the rape-fantasy cover of Roger Waters's Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. "The Dogs of War," ID'd with blues bottom, could almost be the tin soldiers of Waters-as-Floyd's The Final Cut. In short, you'd hardly know the group's conceptmaster was gone--except that they put out noticeably fewer ideas. C

Delicate Sound of Thunder [Columbia, 1988]
Like the tour it documents, this is supposed to show that Floyd doesn't need "Another Brick in the Wall." Like A Momentary Lapse of Reason, which contributes five songs to a disastrously dreary opening, it proves instead that no matter who's the nice guy, Roger Waters is the writer. C

The Division Bell [Columbia, 1994] Dud

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]

See Also