Wish You Were Here, by Pink Floyd
Suggested by Bryan Connolly
Reviewing Pink Floyd is a tremulous business.
As far as sacred cows go, they don’t get more sacred than Pink Floyd. Sure, there are more popular artists out there – I’m thinking your Beatles, your Stones, your Hucknalls – but there’s likely no one that’s so revered, with all the sinister connotations you can imagine.
Floyd fans can be rabid. Back in Album 217, I gave Dark Side of the Moon a massive 9/10, writing that it actually made me redefine the very concept of music, and still someone complained I was being harsh. Listening to and Reviewing Pink Floyd albums brooks no whimsy. It’s SERIOUS BUSINESS, bolded and in capitals. I feel the wait of expectation, demands of an audience whose minds are set and whose opinions are sacrosanct. If my review doesn’t exactly mirror their feelings on a song or album, heaven help me. I hear acidic Scottish teachers swishing their canes, bellowing “WRONG! Do it again!”
It’s safe to say I approached my virgin listen of Wish You Were Here with trepidation.
Released in 1975, this now-unimpeachable work received mixed reviews. Down the years, it has picked up plaudits and praise by the bushel, becoming enshrined in the Prog Rock pantheon and heralded as one of the universe’s seminal albums. That could be something to do with times and tastes changing, or a growing appreciation for the nascent artistry, or it could be the cult-like Floydians peddling their revisionist history as a list of demands with an or-the-puppy-dies clarifier. I wouldn’t put it past them, that’s for sure.
Over forty-four minutes, a full twenty-five of which are dedicated to the band’s tribute to former member Syd Barret, the multi-part Shine On You Crazy Diamond. This is obviously the standout contribution to the album, with the opening half the perfect example of the swirling, low-key, beautiful timidity at play in the band in this era.
With only three non-Shine songs on the album – the throbbing synth-based Welcome to the Machine, the more straightforward Have a Cigar, and the expressive and emotional Wish You Were Here – it’s difficult to recuse oneself from the conceptual proceedings at hand. In fact, it would be a disservice to judge these songs in isolation. In fact, as with a great deal of Pink Floyd’s work, the nomenclature of “song” can feel wholly inadequate. The albums are ambience, soundscapes, with none of the plinky plonk connotations you might expect from someone so against such poppycock.
It might sound odd, but this album, and indeed Pink Floyd in general, doesn’t sound as though it was written by any particular person. It sounds as if the music has always been there, in its complete form, and the band just happened to arrive at the ideal time to hear it. Or it sounds as if the music has been unearthed, crafted meticulously from the sheetrock with tiny hammers and soft-bristled brushes. Actually writing music sounds so uncouth.
Did I enjoy Wish You Were Here? I did. My personal score of 7/10, however fine that may be in isolation, is unlikely to placate the Crazy Diamonds out there. I simply found the ambience a little too ambient in places, bringing an unwelcome indulgence to the sound. However, while it’s not the best the band can offer up, it’s still taller than most other bands and albums in the genre. I’m sorry, Floydians. Please don’t bludgeon me with an inflatable pig while I sleep.