Sunday, July 03, 2005

Sunday Synthpop Brunch: Pink Floyd -- The Other Two

The writing may have been on the wall ever since the shambolic end of the Animals tour in July of 1977, but it was nearly six years later in the anticlimactic aftermath of The Final Cut that Pink Floyd seemed to disappear for good. Despite whatever has been written or said in the decades since, there was a period in the mid 1980s during which the band no longer existed in the minds of anyone involved (of course, there are many who believe that the band didn't really exist after this time frame either, but that is another matter for another forum).

During the period between the release of The Final Cut in March 1983 and the appearance of A Momentary Lapse Of Reason in September 1987, every member of the "classic" Pink Floyd lineup released their second solo album and pursued a musical career outside the Pink Floyd framework with varying degrees of passion and success. Also, being the 1980s and all, each member also dabbled in the synthpop genre, with almost universally disastrous commercial results.

IdentityFired midway through the recording of The Wall in 1979, Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright found himself a salaried backing player on the following tour, which was a limited-engagement extravaganza staged only in four cities worldwide in 1980 and then again in London the following summer (these London shows, which ultimately became the final Pink Floyd concerts with Roger Waters, were professionally filmed and intended to create the framework of The Wall movie, but the footage was instead scrapped in favor of a totally band-free visual narrative).

Following the last of these concerts, Wright began work on what would become his second solo project. Unlike his rather sleepy 1978 release Wet Dream, however, this new album, titled Identity, would not feature Wright's name on the cover at all. Instead, the spring 1984 release was billed as the debut album by Zee -- a creative project created almost entirely on a Fairlight synthesizer by Wright along with ex-Fashion singer Dave "Dee" Harris.

Richard Wright in 1987While Roger Waters' Radio K.A.O.S. (which we looked at in last week's column) also embraced synths and modernized production techniques, the ex-Floyd leader's highly-recognizable vocal and lyrical sensibilities managed to give the music at least a vaguely Floydian feel. In the case of Identity, the lyrics and songs on which were written and sung entirely by Harris, and the distant, arch voice combined with Wright's icy, clattering synthpop textures, sounded absolutely nothing at all like Pink Floyd.

Dominated throughout by the sound of the hugely-(over)popular Fairlight CMI synth, Identity was perhaps the most deliberately plastic-sounding record ever recorded by any member of Pink Floyd. It might be a sign as to how much faith Harvest Records had in the project that it was only ever released in the United Kingdom. Even then, Identity failed to make any kind of commercial impression and the project was abandoned quickly thereafter. Wright has since written off Identity as "an experiment that didn't work out," which might explain why it remains to this day the sole Pink Floyd solo recording never to make the transition to CD.

Nick Mason and Rick FennA year later, a second solo album by drummer Nick Mason appeared to a slightly warmer reception. Mason's first solo release, a quirky, jazz-pop workout titled Nick Mason's Ficticious Sports wasn't really a solo project so much as a Carla Bley album in disguise (this was possibly the doing of Columbia Records in the wake of the explosive sales of The Wall a year beforehand). For his second solo effort, Profiles, Mason teamed with his production company partner, ex-10cc guitarist Rick Fenn, to create a kind of "showroom" soundtrack album -- in effect, music created to be used in movies and television shows or commercials to come later.

Lie For A Lie single artwork In the midst of an album's worth of ultraslick and incredibly faceless incidental-style music (which I'm sure was probably the whole point in the first place) was "Lie For A Lie" -- a charming, sequencer-driven lite-pop single featuring vocals from none other than Pink Floyd's resident guitar hero himself, David Gilmour. A fair amount of curious airplay from rock stations looking for anything new to air from Pink Floyd (or at least two members worth) resulted in "Lie For A Lie" just missing the Rock Radio Top 20 that summer. The popularlity of the song never translated to decent album sales, though -- Profiles never marched higher than Number 154 on the Billboard albums chart.

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