On An Island
By: Eric Greenwood
Following the reverently elegiac reunion of Pink Floyd with Roger Waters at last summer's Live 8 benefit, (which incidentally sparked an increase in Pink Floyd's album sales by 3000%!), guitarist David Gilmour has released his third solo record, On an Island. It's been 22 years since Gilmour's last solo outing, during which time Pink Floyd has released two less than mediocre studio albums, most likely due to the absence of bassist and lyricist Roger Waters (and the fact that the band has to hire extra songwriters to eek out the tunes). Those albums automatically have asterisks beside them in the Pink Floyd cannon because of Gilmour's stubborn and egomaniacal decision to resurrect the Pink Floyd brand name without its unmistakable leader.
Granted, Gilmour's contribution to Pink Floyd is unquestioned and irreplaceable, as his voice and transcendental guitar playing shaped the color of so many classic Pink Floyd albums. However, it was Roger Waters behind the curtain pulling practically every string after the departure of Syd Barrett, whom Gilmour replaced after Barrett's mental breakdown in the late 1960's. The Waters/Gilmour feud, sparked by a struggle for power, which culminated in Waters' colossal masterwork, The Wall, is one of the longest-running and bitterest in all of rock history. For the two of them to have shared a stage last summer at Hyde Park was inconceivable for decades. But despite the charitable contribution and unified façade, Pink Floyd has no immediate or future plans, much to the chagrin of stoners everywhere.
So now with some closure to the Pink Floyd saga, Gilmour is able to concentrate on his sporadic solo work. On an Island was co-written with Gilmour's wife, Polly Samson, who also shared much of the writing credits on Pink Floyd's lackluster Division Bell in 1994. Together they weave a thick sonic gauze. Melodies are slow to ripen, as Gilmour's distinct, bluesy note-bending lords over the soft atmosphere. The album is moody but hopeful yet sorely lacking any sort of edge or dark trigger. Gilmour and Samson have little to say lyrically, cashing in on trite rhymes and soulless ambiguities more often than not.
In small doses casual, uninformed listeners could mistake this for vintage Pink Floyd, but it lacks the tension of Pink Floyd's passive aggressive rumble. Despite a few cringe-worthy passages of borderline new-age nonsense, Gilmour succeeds in protecting the shell of his mystique as he enters the twilight of his musical career.