As The Division Bell holds the distinction of being the final Pink Floyd album recorded and released, it's developed a bit of a dark horse reputation. Some fans hate it, while others consider it one of the band's finest albums. So what exactly do I think about it? The truth is, while it definitely is nowhere near the best of the Pink Floyd discography, it certainly didn't deserve the lukewarm reaction or legacy that followed its release. It won't mesmerize you like Wish You Were Here or Dark Side of the Moon Will, but it's a memorable album nonetheless.
A bit of background first. Following the depature of original bassist Roger Waters (as well as frontman since the departure of the original Syd Barrett) due to the rising difficulties he encountered with the rest of the group as he began to take on more of a control freak role after the release of the forgettable Final Cut album, guitarist David Gilmour eventually reformed Pink Floyd much to Roger Waters' chagrin. The first release by the Gilmour-led Floyd was A Momentary Lapse of Reason, which turned out to be an utterly forgettable effort that felt more like a solo Gilmour album that occasionally let Pink Floyd's Roger Wright and Nick Mason take part. It lacked the strong themes that had united the best of the earlier Pink Floyd albums and allinall was just a mere footnote. Yet somehow, on the tracks in The Division Bell, the band truly sounds united (or as united as they could be, as Roger Waters was still sort of mad about that whole reforming Pink Floyd thing) in their playing. The album is united by a single theme this time around, the breakdown of communication between people (one of the things is supposed to address Gilmour and Waters's relationship) hence the title of The Division Bell.
Even when missing the lyrical genius and bass playing of Roger Waters, Pink Floyd manages to pull through. The album has a haunting and somber atmosphere, and both Gilmour and Wright composed a multitude of brilliant songs on the album from Poles Apart to A Great Day for Freedom. Many critics have called out both the playing and lyrics of Floyd in The Division Bell as tired, and yet I fail to see it. Sure, there are some missteps like Take It Back in the album but in the end it's a powerful product that evokes the feeling of the Floyd of old and provides a fitting farewell to the band. The highlight of the album comes in the final track, High Hopes. A majestic 8-minute epic with Gilmours providing some of his finest guitar work and Wright doing an equally fantastic job on the synthesizers, the song deals with both the loss and decay that aging brings while simultaneously expressing the beauty of life in spite of the sentimentality traps that memories create.
"The grass was greener
The light was brighter
The taste was sweeter
The nights of wonder
With friends surrounded
The dawn mist glowing
The water flowing
The endless river
Forever and ever..."
I couldn't imagine a more fitting end to the career of the band known as Pink Floyd.
Final Rating: 8/10
Apologies if the review read awkwardly. I normally don't review albums and sh*t.
Better than: The Final Cut, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, Obscured by Clouds, and everything before Meddle
Not as good as: Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here
In the same tier as: The Wall, Meddle, Animals.