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Pink Floyd – Ten of the Worst

You generally find Pink Floyd listed among the “All-Time Great Bands”, but even ardent fans would have to admit that not all of the band’s output was stellar. I’d go so far as to say that some of it was downright awful. The band’s experimental nature, coupled with personnel changes, resulted in a back catalogue which is maddeningly inconsistent in terms of quality. In fact, they are about the only band that could have a Worst of compilation that would be as long as their Best of.

Seeing as the band’s albums are now available on Spotify, I thought it would be a good time to look back at some of Pink Floyd’s lowest points. I made a chronological Spotify playlist of ten of their worst tracks which can be found here. My explanations/justifications for my choices are below.

N.B. I decided to limit myself to only one track per album (which was sometimes difficult!)

The Gnome (From The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, 1967)

Syd Barrett, the original bandleader, specialised in psychedelic songs which were peppered with childhood imagery. Unfortunately, he went too far into whimsy and/or drugs with this ditty about a scarlet tunic-wearing gnome called Grimble Gromble. Incidentally, this song was recorded at roughly the same time as David Bowie’s infamous “The Laughing Gnome”. I wonder if both songs were about the same little fella.

A somewhat worse-for-wear Syd Barrett

A somewhat worse for wear Syd Barrett

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Confessions of a ‘Rebel’ Prog Rock Fan

During my late teens, I was a huge fan of progressive rock music. As I mentioned in my previous post, this was partly a reaction against the insipid music that was popular at the time. Partly though, I think this was because I was a geek, and therefore genetically predisposed to liking songs about pixies.

Actually, I didn’t particularly care for the lyrical content. Tales of Fire Witches escaping from the Court of The Crimson King left me somewhat cold. It was the music itself that I really liked. I found contemporary music really simplistic, so I really got into all the 20-minute long keyboard solos. For a time, I wouldn’t even buy a CD unless it was a concept album, or as I liked to call them; ‘conceptual works’.

‘Conspicuous talent’ is common trope of music that’s popular with geeks. Geeks like their bands to be incredibly talented and to display that talent at every available opportunity. This can be musical, as is the case of Prog rock. Or it can be a lyrical talent, as with the geeks’ other favourite genre: the comedy song. I think that’s why Frank Zappa features prominently in geeks’ record collections, as he could be both musically inventive and lyrically hilarious.

It’s an oft touted truism that Prog rockers didn’t really progress very much. Okay, they helped to push rock music forward in their early days, but when they found something that worked for them (financially) they stuck with it. Rick Wakeman also happens to ‘un-progressive’ in terms of his politics, as he thinks all drug dealers should be shot.

The only Prog band that really progressed were King Crimson. They shrugged off the Hobbit bothering after their first few LPs and went in the direction of heavier rock. Their album ‘Red’ was even a favourite of Kurt Cobain. Part of this invention was due to the fact that band leader and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall lookalike, Robert Fripp, couldn’t keep a line-up of the band together for more than a few months. I guess the new blood brought in new ideas.

Anyway, I soon grew out of my Prog rock phase. I toyed with being a Grungie for a while, which was odd, because it was about a decade after Grunge was popular. Whatever music I’ve been into since then, has always had an element of the geeky, ‘conspicuous talent’ though.

Insipid Indie

Music documentaries often talk about the “Death of Britpop”. Some even go as far as asking who was responsible for killing it. That’s anthropomorphism gone a little mad. It’s not as if you could walk into a room and find a musical genre lying dead on the floor.

“Hey Brit, we’re just going to the shops; do you want anything? Brit? Britpop??!! Nooooo!!!!!!!!”

I have a theory that Britpop didn’t die, but instead just devolved into a pallid form music that I like to call ‘Indius Inspidus’. The main perpetrators of this silly sub-genus were bands like Embrace, Travis and Ocean Colour Scene. All these acts produced a sort of lacklustre, acoustic guitar-strumming indie that plagued the airwaves in the late 90s. An honourable mention must also go to Gomez, who were slightly different; as they augmented their indie warbling with an awful attempt at blues shouting.

Some rock historians like to point to OK Computer as bringing about the end of Britpop. I certainly think that it partly helped to usher in this new regime. I really like that album, but always thought that the Insipids were doing a poor man’s imitation of Radiohead. They shared the same sombre, acoustic-guitar strumming sensibility.

I put down the popularity of this kind of music to those pesky young white males again. I think listening to these simplistic songs, sung by other white guys, made them believe that they could be rock stars too. I certainly knew a few guys who would grin whenever a Travis song came on the radio, and say proudly they could play it on their newly bought acoustic. I call this phenomenon ‘Comfort Music’.

Being the rebel that I was, I reacted badly towards the Indius Insipidus phenomenon. However, in my rush to be different, I embraced something I didn’t fully understand: Prog Rock. But more on that in another post…