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Music / A Momentary Lapse of Reason

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Is it only a dream that there'll be no more turning away?

"One slip and down the hole we fall
It seems to take no time at all
A momentary lapse of reason
That binds a life for a life
A small regret, you won't forget
There'll be no sleep in here tonight."
"One Slip"

A Momentary Lapse of Reason is the thirteenth studio album by Pink Floyd, released in 1987 through EMI in the UK and Columbia Records in the US. It is their first album not to feature Roger Waters, who left the band in 1985. Along with More and The Endless River, it is their only album to feature David Gilmour on all the lead vocals (except for some spoken word by Nick Mason). Additionally, as drummer Nick Mason considered his skills too rusty to contribute much and keyboardist Rick Wright was kept out of re-joining the band due to legal issues, Gilmour ended up writing all the songs either by himself or with the aid of outside writers, paralleling Waters' unilateral involvement on The Final Cut and Syd Barrett's on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

The album is also Pink Floyd's first since Obscured by Clouds to not overtly revolve around a single central concept, instead featuring a number of vignette stories in the vein of the band's early work. Despite that, loose themes of change and exploring new frontiers frequently pop up in the songs, reflective of Waters' departure and the band's new leadership under Gilmour.

The album marked a commercial return to form for Pink Floyd after the relatively low sales of The Final Cut, topping the New Zealand Albums chart and peaking at No. 3 in both the UK and the US, going on to be certified quadruple-platinum in the US, triple-platinum in Canada, double-platinum in Switzerland, platinum in Argentina, Australia, France, and Spain, and gold in the UK, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and Sweden. "Learning to Fly" became a major hit from this album, topping the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart (though it placed at a more modest No. 70 on the Hot 100 and missed the UK Singles chart entirely) and introducing the band to the MTV Generation. The Waters-less lineup (including Rick Wright, since the lawyers had fixed the contract issue) launched Pink Floyd's first full-scale tour in a decade supporting the album, which lasted nearly two years, culminating in the band's 1990 Knebworth show. The run ended up becoming the highest-grossing concert tour of the entire 1980s, raking in $135 million in profits and 5.5 million attendees in total.

In 2019 Pink Floyd Records decided to release a box-set of their Post-Waters output (Pink Floyd: The Later Years) and Gilmour decided to have the entire album remixed. Nick Mason recorded drum tracks for all the songs that he hadn't participated in, and Gilmour and the album's original producer went through the recordings from the live tour to find Rick's best work, which they then isolated and put into the mix. note  They also purposefully tried to make it sound less polished and "80's". It was released as part of the box set as planned, and then in 2021, they released this version of the album by itself.

Preceded by The Final Cut. Proceeded by The Division Bell.


Side One:
  1. "Signs of Life" (4:24)
  2. "Learning to Fly" (4:53)
  3. "The Dogs of War" (6:05)
  4. "One Slip" (5:10)
  5. "On the Turning Away" (5:42)

Side Two:

  1. "Yet Another Movie" (6:12)
  2. "Round and Round" (1:16)
  3. "A New Machine Part 1" (1:46)
  4. "Terminal Frost" (6:17)
  5. "A New Machine Part 2" (0:38)
  6. "Sorrow" (8:46)

Principal Members:

  • David Gilmour - lead vocals, guitar, keyboard, synthesizer, vocoder
  • Nick Mason - drums, percussion, vocals, sound effects

A trope in tension that's learning to fly; condition grounded, but determined to try:

  • Album Title Drop: "One Slip":
    A momentary lapse of reason that binds a life for life
  • Anti-Love Song: "One Slip" describes a one-night stand, and its consequences.
    Was it love, or was it the idea of being in love?
    Or was it the hand of fate, that seemed to fit just like a glove?
  • Arc Words: There seems to be a theme of loneliness and isolation in the lyrics. Specifically, the word "one" appears in nearly every song, aside from the instrumentals and "A New Machine (Part 2)".
  • The Bus Came Back: Richard Wright came back (though not as an official member, for legal reasons, until 1994) when he was rehired by Gilmour and Mason during the sessions for this album.
  • Bookends: Though the album itself doesn't have bookends, the instrumental "Terminal Frost" is surrounded by both parts of "A New Machine".
  • Call-Back:
    • The intro of "One Slip" directly recalls that of "Time", albeit performed with synthesizers rather than sampled recordings of clocks.
    • "A New Machine" is a callback to "Welcome to the Machine" from Wish You Were Here (1975).
    • In live performances, David Gilmour's guitar solo in "Learning to Fly" briefly quotes the solo in "Young Lust", as captured in Delicate Sound of Thunder and Pulse.
  • Concept Album: Averted. While it uses rivers as a recurring motif in the lyrics and on the cover, and seems to focus heavily on themes related to change and renewal, it's the first and only Pink Floyd release since Obscured by Clouds that isn't an intentional concept album.
  • Crapsack World: "Sorrow"; justified in that it's directly based on The Great Depression as depicted in The Grapes of Wrath.
    He's haunted by the memory of a lost paradise
    In his youth or a dream, he can't be precise
    He's chained forever to a world that's departed
    It's not enough, it's not enough
  • Demoted to Extra: Richard Wright and Nick Mason, due to extenuating circumstances that hampered their ability to contribute to the album.
    • Wright was only hired as a session musician due to legal complications regarding his 1979 firing, providing backing vocals in "Learning to Fly", "On the Turning Away" and "Sorrow" and additional keyboards in other unspecified tracks. Much of this is down to the fact that the majority of keyboard parts had already been recorded by the time he was brought on, leaving him with little to do aside from a small handful of tangential contributions.
    • Mason was also sidelined during production of the album, as he had grown so rusty from inactivity that he felt he was unable to contribute much in the way of percussion performances, hence the unusual abundance of drum machines and session drummers. Mason would later record new drum parts for the album's 2019 remix.
  • Echoing Acoustics: The original mix features a lot of reverb, which was common in popular music at the time.
  • Epic Rocking: "Sorrow", (8:46), "The Dogs of War" (6:05), "Yet Another Movie" (6:12), and "Terminal Frost" (6:17).
  • Fake Shemp: Nick Mason, despite being top-lined as a band member with David Gilmour, found himself too out of practice to play on most of the album; most drum parts were performed by drum machines or session drummers.
  • I Am the Band: David Gilmour did most of the work on his own, and wrote all the songs in it by himself or with outside writers like Phil Manzanera. Gilmour and Nick Mason are top-lined as band members in the liner notes, while Richard Wright was hired as a supporting musician for the album and its tour. The 2019 remix attempts to soften this, featuring newly recorded drum parts by Nick Mason and keyboard parts by Rick Wright inserted from live recordings.
  • In Love with Love: "One Slip":
    Was it love, or was it the idea of being in love?
  • Limited Lyrics Song: "A New Machine".
  • Lyrical Cold Open: Both parts of "A New Machine".
  • Magical Native American: The video for "Learning to Fly" revolves around a boy who learns how to transform into a hawk with the help of a Native American mystic.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: "Round and Around" and both parts of "A New Machine".
  • New Sound Album: The album ramps up use of synthesizers, samplers and drum machines, giving it a sound straight out of The '80s. The album is also geared in a more musically atmospheric and lyrically cerebral direction, more in-line with Pink Floyd's pre-Animals work.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The instrumentals, "Yet Another Movie", both parts of "A New Machine".
  • The Not-Remix: The album received one in 2019 for the Boxed Set The Later Years, featuring newly recorded drum tracks by Nick Mason and keyboard parts by Richard Wright spliced in from live recordings. While not a radical deviation from the 1987 mix, the new version is described by Gilmour and producer Bob Ezrin as an attempt to "restore the creative balance" of the band on the album. It features a noticeably drier sound than the reverb-happy original mix. The remix later received a standalone release in the fall of 2021.
  • One-Word Title: "Sorrow".
  • Shout-Out:
    • The title of "The Dogs of War" is based on the line "let slip the dogs of war!" from Julius Caesar.
    • "Sorrow" is directly based on the themes of The Grapes of Wrath, and takes some of its opening lines from the book's 25th chapter.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Yet Another Movie" and "Round and Around"—in fact, both were indexed in the same track until the 2011 remaster.
  • Special Guest:
    • Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard plays synthesizer parts.
    • Bill Payne of Little Feat plays Hammond organ.
    • Tony Levin of fellow prog icon King Crimson plays bass and Chapman stick on the album.
    • Tom Scott of The Blues Brothers and L.A. express and John Helliwell of Supertramp provide saxophone parts.
  • Spoken Word in Music:
    • The ATC radio chatter in "Learning to Fly".
    • "Yet Another Movie" includes snippets from Casablanca.
  • Stealth Pun: Oceanic imagery is a prominent feature with this album: the cover is set on a beach, the "One Slip" single features a whirlpool on its own cover, the liner notes for the album feature imagery of a man on a rowboat (also depicted on the Side One label on LP copies), and "Signs of Life" opens with the sound of said man rowing said boat. This was the first Pink Floyd album to be made without the involvement— or even the presence— of Roger Waters.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Nick Mason gets some spoken word vocals in "Signs of Life" and "Learning to Fly".
  • War for Fun and Profit: The subject of "The Dogs of War".
    Dogs of war and men of hate
    With no cause, we don't discriminate
    Discovery is to be disowned
    Our currency is flesh and bone
    Hell opened up and put on sale
    Gather 'round and haggle
  • War Is Hell: The subject of "Sorrow".
    The sweet smell of a great sorrow lies over the land
    Plumes of smoke rise and merge into the leaden sky
    A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers
    But awakes to a morning with no reason for waking
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Seems to be the subject of both parts of "A New Machine".

"There's an unceasing wind that blows through this night
And there's dust in my eyes, that blinds my sight
And silence that speaks so much louder than words
Of promises broken."