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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?

A Momentary Lapse of Reason is the thirteenth studio album by Pink Floyd, released in 1987. 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). Due to this, and because Gilmour wrote all the songs by himself or with outside writers, it is generally considered a David Gilmour solo album in all but name, much like Waters with The Final Cut and Syd Barrett with The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Like its direct predecessor, this album is a major opinion-splitter.

Unlike their last few albums, A Momentary Lapse of Reason is not a true concept album, although there are loose themes of moving on into a new direction, a fear of death and a fear of loneliness (in the historical context of the Cold War). Richard Wright returned for this album as a session musician, his first appearance on a Pink Floyd record since The Wall in 1979, and stayed on as a salaried musician for the supporting tour until he was officially reinstated for The Division Bell in 1994.


As stated before, A Momentary Lapse of Reason was received divisively by both fans and critics, who were split on whether or not it marked a return to form after the highly polarizing The Final Cut or an artistic disappointment. Roger Waters himself also lambasted the album as "a very facile but quite clever forgery;" for what it's worth his tense relations with his former bandmates led to a heavy anti-Gilmour bias in general, though Richard Wright, who was on much better terms with Gilmour and Mason than Waters, went on record calling the comments "fair."

Despite its ambivalent reception, 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 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 1980's, raking in $135 million in profits and 5.5 million attendees in total.


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.
  • Concept Album: Averted. It's the first and only Pink Floyd release since Obscured by Clouds that isn't a concept album.
    • It does however use rivers as a recurring motif in the lyrics and on the cover.
  • 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
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Roger Waters's take on the album:
    "I think it's a very facile but quite clever forgery. If you don’t listen to it too closely, it does sound like Pink Floyd. It’s got Dave Gilmour playing guitar. And with the considered intention of setting out to make something that sounds like everyone’s conception of a Pink Floyd record, it’s inevitable that you will achieve that limited goal."
  • 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.
  • 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. In 2019, the band released the box set The Later Years and tried to avert this with a The Not-Remix version of the album featuring more Nick Mason and Richard Wright - Mason recorded new drum parts, while Wright's keyboard parts from live performances were edited in to the studio 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: In the video for "Learning to Fly".
  • 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".
  • One-Word Title: "Sorrow".
  • Refrain from Assuming: "Learning to Fly" is not called "Tongue Tied and Twisted".
  • Shout-Out: "Sorrow" is directly based on the themes of The Grapes of Wrath, and borrows the novel's opening lines for its own.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: The title of "The Dogs of War" is based on the line "let slip the dogs of war!" from Julius Caesar.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Yet Another Movie" and "Round and Around"—in fact, both were indexed in the same track until the 2011 remaster.
  • 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".


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