In the former Pink Floyd guitarist’s recent solo release Rattle That Lock, David Gilmour, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday, continues on his journey of exploring his own sound and style without confining himself within boundaries.
Prior to Rattle That Lock, Gilmour’s previous solo release On An Island was released almost a decade earlier in 2006. In the span of that near decade, terminal frost glazed over Pink Floyd’s wind-swept field as the band sealed its continuance with the concluding release, The Endless River.
In the later years of Pink Floyd after Roger Waters left, it was Gilmour’s creative bounty that gave the band a generationally different sound from its psychedelic roots, a trait that progressed all the way from A Momentary Lapse of Reason to the final song on The Endless River, “Louder Than Words.”
After Pink Floyd’s The Endless River set an incredibly high bar for future work from the PF family, one might expect Rattle That Lock to be a sort of continuance of that album. Instead, Gilmour crouches beneath the eminence of Pink Floyd’s shuttered doors and reaches his hand back to On An Island, met by a hand reaching back from the shadows.
Though a significant portion of Rattle That Lock is exploratory in nature, Gilmour gives us three tracks whose sound can be traced back to Pink Floyd’s Momentary Lapse of Reason, the first post-Waters album where he took the forefront of the creative body. The title track “Rattle That Lock” has a clever premise behind the music, where Gilmour turns a jingle heard in the mass transit system in France into a strong beat rock groove. “In Any Tongue” takes the ballad form similar to “On The Turning Away,” with an orchestration that embosses an added beauty to that sound. “Today” shares some elements of Momentary Lapse of Reason, though resounds more with 80s rock brightness heard on Gilmour’s solo 1984 release About Face.
The album commences with Gilmour asserting his ethereal guitar sound blended with a simple acoustic harmony, essentially translating his name through his guitar from the start. From there, Rattle That Lock does not follow a story line per se but has a clear structure as Gilmour weaves in and around exploring different musical elements anchored by his inimitable sound and intrinsic ability to compose and navigate the fretboard in all of the landscapes on the album. Just as it starts, Gilmour concludes the album with an instrumental précis that captures the essence of his renowned performance.
With Gilmour’s exploration on Rattle That Lock, the album features a few welcome surprises, though perhaps consternations to some. He incorporates jazz in a couple of spots including interludes on “Dancing Right In Front Of Me” and the jazz combo setting of “The Girl In The Yellow Dress,” along with an overall mellower tone than in previous recordings. Reading through the liner notes, it is easy to grin a bit as the cast of guest musicians reveals itself. David Crosby and Graham Nash, who also sang on On An Island make a return, and Gabriel Gilmour (David’s son), Jools Holland, and Roger Eno (brother of Brian Eno) all contribute piano parts. His touring band also includes many of the studio musicians who recorded with Gilmour on this album.
One striking moment on the album is when Roger Eno’s separated piano chords introduce “A Boat Lies Waiting” before Gilmour layers his guitar on top. With the theme of The Endless River still firmly planted in mind, the recognition of this song as a veneration to the late Rick Wright is almost instantaneous. In today’s multimedia setting, Gilmour has released several music videos on his YouTube channel to accompany the album, including “Faces of Stone,” “Rattle That Lock,” “In Any Tongue,” “Today,” and “The Girl In The Yellow Dress.”
Complimenting the music are the lyrics penned mostly by Gilmour’s wife Polly Samson. Most notably, the powerful “In Any Tongue” prods at hearstrings with a blunt perspective and conflict of a soldier – no sugar is enough to bring sweetness to his cup / I know sorrow tastes the same on any tongue. Gilmour’s lyrical writing on a few of the songs complements Samson’s well and is as fluid and lucid as the music itself.
Rattle That Lock diverges from the standards and expectations set by Pink Floyd’s final years as Gilmour greets an old friend and picks up where two left off those several years ago. It may take more than one listen to settle in but with more consideration beyond just one listen Rattle That Lock strikes a deep chord of appreciation for the music. But, it is not a bad thing that more than one listen might be required. It shows that Gilmour has done something noteworthy with Rattle That Lock: he has invoked us to think about the music just a little bit more.
Key Tracks: Rattle That Lock, In Any Tongue, The Girl In The Yellow Dress
Be sure to catch Gilmour’s final North American tour stops this weekend in New York City and follow NYS Music for a review of his performances. He is at Radio City Music Hall Sunday April 10 and at Madison Square Garden Monday and Tuesday April 11/12.