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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Pink Floyd: More


1) Cirrus Minor; 2) The Nile Song; 3) Crying Song; 4) Up The Khyber; 5) Green Is The Colour; 6) Cymbaline; 7) Party Sequence; 8) Main Theme; 9) Ibiza Bar; 10) More Blues; 11) Quicksilver; 12) A Spanish Piece; 13) Dramatic Theme.

General verdict: Bad news: Soundtrack. Good news: nice, surprisingly diverse, and even historically important.

I do not honestly remember if Floyd agreed to do the soundtrack to Barbet Schroeder's directorial debut because they were hard up for cash, or for purely artistic reasons (psychedelic rock band soundtracks for arthouse movies about society rejects were all the rage in 1969, and Floyd were among the top contenders). Possibly both, but it really does not matter. What does matter is that you can listen to the More soundtrack and never in your sweet short life guess that it was a movie soundtrack — well, the preponderance of instrumental tracks might be a kind of giveaway, but who knows, perhaps they all had laryngitis during the sessions.

There is one good thing, though, about More being a soundtrack: it saves us listeners from some of the wilder, more experimental, and not tremendously successful aspects of Pink Floyd's creativity at the decade's end. Barbet Schroeder needed actual music for his movie — rock music, folk music, psychedelic music, but not avantgarde experimentations. Consequently, More be­came arguably the most conventional and melodic album of the band's entire existence in be­tween the fall of Syd and their rebirth as Almighty Gods of the Seventies with Meddle and Dark Side Of The Moon. This will not be good news for everybody — some will find the contents of the album too trite and mellow — but it's been good enough for me.

Many of the songs and themes written for the album can only be described as «meditative / con­templative folk» — a genre in which Waters first dipped his foot, I believe, with the B-side ʽJulia Dreamʼ in early 1968, and which he'd later completely subvert to his own artistic, philosophic, and misanthropic purposes. But that would be later, and here, we kick things off with ʽCirrus Minorʼ — chirping birds, lazy strummed guitars, and gentle melancholic vocals that sound a whole lot like Leonard Cohen. It is not exceptional, but it is pretty, and now that I think about it, there were relatively few artists in the UK doing that lazy, meditative, melancholic folk schtick at the time: Donovan was too fruity, Nick Drake too personal and intimate, and Ray Davies never pretended at any sort of cosmic vibes ("on a trip to Cirrus Minor saw a crater in the Sun" is definitely not one of Ray's lines).

Later on, there's more and more of these pretty vignettes — ʽCrying Songʼ is slyly playful (no real crying is implied), ʽGreen Is The Colourʼ almost leads us into chivalry territory ("she lay in the shadow of a wave, hazy were the visions overplayed" — is this Pink Floyd or Barclay James Harvest?), but Roger really hits his stride with ʽCymbalineʼ, a strong, tense ballad with the most attention-grabbing chorus on the album: hearing Gilmour defiantly tear his way through the long verse, culminating with the epic cry of "and it's high time, Cymbaline!" is a seriously moving experience, even if it is still somewhat unclear what exactly does the song have to do with the Shakesperian character (the original title was ʽNightmareʼ, which is more appropriate because this is a song about a nightmare). The atmosphere of the song is still too romantic for it to be counted as «quintessential» Floyd, yet it is arguably the first song in the Floyd catalog that at least tries to create the impression of making a strong, passionate stand on some issue or other, which makes it the honorable ancestor of everything from ʽMoneyʼ to ʽAnother Brick In The Wallʼ, despite its belonging to a completely different genre.

That said, More subtly justifies its name by actually featuring more than Roger Waters' increased interest in melancholic folk patterns. Two of the tracks land squarely in hard rock territory, featuring some of the thickest, most distorted guitar tones in the band's history — and now that I also think of Gilmour's hoarse screaming vocals on ʽThe Nile Songʼ, it almost comes across as an early precursor of doom metal. No wonder it and ʽIbiza Barʼ often find themselves shunned by Floyd fans, not generally used to Gilmour screaming over heavy distorted guitars. Me, I am made a bit sad by the fact that these two are almost the same song (ah, soundtrack disease), but too amused by the idea of David Gilmour, the Stoner Rock King, to regard them as war crimes. Also, based on those lyrics ("I've been standing by the Nile / When I saw the lady smile / I would take her for a while") I've always wanted to ask Roger Waters, the songwriter, what exactly it was that prohibited him from taking the lady permanently. In the absence of a clear answer, I would suggest the main reason being a lack of rhyme, and propose amending the last line to "I would feed her crocodile", because all nice ladies on the Nile have crocodiles anyway.

Further explorations show that a smudgeon of avantgarde experiments did find its way onto the record: ʽUp The Khyberʼ is two minutes of syncopated jazz-rock fury from Mason and Wright (neither good nor bad), and the seven-minute long ʽQuicksilverʼ is a hallucinatory psychedelic / ambient panorama in the style of Tangerine Dream — seven minutes too long, if you ask me. Throw in some blues (ʽMore Bluesʼ), a brief comic Spanish interlude (ʽA Spanish Pieceʼ), and a bit of tribal drumming (ʽParty Sequenceʼ), and you actually have the band stretching out as far as it could see — no doubt, uplifted by the idea that anything goes if you are preparing a soundtrack. Individually, none of it really matters, but collectively, it is a fun package, especially since nothing overstays its welcome (except for ʽQuicksilverʼ).

It is very easy to overlook the very existence of this record — it is a soundtrack, it has no hits or classics, it was never held in high esteem by any critics — but it does plant a few of the seeds that would later grow up into classic Pink Floyd, and at least it generally succeeds at those humble goals that are set before it, unlike some of the failed experiments of later years. In 1969 it was all too easy to dismiss it with a condescending wave of «look how low the mighty Pipers have fallen!», but today, it is far easier to simply regard it as the infancy — or, perhaps, even the pregnancy — stage of Dark Side Of The Moon, a first step on a harsh, exciting journey of con­stant self-improvement that would take 2–3 years to complete.

And for what it's worth, ʽDramatic Themeʼ concludes the album with a fine example of Gilmour's guitar playing — in fact, it is only on More where he really comes into his own element as both a singer and a master of guitar tones and effects, which, come to think of it, should have been my first argument in defense of the album. But see, there's actually so many others! A nice, all-around underrated little record.


  1. I think this is their best album between Piper and Animals. The other early stuff is hopelessly inconsistent or just dull, and I'm afraid I can't stand Meddle and its successors.

    I'm not sure why I love, say, Cymbaline and hate near-identical stuff on the later albums. Maybe it's because they weren't trying too hard at this stage?