There are three David Gilmours at work on Rattle That Lock. The first is the Pink Floyd chieftain, now self-relieved of duty, weaving his way through post-psychedelic ambience that regularly recalls his former group’s glories. The second seeks to flip that history on its side by shunning the deeper Floyd-ian abyss in favor of warmer, more hopeful temperaments. Having wife Polly Samson penning lyrics in place of Floyd narcissist emeritus Roger Waters helps with that. The third is a journeyman out for something different entirely – a pop turn here, a jazz twist there. Let them all lose and you have Gilmour’s most realized and, at times, surprising solo venture.
The title track highlights Gilmour No. 3. It surfaces out of a keyboard riff that repeats like a mantra but coalesces into a surge of effervescent pop. The results are almost, dare we say, dance-worthy. Vocals ooze in and out in waves, promoting the song’s self-help chorus (“rattle that lock and lose those chains”) while splashes of still-sterling guitar color the soundscape. It may be the most commercial sounding thing Gilmour has ever put his name to, which may rattle the locks of Floyd fans still marooned on the dark side of the moon.
That’s not half as surprising as the after hours cocktail jazz of The Girl in the Yellow Dress. But Gilmour comes armed with top flight assistance for the mission, with Jools Holland adding suitably nocturnal piano rolls and fellow progressive warhorse Robert Wyatt serenading on cornet.
Gilmour No. 2 likes to rough things up. Dancing Right in Front of Me is like a sprint through late ‘60s British rock, from the opening, Kinks-like phrasing to its Procol Harum-inspired power chords. But the killer is Today, an affirmation at day’s end that bleeds into a funk-fortified riff that bounces about within the music (and, eventually, into your brain) to best define the musical path Gilmour travels today.
But so many roads on Rattle That Lock link with the past and Gilmour No. 1. The keyboard notes that drop like singular raindrops at the start of Faces of Stone, recall the late Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright by almost directly quoting the classic Echoes from 1971. Later, Roger Eno guests on the instrumental Beauty to offer a sunnier, more contemplative backdrop that takes its cue from the otherworldly orchestration Wright constructed for 1975’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond.
Best of all are two instrumentals – 5 A.M. and And Then… – that bookend this gloriously engineered and mixed album to spotlight Gilmour’s elegiac guitar reflections. Pastoral in design but still wild enough in tone to briefly summon the Floyd spirit, the tune cements the very solid ground on which Gilmour currently stands – a terrain that owes greatly to a legendary past but leads without hesitation into the future.