Monday, 6 October 2014
Cirrus Minor/The Nile Song/Crying Song/Up The Khyber/Green Is The Colour/Cymabline/Party Sequence//Main Theme/Ibiza Bar/More Blues/Quicksilver/A Spanish Piece/Dramatic Theme
If you're a casual fan you've probably tuned into this article to see what Pink Floyd got up to in between their twin classic albums 'Piper At The Gates Of Dawn' and 'Dark Side Of The Moon'. The answer this time is, oh more of the usual: long drawn out blueses, songs about clouds and David Gilmour pretending to be a mad Spanish waiter. You see, third album 'More' isn't like most other Floyd albums. Most Floyd albums have a 'theme' in there somewhere - decidedly so in the case of 'Dark Side' 'Animals' 'The Wall' et al and even records like 'Piper' and 'Saucerful' have a sort of internal logic where each of song 'feels' as if it belongs part of the same album. 'More' is ironically named: it's not really 'more' of anything but a move away from the psychedelic epic pop sound of the first two records towards something that's quieter, shorter and lighter. Sometimes this album is at rest, playing in the pastoral fields and lazing on the banks of a lazy summer's day - the kind of direction the band will go for more on their 'Atom Heart Mother' record. The other half is noisy, tuneless Pink Floyd, all wild thrashing guitars and nastyness - something which, with the exception of the song 'Young Lust' in 1979, they'll never return to again. The title of 'More' suggests that it's just another Pink Floyd album before the band became 'big' - but the music of 'More' is actually the biggest jump in the band's canon, dispensing with all the 'hugeness' and grandiosity the band had made their name making.
For anyone who doesn't know, it also happens to be the first ill-fated attempt at a Pink Floyd film soundtrack, written to fit the plot of a Barbet Schroeder French-language film of the same name (unlike the second one, 'La Valee' which became 'Obscured By Clouds' when band and film-maker fell out, this one's name stayed put). There you go, you'd think. The songs merely follow the plot right? So the film's about a mad Spanish waiter who liked clouds and playing long drawn out blues songs! Oh and it's clearly a quiet, nondescript film set in the rolling countryside full of pastoral English lovelyness, perhaps about a country gentlemen where the tension in the plot comes from the laidback worry about whether he's packed enough chutney jars for the picnic. Err, not exactly. I must admit I haven't seen 'More' all the way through (who has? The DVDs are expensive - to be honest I'm not sure it's worth mortgaging my house for a movie that got that many bad reviews - and even at the time the film died a death) but I have seen sections of it (generally the Floyd bits) and I've read what lots of people think about the film. In a nutshell it's about a promising Maths student called Stefan who takes off for the high life when his exams are finished, falling in with a heroin junkie girlfriend called Estelle he rescues from her ex-Nazi father and then dies an awful, lonely death near a castle on the island of Ibiza (in the days before Ibiza was a student party hotspot- who knows, maybe it became a hotspot thanks to this film?) No, I wasn't expecting that either: where are all the plots about clouds and mad German waiters?
Of the Floyd songs here only 'Ibiza Bar' sounds anything close to giving us any of the plot ('I'm so afraid of the mistakes that I made!') why a lot of the songs seems like deliberate red herrings ('Cymbaline' is perhaps the first anti-music business rant from Roger Waters with a few nods to William Shakespeare). None of the songs refer to drugs (which is odd because until now a lot of Pink Floyd songs have been loosely about drugs - probably what Schroeder hired the band for in the first place!), none of them refer to death and the song titles 'Up The Khyber' and 'Spanish Piece' are deeply misleading: this film is set in France and later Ibiza, not Spain or the Khyber Pass borders between Pakistan and Afghnistan. Pink Floyd clearly intended their soundtrack album to work without the film it's based on (most of the sequences I have seen deal more with having a radio 'playing' in the background or a band performing rather than simply 'soundtracking' the plot like many films do). As evidence I give you the fact that the album came out a full week before the film - yes the film probably got held up somewhere as films often do, but had the one really needed the other to survive the Floyd would have delayed the album too wouldn't they? Moreover there are two songs heard in the film ('Seabirds' and 'Hollywood', both doodles more than actual songs) that never did come out on this album. EMI might try to fool us with several pictures from the film in the CD re-issue's booklet and even a three-page synopsis of the plot but the two don't really have that much in common - you sense the third Pink Floyd album would have turned out something like this anyway (though perhaps without Gilmour's drunken Spanish weirdo). Even more than 'Obscured By Clouds', 'More' is a kind of halfway house between a 'soundtrack' and an 'album'. 'More', then, is a rather rudderless LP: not quite important enough to be a 'full' member of the canon and yet not that crucial to the film either.
And yet...'More' is possibly the most overlooked album The Floyd ever made. The album contains at least three great songs ('Cirrus Minor' 'Ibiza Bar' and Cymbaline') - which is actually more than some famous, later records I could name - and it's a record that's always trying to push the envelope and be inventive, if not always successfully. While in truth a little too full of instrumentals to be a 'great' album, even these offer little frissons of excitement, coming up in the album at the most unexpected times. This prevents 'More' from sounding like it's too locked into one particular genre and yet the folkie flavour that runs through a good two-thirds of the album is the most consistent the Floyd ever come to staying in one place for an entire record. While not quite up to the psychedelia Floyd were playing with Syd in 1967, this mood change is exactly what the band needed in 1969 and suits them rather well. Gilmour's first love has always been folk-rock and his voice sounds particularly rich and warm across this album. Yes he sounds great on the rockers too (and there are two of the four heaviest rockers the Floyd ever recorded on this album, as well as 'Money' and 'Young Lust'), but we kind of know that Gilmour was born to rock, that's partly what he was hired for: the ballads though are a nice surprise for a band that hadn't really recorded any up till now (only Rick's 'See-Saw' on the last album, not a song the band or fans ever seemed to like sadly) and Gilmour offers a range and empathy that, for the first time, gives the new-look Floyd an advantage over their older selves. The band were clever to notice it so quickly after Gilmour joined them - especially Roger, whose quick adaptation to the new ingredients he now has to cook with is impeccable. While Waters doesn't often work in this genre again, with the band effectively knocking it on the head after the 'quieter' side of 'Atom Heart Mother' he has a natural flair for the genre and clearly wasn't writing songs like these 'just' because of David' voice: his compositions for his collaboration with Ron Geesin on 'The Body' the following year sounds very much like his songs for this album. Folk Floyd? Why not!
However, in many ways this new development is a shame because it undoes a lot of the good work undertaken on 'Saucerful' to turn the Floyd into a true democratic band, pulling together in the wake of Syd Barrett's loss. Pink Floyd in 1969 were like a medieval court whenever a royal has died young or a passing phase of the Russian Revolution when the topplers become the toppled. In the red corner is Syd Barrett's true heir Rick Wright - the one with the naturally beautiful voice, the swirling keyboard touches and an ear for a good melody. Rick is the one who sang second-harmony on so many of the Floyd's biggest records and his organ sound is almost as crucial as Syd's ear-blowing guitar, while to many fans he's the only other member of the band they could point to thanks to his central appearance on album sleeves and TV coverage as he sings. While poor Syd never had a chance to pass on his intentions for a heir within the group, you get the feeling that somewhere at the back of his head he knew the band were in safe hands if his protege Rick was around - Rick is one of those people born to be second-in-command, taking notes and making sure work gets done. However Dave is the court's new favourite: he too has a beautiful voice and a good ear and pin-up idol looks to match, while his guitar is way cooler than any organ can be in this era. Gilmour might have only been around a little while, but he's the name on everybody's lips with a charisma as big as his hairdo was long. Meanwhile Roger is the power behind the throne, a naturally authoritative figure who might not have the natural pop star looks or voice but has a knack for writing words that the court believes in and a character that people were born to salute. Words are power after all (although a feedback-drenched guitar solo comes pretty close too) and Roger had the knack for getting people on his side without them even noticing. This is an age-old power struggle and only one of them can win - the question amongst Floyd fans is which of the two pretenders to the throne got into power first. That's a shame: Rick had so much more to give than just the seven co-writes, all but one with the whole of the band and the other an instrumental with Nick Mason and while the pick-axe isn't in the back of his head just yet (his organ work is still key to this album, if not as much as Gilmour's guitar) you can almost sense him thinking 'how did this happen?' From here-on in Rick's role in the band will diminish rapidly.
You see, 'More' has two very major developments that will be crucial to the Floyd's success in years to come. The first of these is David Gilmour. Now very much a full member after being eased in across the making of 'A Saucerful Of Secrets', his vocals and soaring electric guitar are everywhere across this album (indeed, this is the only time he ever gets to sing lead on every track on a Floyd album until he takes the band over in 1987). That glorious electric crunch has till now only been heard 'behind' the main action (as the driving force behind 'Corporal Clegg' or in the final take off of 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun'). Here, though, many of the instrumentals (and a good half of the actual songs) exist simply as vehicles for Gilmour's powerful, soulful playing. That's an amazing development for an unknown on only his second album with an established band and shows just how much the others are thinking of him as a 'Syd' replacement who can do everything. 'More's closing number, 'Dramatic Theme', might well be his greatest solo until 'Comfortably Numb' - two minutes of howling pealing guitar right on the borderlines between control and chaos. If Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page weren't looking over their shoulders, then they should have been.
Then again, the second development might be even bigger and is Roger Waters' sudden development as a writer. Less than half of these songs have lyrics, but the six out of thirteen that do are all by Roger. What's more, these are a set of songs that 'sound' like Roger's songs - not Syd Barrett style numbers to cover his absence, not clumsy spoofs on the military, but the first stirrings of that steely force for change coupled with an unearthly mysticism that will become his distinctive 'voice'. 'Cirrus Minor' even makes the first reference to a favourite Waters line 'roll away the stone' (see most of 'Animals'), while 'Cymbaline' is like a mini extract from a late 1960s version of 'The Wall' ('Your manager and agent are both busy on the phone, selling colour photographs to magazines back home...'). Ironically, the moment when Waters is being asked to write something very specific that will fit the mood and timings of a certain scene in the film is when Roger suddenly realises that there is so much more he can write about than simply carry on the legacy Syd has left him. This is, by the way, a very brave decision. Floyd albums are selling (both this album and its predecessor made #9 on the album charts, which in 'More's case is pretty good considering its the 'soundtrack' to a film nobody in Britain or America really got to know before it disappeared) but not to the extent that the band will in their heyday and they don't really have artistic clout yet to change direction quite this comprehensively. The development of Roger as a writer is 'More's biggest claim to fame and while these songs aren't his best by any means they show a real development from 'Piper' and 'Saucerful', with Roger finding his own style for the first time.
A help in this must have been the fact that, for the first time (and in a continual stretch that runs up until 1979 minus the next LP) Pink Floyd produce this album themselves. Up till now ex-Beatles engineer Norman Smith has been firmly in charge of the band, showing them the ropes, telling them what all the shiny knobs do and encouraging them to be as experimental as his old employers used to be. He'll be back in time for 'Ummagumma' but sits out this LP, which is interesting in as much as the band seem to pull in quite a different direction from the 'hugeness' of the earlier records (and 'Ummagumma' incidentally). Left to their own devices, without the hypnotic pull of Syd Barrett taking them in the other direction, would the rest of the Floyd always have turned out as the gentle folk-rockers with sudden bouts of rocking they are here (there's barely anything 'space age' on this album, a key theme of the first two, although the band do still love using the Abbey Road tapes library). In fact so sudden is the switch most Floyd fans of the time probably took this record back in disgust at the time, expecting something more along the lines of the two spaced-out Moody Blues albums out this same year. Without Syd the Floyd could easily have sunk without trace by 1969 anyway, so it would be perfectly reasonable to see them sticking to their game plan and doing what people wanted. In retrospect 'More' is a key sound in the band's development simply because its the first time it sounds like the band will sounds in the future (well, give or take David Gilmour doing a bad Manuel impression). However there's one major difference: there are virtually no vocal harmonies across this entire LP and those that are ('Crying Song') feature Gilmour singing double-tracked. Has the band not discovered what a great harmonic blend they have yet? And if not, why not?!
Nick Mason, of course, doesn't sing but even he's put in a strange position by this sudden power-shift. He doesn't even play on 'Cirrus Minor' 'Green Is The Colour' or 'Quicksilver' (assuming the gong part on this last song is once again played by Roger, who had rather a thing for gongs in this period) and is so badly buried in the mix he's all but absent in quite a lot of the rest anyway. However the two hard rockers put him central to the band's sound like never before and he's at his finest channelling his inner rock God. The two instrumentals 'Party Sequence' and 'Up The Khyber' are also all about rhythms - in contrast to the songs around them mainly concerned with melodies - and give him plenty of chances to show off his skills. It's almost as if he got shunted to the side like Rick, then pushed back in front again.
Before we go, a quick word about a cover - a rather clever Hipgnosis image of a still from the film altered to look orange on a blue background (although the shot works rather better in close-up on the back sleeve). Generally, speaking, windmills turn up on AAA albums when the authors want to give the impression of dreaming of a time when things were simply. Perhaps that was what Schroeder was after here (typically, Floyd don't do the obvious and give us a song about windmills, despite it being a key part of the film). However given that this is one of the scenes from the film I have seen, my take on it is that Schroder is trying to give us the 'moral message' of the film - that what you do will come back to haunt you (hence the windmill going round, with main character Stefan attached to it, in a rather mangled metaphor for the drugs the pair are shooting into their veins catching up with them sometime). 'More' tries hard to be a moral film with a 'shock' ending, but on that score it rather fails (not least because the most memorable sequences are of the pair of characters when they're full of life while doing drugs!)
And that is 'More', more or less. It's a soundtrack album that doesn't really pay much interest to the film, with muted folk-rock songs punctuated by angry aggressive rockers and eccentric instrumentals. It isn't meant as the band's next big statement (although it probably wends up making more of a statement than the next album, the confused 'Ummagumma'), but then again it's so much more than just a bit of music to be played out of a radio in a boring film. Most of it is deadly serious - and then David Gilmour's cod Spanish comes out of your speakers and you realise that actually 'More' is a very silly film. Even in the 1960s no other album offered quite the same blend of rhythmic gymnastics (both 'Up The Khyber' and 'Party Sequence' are instrumentals built for dancing), verbal wordplay ('Willow weeping in the water, waving to the river-daughters'), heavy rock ('The Nile Song' and 'Ibiza Bar', two separate lyrics cut from the same hard-edged riff) and glorious blissed-out folk (most of the rest). 'More' might be overshadowed by bigger and, yes, better Pink Floyd albums but fittingly it's 'more' than its reputation attests and is actually better than the two bigger name albums on either side of it. Sometimes less really is 'More'.
If you don't believe me that 'More' is a laidback album (especially if you don't know this record but do know all the ones either side of it) then the opening minute of opening track 'Cirrus Minor' will prove my point alarmingly well. The band don't play or sing - instead the album opens with a whole 60 seconds of sound effects. And not 'rocket taking off/end of the world/demented scarecrow falling over sound effects either, but our old friend bird song (the single most over-used effect in Abbey Road's tape library - we dedicated a whole top five to it in News, Views and Music #118), according to Wikipedia from a 1961 recording titled 'Dawn Chorus', which stars a nightingale on 'lead vocals'. That's the cue for a rather spooky recording in the line of recent Floyd B-side 'Julia Dream' : Rick's organ, fat and full (he should have asked for a co-credit!) is hypnotic, surreal and a little bit frightening. David's double-tracked vocal is full of ghostly echo, making him sound as if he's been cloned a little out of synch with himself. Roger's melody yearns to be beautiful and very nearly succeeds, but each verse slowly moves down a chord and tails off at the end, as if thoughts have been lost forever into a bottomless pit that's swallowed up the end of the tune. Roger also wrote the lyrics, which conjure up someone communing with nature on a summer's day and looking up at the sky (the song title is named after a cloud formation). However this world feels somewhat 'different' : the narrator is lying on the grass, a sign of natural beauty, but he's also lying amongst the 'graves' of a churchyard, a reminder of the horrors of the world. He see a pretty yellow bird, but sings 'you are not long', a reminder of the bird's short lifespan. A weeping willow by a river should be a lovely pretty image - but here in one of Waters' best lines of the period it's 'waving to the river daughters', causing ripples in the waves of the water. By the end the narrator isn't on Earth at all but up in the sky, 'a thousand miles of moonlight later' in the only 'space' lyric on the whole LP. Is the narrator having an acid trip (or, possibly, an acid flash back?) He's clearly trying hard to enjoy his life and a beautiful day, but something is following him and trying to remind him of the nasty undercurrent of life. While I haven't seen the whole of 'More', this is the scene that most successfully resembles the film to me, with two youngsters who should be having the time of their life and enjoying their 60s debauchery stalked by something darker that eventually kills one of them. Roger's always been good at writing unsettling songs. With its paranoid feel and very simple, broad brushstrokes 'Cirrus Minor' is one of his best songs on the theme, conjuring up a world that's no longer inside anyone's control. Did he, like the similar 'Julia Dream' before it, have 'Syd' on his mind as he tried to evoke the images of a good man slowly sucked to the darker side without his knowledge? This is also an impressively 'odd' song to open an LP with - virtually every other band on the planet would have chosen to open with...
'The Nile Song', a tense no-nonsense rocker that features the Floyd at their rawest and purest and proves once and for all how well they could play without the need for production values or studio gimmickry. Gilmour's double-tracked guitar is the only overdub on this song of lust that's right on the borders between joy and excitement on the one hand and fear at how out-of-his-depth the narrator is becoming on the other ('She is calling from the deep, summoning my soul to endless sleep'). David's vocal is exceptional, full of a grit and gruffness he hasn't been able to use yet (up till now the loudest the Floyd have been with him in the band is the music hall protest song 'Corporal Clegg') and his soaring guitars cut through a particularly dense bass-heavy track like an untameable beast. The rest of the band aren't quite so sure: Roger's bass is solid and unspectacular (odd seeing as he wrote this song alone once again), while Nick gets a little too carried away and loses his distinctive lightness of touch and Rick can't actually be heard at all. Roger's words, too, shows how much of a struggle he had writing a 'happy, carefree' song for the film: the verse that works best isn't any of the first three which talk about (presumably) how beautiful Stefan thinks Estelle is but the final one that knowingly surrenders to this unsafe underworld: 'She is bound to drag me down, drrrrag mmmme daaaaaahhhhn!' as Gilmour sings it here. Characters will be being 'dragged on' by all sorts of things on Roger's songs from this point on, including bricks, worms, life and Margaret Thatcher. The band actually do a better job with the slightly less heavy and more questioning 'repeat' 'Ibiza Bar' later on in the LP, which is a little more their style, although as a one-off seeing how far the Floyd could push themselves, 'The Nile Song' is good fun. Oh and by the way, the characters in the film are nowhere near the Nile when this is sung!
'Crying Song' is the point where we fans curse the fact that 'More' was a soundtrack album, fitted (however oddly) to an already shot film. The opening burst of vocals (David double-tracked again) and more folk-rock lovelyness is gorgeous indeed. The song gets even better when your realise that the track is playing with us (a composition named 'Crying Song' isn't actually sad at all and opens with the phrase 'We smile and smile'), Gilmour using his voice sarcastically once again on a third straight Waters solo song. However this song is so strangely constructed it sounds like it's made to fit a film score instead of be a 'song'. Much of this track is repetitive, a sing-songy nursery rhyme that ends each short verse with some less than happy rejoinder (including 'let me roll away the stone', a favourite image of the band in the 'Animals' period) to the point when you're desperate for a change. And then the band do, fading out on an exotic sweeping double-tracked Gilmour solo that's just perfect for the song, hinting at the bitterness and desperation in the character's hearts that they can't communicate to each other ('Sadness passes....in a while'). And then, just when you're expecting the big pay off the song fades, mid-guitar strum!
'Up The Khyber' is a surreal instrumental by Rock and Nick that presumably appears in some sort of a chase sequence (I haven't seen the scene of this bit!) Nick's urgent drum pattern simply repeats itself indefinitely while Rick's atonal piano chords - dancing across our speakers left to right - seem to be shaking his colleague off. A bit of organ overdubbing and some creepy sound effects make the whole piece sound like one of Dudley Simpson's incidental music during one of Jon Pertwee era's doctor who in one of those interminable chase sequences. Whether this piece should have made the album is a moot point, but at least it's shorter (and better) than the similar avant garde instrumentals on next album 'Ummagumma'. Once again, the song title makes no sense - the Khyber Pass is nowhere near Ibiza or France! More than one Floyd fan has wondered out loud whether this curiously titled song is actually a 'rhyming slang' (khyber pass = ass), but that doesn't make much sense either (even if the two characters in the film are acting like one!)
'Green Is The Colour' is another solo Waters song, which is odd because it sounds very much like a 'Gilmour' one to me. Dave's soft and sensitive falsetto, a major part played by Rick, a kind of dreamy folkieness (CSNY would have done a great version of this song!) - this is all the things Gilmour loves inside one package! The words are too 'nice' for Roger too, although the heavy wording and sonnet style as well as the 'nature' setting is very him ('Heavy hung the canopy of blue, shade my eyes so I can see you!') Another pretty love song, this one must surely come from the beginning of the film when the two characters are very much in love without any 'buts' in the music this time around. Roger just can't help himself though can he? Right at the end of this beautiful song comes the title, which refers not to Estelle's dress (as some have thought) but her jealousy - 'Green is the colour of her kind, quickness of the eye deceives the mind, envy is the bond between the hopeful and the damned'. I'd get out quick if I were you, Stefan...That's Nick Mason's then-wife Lindy playing the tin whistle, by the way, which adds a lovely folky touch to this pretty song. Oh and many fans agree that the definitive version of this song comes not on record but as the first part of the Floyd's epic suite 'The Beginning', played in concert across much of 1969 but never committed to record (mainly because it involved recycling old songs).
'Cymbaline' is the album's greatest achievement: a Roger Waters song that's far and above what he had written to date. Like many of his early songs it's quite a frightening piece about how easily it is for a human to fall prey to bad influences and might well have a little of Syd in its lyrics again. There is no character called 'Cymbaline' in the film, so presumably the song is a slight mis-spelling of the name 'Cymbalene' (one of Shakespeare's lesser known plays - with good reason, namely the fact it isn't very good! - it follows an ancient King of Britain whose daughter and heir to the throne falls in love with and secretly marries a disreputable rogue. The play then becomes a farce with lots of people trying to poison each other and having potions switched on them so that they end up poisoning someone else; a good match for the plot of 'More' where Estelle is saved from a cruel death by Stefan only to turn him onto drugs and effectively end up killing him. The close of 'More' is very Romeo and Juliet actually, with Stefan effectively surrendering his life so in some sort of twisted pact with God she doesn't have to die. Roger paid closer attention to this film that most critics give him credit for). However musically this is pure Floyd: a stately march that simply keeps rattling forward of its own persuasion even though Gilmour's 'restless' vocal tries badly to shake it off. Throughout the song we get the hook 'please wake me', as if the narrator knows he's heading to his doom, but like all the worst nightmares it's one he can't wake up from - and meantime Nick's steady rattled percussion makes him sound like he's walking off a plank to his doom. The lyrics are full of memorable passages, 'Apprehension creeping like a tube train through your spine' being my favourite, along with the clever line of paranoia 'will the final couplet rhyme? (It doesn't, for both Stefan in the film when he dies and in a postmodern sense for this song which ends with a pained 'It's high time, Cymbaline, please wake me...'). Once again Rick is the star of the song, providing both the heavy, steady piano chords and the shimmering organ that comes from nowhere around the middle of the song to slowly take over and engulf everything in its path to become the dominant instrument. The overall effect is one of Roger's cleverest songs, neatly summing up the all-encasing fear of slowly falling into the grasp of a bad addiction and being unable to shout for help. The clear album highlight.
We can't leave poor Stefan there though can we so side one instead ends with the album's most throwaway piece 'Party Sequence' which is simply a load of conga drumming and more tin whistle and sounds suspiciously like a Nick Mason family piece (although funnily enough its credited to the whole band who clearly don't play on this song - poor Nick even has his name listed last!) Mason's a great drummer and gets a welcome chance to show off his skills, but perhaps this short piece (at 1:07 it's the shortest Floyd song in their complete discography, depending on if 'Around and Around' from 1987 counts as a separate track from 'Yet Another Movie' or not) should have stayed in the film and not been on the soundtrack LP? By the look of the booklet Stefan and Estelle are at some sort of hippie party with congas - how come I never get invited to hippie parties with congas?! It looks like great fun!
'Main Theme' starts side two with probably the best of the instrumentals on this album, with a piece that sounds like a compacted version of 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' title track. Beginning with a slow motion replay of a Roger Waters gong crash, the song quickly settles down into a fast-paced toe-tapper, highlighted by one of Roger's usual bass grooves (think of 'Let There Be More Light' but slightly slower), some terrific synthesiser work from Rick (who basically has a conversation with himself thanks to the wonders of overdubbing, which must have been very hard to pull off) and some sturdy Nick Mason cymbal tapping. Unusually there's no David Gilmour guitar, although this doesn't seem to have stopped him getting a co-credit on the song! The song has a nice pace and enough things happening to keep our interest, which is more than you can say a lot about the Floyd instrumentals from their soundtrack albums, although I still would have preferred an actual 'song'!
'Ibiza Bar' is a fascinating song, this time credited to the whole group surprisingly even though it's basically 'The Nile Song' with new lyrics. Interestingly, while 'The Nile Song' hopped about in reckless impatience, 'Ibiza Bar' sticks religiously to the one key throughout, as if Stefan's fate is sealed and his path now settled. In fact Stefan must be wondering what he's got himself into and is quickly feeling guilty about walking so far off the path of the straight and narrow. 'I'm so afraid of the mistakes that I've made, shaking every time that I awake' sings Gilmour on a line that must be about doing cold turkey after a drugs binge. There are some great Waters lines about identity and the past informing the present that will come in handy in a few albums time, pleading for a 'story line that is kind' and admitting that 'since the first page I've lived every line that you wrote'. Is this Roger having fun with the characters, meant to resemble 'real' people, thinking 'there but for the grace of God go I? Or is he having a laugh at the script writer's expense? (listen out for the line 'I feel like a cardboard cut out man'!) The song ends with Stefan pleading with the audience to basically rewind time, to 'pick up your camera and use me again', returning him to a time before this happened. However, like 'The Nile Song', the sheer electric force and scaryness of the surroundings suggests that our man is doomed. Gilmour again excels himself with another terrific vocal and sounds even more comfortable now he's back on familiar territory (singing about fright, not lust). The rest of the band seem to have grasped what didn't work on 'Nile' too, Mason just as powerful but not quite as heavy while Roger's bassline is slightly more interesting this time around. All in all, one of the better songs on the album and the idea of returning to a song heard earlier in both film and album - in quite different surroundings - is a very clever one, with all hope of a happy ending now long gone.
Unfortunately, hereafter and after some pretty great songs 'More' just kind of rambles to a close. The two minute long 'More Blues' is, like all the band's other blues pastiches over the years, easily their worst genre. Clearly this piece is meant to be throwaway background music, but that's no excuse for the blues to be quite this lazy. Gilmour plays almost to himself, as if he doesn't know the tapes are rolling, with Nick occasionally joining in (although he sits out large parts of the song). Roger and Rick probably don't appear, although again they still get a co-credit. The song ends with some truly peculiar sound effects, presumably someone (probably Waters) scratching away at the strings of a piano Stockhausen-style, with the whole thing heavily drenched in echo. An indulgent song that sounds more enjoyable to play than it is to listen to. The title is quite clever though!
'Quicksilver' sounds like a 'lost' coda to 'A Saucerful Of Secrets'. A seven minute instrumental epic full of rolling cymbals, shimmering keyboards and exotic sound effects wrenched by Gilmour from his guitar, it's exactly the sort of thing everyone assumes these early Floyd records are like if they don't actually own one. The song runs for three minutes before the tune arrives and even then, as the title suggests, it kind of floats by rather than sticks in your head - very much a musical version of 'quicksilver' (i.e. Mercury, a substance that - bizarrely - both the characters use in the film to 'make' their own drugs. Don't try this at home, kids...) While this song has many interesting moments (I could listen to Rick play for hours), it's not really that interesting as Floyd songs go. Lyrics would have helped. In another Floyd song suite performed in concert across 1969 this section was known as 'Sleep'. Even as a sufferer of chronic fatigue none of my dreams are quite this surreal though!
The weirdest track, level with the howling 'Seamus' as strangest Floyd piece ever, is 'A Spanish Theme'. Played when the characters switch on a radio, this is Gilmour unwisely deciding to put his years hitch-hiking across Europe to good use by sounding like a Spanish guitar player. The results last for 1:08 (a second longer than 'Party Sequence') and have probably haunted him ever since. While the Spanish flamenco guitar parts are surprisingly convincing and reportedly Gilmour plays the drum parts too which is highly impressive, David's accent isn't and his speech has become a by-word for cod and hammy amongst Floyd fans. sadly they're missing from the CD booklet (probably to spare Gilmour's blushes) so we've done the decent thing, dear readers, and quoted them here for you instead! Altogether now: 'Pass the tequila Manuel! Listen, gringo, laugh at my lisp and I will kill you - I think! Ah this Spanish music sets my soul on fire. Lovely senorita, your eyes like stars, your teeth are like pearls I want to [sound effects] in your broth!'. If Gilmour wasn't on something when he came up with this song, perhaps he should have been?!
The album then closes the only way it can, with 'Dramatic Theme' which is an interesting instrumental designed to show off the searing soaring power of Gilmour's guitar. Exquisitely recorded, with a terrific clarity and finesse, they show Gilmour off at his finest. The rest of the Floyd hit a nice groove behind him too, based around a by now over-familiar Roger bass pattern, although at times they sound like they're playing a different song (they're firmly in 4/4 time, while time simply stops and moulds itself to whatever Gilmour is playing). Once again it seems a bit rich that Waters and Wright get a co-credit for not doing much, while poor Mason doesn't get a credit at all! As incidental music during a film goes, this is rather good although you wish that the band had used this as a basis for a 'proper' song rather than throw it away like this.
Overall, though, 'More' is 'more' interesting, complex and groundbreaking than it's often given credit for. The first side made up of 'proper' songs clearly outweighs the rather bitty second side ('Ibiza Bar' apart, most of it is pretty disposable to be honest) but that first side is pretty good, with Waters' finally realising what a gift he has for getting his characters to think something while acting in quite the opposite way and the slightly uncomfortable 'not quite right' feel of both lyrics and music is a key step towards later Floyd classics that already sound pretty spectacular here. In a way its a shame that the band play down the folk-rock kick they were on during the making of this album because it clearly suits them, along with the two blistering rock and roll tracks that are amongst the tightest in their canon. As we said with the later soundtrack album 'Obscured By Clouds' (but reviewed earlier on this site) it's pretty good for a soundtrack LP and better than a lot of the albums around it, although its probably a record more for major fans than casual Floydians who only know the big albums like 'Dark Side' 'Wish You Were Here' and 'The Wall'. However those albums, while better and more thought through, might not have existed at all without the brave steps towards a new sound taken on albums like this one. After years of being the unloved part of the band's 1960s catalogue we can finally say that there's more to 'More' than meets the eye. If only the film was even a quarter as good...