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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

David Gilmour: David Gilmour


1) Mihalis; 2) There's No Way Out Of Here; 3) Cry From The Street; 4) So Far Away; 5) Short And Sweet; 6) Raise My Rent; 7) No Way; 8) It's Deafinitely; 9) I Can't Breathe Anymore.

General verdict: The not-so-lofty beginnings of the Floyd-Lite style. Should go well with antidepressants.

If you want to have a deeper understanding of why Pink Floyd without Roger Waters became just another band of professionals, it makes perfect sense to start with Gilmour's self-titled solo debut. He made this right after the Animals tour, while everybody was taking a break and Roger was writing up demos for The Wall and Pros And Cons Of Hitch-Hiking at the same time — in an effort to gain more confidence and build up a tad of personality, much needed after Roger had pretty much hijacked all the creative seats in the building for himself. No other Floyd members were involved in the process: David played most of the guitars and keyboards himself, with Rick Wills (a former partner of Peter Frampton and a future member of Foreigner) on bass, and Willie Wilson (an old friend back from Gilmour's school days) on drums.

The result was... decent, but underwhelming. Gilmour is a blues musician by trade, which was always fairly evident on Floyd albums, so it is no surprise that David Gilmour can be officially classified as a soul-blues record, albeit with a deeply personal and intimate imprint: one thing Gilmour never cared about is regurgitating traditional clichés, drawing instead upon his own emotional and intellectual experience. This is most definitely a good thing. The bad thing is that none of this experience can push him to the same kind of sharpness and expressivity that he is able to reach while working with Waters. Essentially, this is not just a bluesier, but a softer, smoother, less energetic variant of Pink Floyd, one that tends to leave a much lesser imprint on the soul when it is over — and it would not be that much of an exaggeration to say that the same applies to everything that David has done since parting ways with Waters, whether it was within the formal framework of Floyd or as part of his solo career.

Already the opening track, ʽMihalisʼ, makes it clear that it would be unacceptable on any Floyd album with Waters. A quiet mid-tempo blues groove, for the first minute and a half it does nothing except hammer out its simple, repetitive riff. Eventually, Gilmour lets rip with a bunch of different solos in different keys and with different tones, most of them evoking a sense of sub­dued, inoffensive melancholy — never ever rising sky-high. The whole thing is about as exciting as a romantic instrumental ballad by, say, Brand X. Had Gilmour been Jeff Beck, he might have been able to come up with more technically challenging and substantially innovative licks, but since David is neither a tech wiz nor a «Master of Rare Chords», this is all fairly standard fare, albeit very recognizable as Gilmouresque due to his trademark feel for guitar tone.

The vocal numbers are no different. ʽThere's No Way Out Of Hereʼ is the album's programmatic statement: "there are no answers here / when you look out you don't see in", he declares in his usual friendly, sympathetic, tired, pessimistic tone, backed up by a friendly, sympathetic, tired, pessimistic doubled guitar-harmonica riff. This style would later be repeated many, many times over. It is a tasteful and meaningful style, but when compared to the bleak heights of Floyd, this is a homelier, cozier kind of bleakness, one that might go well hand in hand with a nice warm evening, a comfy rocking chair, a cup of tea, and not a care in the world. It's okay for, you know, coming down — definitely not okay for going up.

In terms of diversity... the album does not even begin to think in these terms, to be honest. A few of the songs rock moderately harder than others: ʽCry From The Streetʼ rides on a fat, distorted, snappy guitar riff which, upon closer inspection, turns out to be a slight variation on ʽI Ain't Superstitiousʼ — but does not really approach the snappiness of something like ʽHave A Cigarʼ. ʽNo Wayʼ (wait... hasn't there just been a track called ʽThere's No Way Outʼ already? talk about a goddamn limited vocabulary!) has a more acutely stated folk-blues pattern and ends up playing like a Dire Straits outtake (although Dire Straits themselves would not really begin to sound like that until a few years later, once Knopfler had exhausted his original bag of inspiration). ʽIt's Deafinitelyʼ (sic!) sounds like Weather Report making a sequel to the coda of ʽSheepʼ — meaning it's fast-paced, jazzy, and about as exciting as a smooth express train ride through pastures of plenty.

The longest song on the album is ʽSo Far Awayʼ, a bit of a fan favorite because it is melodically similar to ʽComfortably Numbʼ — except, once again, it is a song of smooth, tepid melancholy without the kick-in-the-gut aspect that makes ʽComfortably Numbʼ a classic. In other words, this is all dangerously close to «easy listening». It is almost as if all the anger and fury of Animals was too much for David — so much that he decided to make an anti-Animals of sorts, a record for the exclusive purpose of quiet, mildly mournful relaxation. Which, you know, is an acceptable goal, but also a good reason for why so few people today remember about the record. One thing I gotta say, though: the mood of the front sleeve photo is a perfect match for the mood of the album. (As somebody who looks out the window in the last days of March and sees pretty much the same things, I can really feel this drabness). 

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