The truly great guitarist are the ones who carve out a signature sound, instantly recognisable from a handful of notes. Former Pink Floyd front-man, David Gilmour, belongs in such elite company and, thankfully, his latest solo offering, Rattle That Lock, delivers a great deal of that familiar tone.
But as gifted as Gilmour is in constructing an epic solo, he has always been equally concerned with curating delicate soundscapes to complement those grand Floyd concepts. Coming less than a year on from The Endless River, the ‘final’ Pink Floyd record, it’s hard not to draw comparisons between the two albums. Despite the twenty years separating the recording sessions for these two releases, there is a surprising synergy between the material in both, found in a tendency towards temperate, more ambient sounds in preference to the more abrasive slant taken in some of the earlier Floyd material.
Listeners will therefore find much here that is recognisable, but there are also gentle surprises and significant points of departure from Gilmour’s legacy. While Pink Floyd often oscillated between creative genius and self-indulgence, Gilmour in solo mode veers towards understatement. In place of any grand connecting theme, the new album places its focus on the smaller details of life, cultivating a reflective, intimate air.
And in addition to Gilmour’s fine guitar playing, his characteristically raspy, textured vocal performance is as strong as ever.
Bookended by two atmospheric instrumental pieces, Gilmour has fashioned a collection of polished songs with his lyricist wife, Polly Samson. The moody opener is very much in the Floyd vein, but the title track that follows represents a change up, with a pacey, soulful feeling, reminiscent of the polished blues of Robert Cray.
There are further revelations to come. ‘Faces of Stone’ brings to mind the searching folk of latter day Mark Knopfler recordings (although it can’t resist building to a titanic solo), while ‘The Girl in the Yellow Dress’ is the biggest surprise of the album, as Gilmour turns towards lounge jazz.
The most moving moment comes with ‘A Boat Lies Waiting’, a tender elegy for late keyboard player, Richard Wright; it’s a song that sits nicely against the material on The Endless River, with that album similarly constructed in tribute to the former Pink Floyd member.
Meanwhile, ‘Today’ has echoes of Floyd with its funk swagger, but here Gilmour manages to reinvigorate the sound, making it feel fresh again.
This is well made album of sounds and songs from a considerable talent; it will be a pleasure getting lost in these landscapes over repeated listens.
Rattle That Lock is released today from Columbia.
Written by Matthew Trainor