Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here

Dan Epstein

By Dan Epstein

on 06.08.11 in Reviews

Wish You Were Here (2011 - Remaster)

Pink Floyd
Functioning as a far more focused and confident unit

For their 1975 follow-up to the blockbuster Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd abandoned that album's concise, song-oriented structure and returned to the format of earlier albums Atom Heart Mother and Meddle, wherein extended pieces bookended a handful of songs at the core. But the differences between those transitional, often-experimental albums and Wish You Were Here were considerable: The band was functioning by now as a far more focused and confident unit, with David Gilmour's searing guitar leads and Rick Wright's sleek VCS3 synthesizer lines now regularly taking center stage; and bolstered by the artistic and critical success of DSOTM, Roger Waters felt more comfortable with the notion of once again wrapping an entire album around a singular concept. Only this time, instead of focusing on the challenges of human existence, Waters turned inward and wrote songs about his disillusionment with the music business as a member of one of the world's biggest bands. The rich rock star railing against the indignities and inequities of the record industry was already a tired cliché by the mid-'70s, but the Waters-penned "Welcome to the Machine" and "Have a Cigar" both have a palpable bite to them; the former song explores the way that the artistic impulses of rebellious youth are ultimately nothing more than fodder for a money-fixated industry, while the latter scores a direct hit on the glad-handing record company execs who are too busy calculating an act's potential profitability to bother learning the band members names. ("Oh by the way — which one's Pink?") But ultimately, even though he's not present except in spirit, it's original Floyd member Syd Barrett who saves Wish You Were Here from being just another bilious rock star bitch session. The sad tale of Barrett's acid flameout — triggered in part by the pressures of fame — inspired the nine-part "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and the deeply melancholic "Wish You Were Here," both of which lend some real heart and soul to an album that could have wound up as nothing more than a sour (if impeccably played) rant.