It’s everything anyone needs from Pink Floyd, in one package.
Mike Diver 2011-09-22
Hard to believe though it is in 2011, there are some people, somewhere out there, who do not own a Pink Floyd record. And it’s this fact, largely, that EMI are leaning on with their release of Discovery – a one-stop shopping purchase for the Floyd newcomer, collecting all 14 of the band’s studio albums in a sturdy, attractive, expensive box. If you already own a handful of these, the asking price – about £130 – is going to be off-putting, especially as the albums contain no new material (the tracks are remastered, but for expanded versions you’ll need to invest in ‘Immersion’ editions, yours for a pretty penny per set). But if you’re in the market for an instant collection, it’s a very tempting product.
For the collectors out there, included is a booklet (although at 60 pages long, it’s less ‘let’ and more ‘book’) compiling a host of imagery and graphics created for the band across their career. Assembled by Storm Thorgerson himself, it’s a treasure trove of curios, arranged in chronological order, from the very first piece of art, created for a gig in Leeds in 1968, through to 2008’s Blue Balls, shot for a book cover. It makes for a fantastic insight into an aspect of Pink Floyd’s appeal almost as intrinsic to their success as their music – the singular aesthetic they presented with unfaltering consistency. Of particular interest are rough sketches for the artwork to the best-of set, Echoes – "I thought it echoed Ummagumma a bit," says Thorgerson – and a beautiful water image that was intended for the SACD pressing of Wish You Were Here, a pressing that’s yet to be released ("gawd knows why?" reads the accompanying info).
And the music itself? Deep breath, here’s a Friends-style run-down. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn: the one where Syd Barrett took the lead, resulting in at least one song about a gnome. A Saucerful of Secrets: the one where Roger Waters expressed his songwriting might across numbers like Let There Be More Light and the kazoo-featuring Corporal Clegg. Music From the Film More: the one where Floyd matched folksy acoustic numbers with some truly heavy fare (and also their first without Barrett). Ummagumma: the one that was a live album, but not a live album. Atom Heart Mother: the one with the cow on the cover, which wasn’t actually All That Good. Meddle: the one that represented a return to form, and home to the side-filling calling-card track Echoes.
Still with us? And on we go. Obscured by Clouds: the one where Floyd began to properly break the stateside mainstream (but, again, it’s not an album that’s aged well). Dark Side of the Moon: the one that’s become a classic. Wish You Were Here: the one that’s arguably better than Dark Side…, but doesn’t get half the acclaim – it’s their In Utero to Dark Side…’s Nevermind, notably disaffected with the business side of things. Animals: the one with the pig. The Wall: the one that didn’t need no education, nor no thought control. The Final Cut: the one where David Gilmour was largely AWOL. A Momentary Lapse of Reason: the one where everyone hated everyone else, resulting in a disjointed affair barely worthy of the Pink Floyd name; it was also the first album to not feature Waters. The Division Bell: the one where (largely) Gilmour crafted a farewell affair that saw Floyd bow out with a whimper rather than a roar – although in High Hopes it featured one of the band’s best, a real lump-in-the-throat closer with a video featuring a bust of Barrett. The band had, finally, come full circle.
So, if you’re without any Pink Floyd in your life, why not dive straight into the deep end? That’s what Discovery is: this remarkable but frequently frustrating band at their inspirational best, their middle-of-the-road worst; at the peak of their pop-savvy accessibility and in the depths of so much impenetrable self-indulgence. It’s everything anyone needs from Pink Floyd, in one package.