Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour has had quite the hit-and-miss solo career that happens to almost every artist when they branch out from the band that established them.
On the one hand, these artists do not want to retread the old ground of their past accomplishments, because that would defeat the purpose of “going solo.” And solo projects usually allow artists to branch off into new territories that perhaps would not fit within the confines of their main band.
On the other hand, they also do not want to stray too far from the formula that made them successful in the first place. It is a balancing act that has haunted many a musician over the years.
With Gilmour’s latest release, “Rattle That Lock,” he has made his finest solo album of his career by finding that balance of old and new territories. His 2006 release, “On An Island,” was — up to that point — his most coherent and best effort as a whole outside of Pink Floyd. But with “Rattle That Lock,” he has surpassed that achievement. While none of the tracks hit the high note (for me) that he struck with his first solo album’s “There’s No Way Out Of Here,” the album as a whole works much better than anything he’s done on his own.
His self-titled first solo album, and its follow-up, “About Face” have good ideas, but fall flat for the most part because it seemed Gilmour wasn’t so sure of himself outside of Floyd. It certainly didn’t help that lyrically, he was — and to an extent forever will be — in the shadow of his former bandmate Roger Waters, who penned “Dark Side of the Moon” through “The Final Cut” in a run of classic albums that still baffle the mind in terms of quality. But Waters has a similar issue in that his solo albums will forever be in the shadow of Gilmour’s musicality that brought the atmosphere and sound to the Floyd catalog.
They were two music titans that complemented one another perfectly for those years they could work together.
Maybe the success of “Rattle That Lock” has to do with Gilmour no longer being haunted by being in Pink Floyd, since the band called it quits after last year’s fantastic “Endless River.” It certainly feels like he has more confidence being on his own throughout “Rattle That Lock,” which acts like a Floydian concept album about a “day in the life” of a character — just who that character happens to be is up to the listener. It is also helpful that his wife Polly Sampson, who wrote the bulk of the lyrics, is also an esteemed author who helps the narrative through the album. It is with the combination of music, themes and narrative that makes this album shine.
There are two major duds on this album, which strangely are the two songs he released prior to the album’s release. Those songs, “Rattle That Lock” and “Today,” find Gilmour treading back to some of the worst elements of both his solo albums and his tenure as leader of Floyd. Heavy disco-ish beats, grating 80s vibes and cheesy musicality hamper these tracks. It is a mystery why he would chose these two craptastic stinkers as previews to this otherwise great album.
But he does shine incredibly well on other tracks. “Faces of Stone” finds Gilmour expanding his dark Floydian touches into a ship yard-esque waltz-like atmosphere. It works incredibly well, and for me stands with anything he’s done with Pink Floyd. Another highlight, “In Any Tongue” finds Gilmour playing with darker sounds and themes again. It is tracks like these that makes me wonder just where has this David Gilmour been for all these years?
The album, for the most part, finds Gilmour at his most experimental with genres in a long while. There are quite a bit of jazz elements sprinkled throughout (“Girl in the Yellow Jacket” sounds like jazzy lounge music). It also sounds like Gilmour having fun with music for the first time in a long while.
His guitar playing also sounds amazing. To me, there is no other guitarist whose voice and guitar tone blend as perfectly as Gilmour. And what is interesting is that while his solos are indeed great on here, he doesn’t dominate the sound overall with it like he did with “Division Bell” with his guitar. He seems to have found that nice balance musically once again, perhaps from working on “Endless River,” which made Floyd sound like a band again.
It is refreshing to hear something that sounds this fresh with an artist who has been recording music since the 1960s. Gilmour sounds revitalized and feels like he still has plenty of ideas and concepts up his sleeve to remain relevant in 2015 — something that not a lot of his contemporaries from his era of classic rock can also say. Minus the two dud tracks, this is one of the finest solo efforts of any of the members of Pink Floyd.