The wait is over! David Gilmour’s new solo album, Rattle That Lock, is finally out. The follow up to his last solo effort, On An Island (2006), is an eclectic collection of songs that very much reflects the present state of David as a songwriter and performer. Here’s my review.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already 9 years ago since David’s last album! The whole experience of On an Island – the anticipation, the album, the tour, all the new gear – left me wanting more and looking forward to the next chapter. As usual, the wait was long.
I’m not sure what I’d hoped he’d do this time. More of the same? Well, On an Island was great but it’s not an album that I frequently listen to. After hearing Endless River and seeing pictures of David’s new recording studio, with all the vintage gear, I was hoping for something in the lines of his first, self titled solo album, with a more contemporary sound. If anything, Endless River showed that David is still able to experiment and explore new sounds.
Rattle That Lock has been spinning continuously since its release last Friday and I must be honest and admit that that this is not what I had expected or hoped for. At all.
Rattle That Lock is not an album that I would have bought if it hadn’t been for David Gilmour. I had hoped it would be but it’s not. That doesn’t mean that I hate it or have lost the faith in David. It just doesn’t appeal to my musical taste. Most of it anyway.
I’ve seen comments on each end of the scale. Some call it a masterpiece. Really? Is it up there with The Wall, Thriller or Sgt Pepper? Other are hugely disappointed. Why? Did you expect David to make an album dedicated to you? Of course not. He is an artist and artists evolve. Let’s face it. It’s been over 20 years since Division Bell. Surely we can all appreciate that David is a different musician now. A different person.
My biggest problem with Rattle That Lock is that it’s too eclectic. I’m struggling to see the connection between the songs and I’m also left with a sense that it sounds somewhat unfinished. I know he’s spent years writing, recording demos and mixing but there’s something missing. While On and Island had a nice flow and that familiar conceptual structure, Rattle That Lock seems hurried and, at times, uninspired.
It’s also strange to hear bits of vocals and guitars that makes you go “ouch…”. David sings like an angel but there are also places where the key is too low and he’s clearly struggling. The man is turning 70 next year, I know, but why not fix a bad recording when he clearly has the voice to pull it off?
Some of the guitar parts, the solos in particular, sounds as if he just kept the original demo recording and didn’t bother to fix obvious mistakes. Perhaps the idea is to create some sort of an intimate atmosphere but the rest of the album is so well produced, which makes those mistakes very obvious.
Speaking of guitars. Rattle That Lock is not a guitar album, which is bit of a surprise. On an Island was but this time it seems that David has toned down the long solos and heavy riffs, in favour for stronger melodies, orchestra and production. As a fan, I wouldn’t mind hearing a new On the Turning Away or The Blue but as a musician I appreciate David’s need and urge to do something that doesn’t evolve around the obvious guitar solo wanking.
Still though, there are definitely moments on this album that touches a nerve deep down. Few have the capability to create something as beautiful and soulful as David. Especially when his voice and guitar is combined. The overall production also sounds fresh and way more dynamic than On an Island.
There’s a much more uplifting and inspired vibe throughout the album. There’s no doubt that David found writing and recording much easier this time than with On an Island and you can almost feel the relaxed and joyful atmosphere they must have experienced in the studio. Perhaps more so than on anything I’ve heard from David. That tells me that he’s in a good place now and perhaps this won’t be the last we hear from him.
Let’s go through each song…
A nice little opener, reminiscent of Signs of Life and Cluster One. Beautiful orchestra arrangements by Zbigniew Preisner. It would have been very interesting to hear Richard Wright’s piano on this one – similar to what he did on Cluster One. Not too impressed by David’s guitar tone. Sounds like it was fed directly into the desk preamp, with way too much compression. Nice playing though.
Rattle That Lock
I have wanted to like this one ever since I heard the single earlier this summer but it just doesn’t happen. Sorry, this one is right up there with Blue Light and Cruise.
Faces of Stone
Not an overly exciting song, and I’ve never been a fan of those French references, with clarinets and horns, but there are some really nice moments here. Beautiful intro with the piano, that leaves me wanting more of that low-key ambient atmosphere.
The orchestral bridge section is really nice (did I hear John Barry’s You Only Live Twice?) and of course, the tone on that outtro solo is just amazing! It’s strange though, that he didn’t fix the obvious mistakes around 4:40. Did he drop the guitar or hit it against his knee or something?
A Boat Lies Waiting
This is a beautiful little piece and I love the fact that they used the original mini disc recording of David playing the piano. It creates haunting and intimate atmosphere that instantly makes you think about something Rick would have done, sitting alone by the piano between takes.
David’s voice fits Crosby and Nash perfectly. It would be very interesting to hear all three on a full-length collaboration.
Dancing Right In Front of Me
This one could very well be a leftover from On an Island. Parts of it is reminiscent of both On an Island, the title track, and Smile. Again, not overly exciting but a nice little piece, with some great sounding vocals and guitar and that slight touch of jazz improv is fitting.
In Any Tongue
This is the definitive high point of the album. Powerful arrangements, beautiful vocals and the guitar solo – and the tone – cuts right into your heart. Too bad it’s too short! I love those piano interludes and the dramatic chorus.
There’s something about the feeling of this song that takes me back to songs like Great Day for Freedom and even High Hopes. If you listen closely, you’ll also hear a Hammond organ that sounds very much like Wright playing (it’s not) and that familiar high-strung acoustic guitar we’ve heard on numerous Floyd songs. A new Gilmour classic!
This one is interesting and another high point. It sounds very similar to what we heard on Endless River and given that the majority of David’s guitars on that album was recorded in 2013-14, I’m suspecting that this track dates from those sessions.
This is close to what I’d hoped to hear more of after hearing Endless River and seeing his new studio. Classic Gilmour slides – and the tone is insane! – and a really cool flow to the whole song.
The sudden fade-out sounds strange though, as if they simply didn’t care to end it properly, which, again, leads me to think that this was originally a short snippet from the Endless River sessions a couple of years back.
The Girl in the Yellow Dress
I don’t really know what to say about this one. It sounds oddly out of place on this album. I love that kind of dark, piano bar jazz style but I don’t think it’s neither fitting for the album nor convincing enough. The band sounds terrific but David’s performance is more like “this is something he wants to do but doesn’t quite get”. Bryan Ferry is one of those rock artists that comes to mind who nails these numbers because he has a deeper understanding of the genre.
This one sounds like a cross between 1980s Peter Gabriel and Level 42, with a dash of Roxy Music and ELO. Nice production, with lots of details and the bridge sections, with Mica Paris on backing vocals works really well but overall – don’t like it.
A nice way to end the album and to tie it all together. It’s got some of that intimate and down to earth feel, much like Where We Start from On an Island, although the fire at the end doesn’t quite cut it. Not the best tone I’ve heard from David but a nice little piece and some lovely orchestra arrangements.
So, that’s my brutally honest opinion. I’m sure many of you scratch your heads and think that I’m crazy. Maybe you agree? Please, feel free to use the comments field below and share your thoughts and opinions about Rattle That Lock!