What Makes Pink Floyd Such a Unique Band?

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Pink Floyd’s music not only established a genre but managed to remain timeless. It embodied an era and captured an emotion that no other band could. Pink Floyd sought to encapsulate something that no one could or will likely ever replicate.

Despite this, it can be easy for the band to be judged on face value solely for its music. Sadly, that means it just gets thrown in with other great bands of its decade. But the real beauty of Pink Floyd doesn’t show on the surface. It exists behind the notes and words that the band uses. Here’s how that makes Pink Floyd such a unique band.

The Band is Authentic with Their Message

There’s  only so many themes that a band can write their music about. Eventually, they run the risk of sounding like their predecessors. 

Whether it’s a desire to target mass appeal or a lack of creative direction, most bands start to adhere to a basic cookie-cutter formula.

But not Pink Floyd. The band never sought to hide behind a comfortable domain for the sake of commercial success. They have remained true to their message by expressing it as authentically as they can through their music.

They use their music to spread their convictions and philosophical perspectives to the world. And not for the sake of vanity or monetary benefit but because it’s the right thing to do. 

You don’t have to look any further than albums like ‘Wish You Were Here’. It explores the band’s disillusionment with the music industry, the loss of a band member, and a feeling of creative stagnation between band members.

Many bands would be willing to keep their two worlds separate for the sake of maintaining their image. But for Pink Floyd, these worlds are one and the same. And they can’t help but speak out about them. 

Dense, Rich Arrangements

Rock bands tend to have a fairly simple lineup. All it takes is a few guitars, a bass, a drum kit, and a vocalist. That’s nothing too impressive. But being able to create the grand sound that Pink Floyd does, certainly is. 

You can pick any album out of Pink Floyd’s extensive discography and find fully-fledged song arrangements that sound open but populated. 

It’s a unique space opera experience with distant keyboard synths, a steady centering bass, reverberating drum sounds, intimate acoustic guitar scrapes, yearning vocals, and time stretching guitar solos—all in one track. 

The fact that the band was able to create such soundscapes with a few instruments is incredible in its own right. But more so for giving the listener that sounds so center stage. 

It’s a feeling of seeing someone drift away while lingering on to their memory. Nothing else has ever come quite like it before. 

They Pioneered Their Genre

For an artist, it takes a lot to be established in a genre. It takes even more to be established in a genre that is yet to exist. But Pink Floyd made it happen all the same. This is what earned them their spotlight and cemented their place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

To date, Pink Floyd is credited with the conception of two very important genres; psychedelic space rock and blues-based early progressive rock. This has not only birthed an entire sphere of music, but it has also given inspiration to many artists such as the likes of David Bowie and Radiohead.

This is what set them apart from bands that existed in their time. They didn’t just choose a sound and work within its creative confines. The sound chose them, and it empowered their approach to build it according to their own path. Not something that’s all too commonly seen. 

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Surreal Live Performances

It’s one thing to have strong musical appeal and meaningful messages. It’s another to provide an experience that is rarely found elsewhere. Yet Pink Floyd has done it all the time over the course of their long standing career. 

Ask any Pink Floyd fan, and they’ll tell you that their live performances are a step above the rest. The band does this by adding sensory elements to supplement their music. You’ll find things like lasers, lights, on-stage sets, and dioramas, providing you a unique experience. 

Audience engagement is a big part of what makes Pink Floyd’s shows stand out. Many of their concerts have gone down in rock history as unmissable experiences that have built the reputation of being magical. 

Some notable examples include using a giant cardboard representation of a cardboard wall for The Wall’s live performance or using an inflatable pig to represent capitalist imagery. All of which makes the price of admission more than worth it. 

Albums That Revolve Around a Theme

Pink Floyd is arguably among the first to cement the idea of what an album truly represents. Up until then, albums were just considered to be a basic collection of different tracks that fed the same musical style. But that changed when Pink Floyd showed up. 

Rather than using albums as a packaging method for songs, the band used it to drive a single idea that resonated through each track. By doing this, Pink Floyd managed to convey strong themes and messages through their work. 

Albums like The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon stand tall as exemplary works of art that transcend their musical shell. If you wanted to listen to any of these albums, you wouldn’t just listen to a few tracks. The optimum experience would be to finish an album in one sitting from start to finish.  

Almost any Pink Floyd album could stand on its own legs with its themes alone. The Wall presented the pressure of success and feeling distanced. Animals was a retelling of Orwellian societal politics. Dark Side of the Moon was a window into the experience of being driven mad with isolation.  

They’re Comfortable Being Themselves

In the music industry, there are a host of expectations and burdens that plague artists. Sometimes it’s the pressure from the production side of things; other times, it’s the fans. But it almost always results in an artist playing by the rules to avoid anyone’s ire. 

It takes an exceptional quality of transparency to understand that things are not ideal and yet accept them. Somehow, Pink Floyd managed to do it. That’s what has carried the band through countless lineup changes, personal spats, legal troubles, and outside criticism. 

Pink Floyd aren’t reluctant to express their genuine thoughts and stand up against what bothers them. Through a large body of their work, they have leveled their frustration at themselves, their fans, the music industry, and humanity in general. Not once have they felt half heated or regretful of what they want to express. That’s what makes the music stand the test of time. 

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Guitar Solos with Depth

Guitar solos are to rock music what a fish is to water; inseparable. What sets Pink Floyd a cut above the rest is its ability to add a lot of depth to its instrumentation. That means featuring guitar solos that sound out of this world. 

There are usually three guitar players that come to mind when you think of a characteristic Pink Floyd solo: Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, and David Gilmour. And each of them have been able to inject their personality into the band with their soloing approaches. 

Above all, the most memorable solos usually tend to be associated with David Gilmour. His ability to use a basic pentatonic scale to extract and instill emotion really can’t be understated. 

On albums like The Dark Side of the Moon, Gilmour created solos that feel like they extend to the far reaches of space before being dissipated; a feeling that adds to the album’s idea of empty space and isolation. 

Their Evolution through the Years

Very few bands ever get to experience playing long enough to see stylistic evolution. Luckily, Pink Floyd has been around since 1965. That puts it at a good half-century of making, playing, and releasing music to the public. 

What’s important to notice is not how long they’ve been active. but how they’ve evolved over this time. 

Each era of Pink Floyd has had a front runner. And each one of these front runners has contributed something unique to the band. 

The Syd Barrett era shaped it by adding the guitarist’s imaginative touch to each song’s narrative. Roger Waters added to this by adding conceptual elements to the band’s albums. Finally, David Gilmour set the stage for sparse guitar arrangements with meaningful song wording. 

But instead of laying waste to an old approach, the band build its foundation on it. You’re able to track the final sound of the band based solely on its evolutionary path.

Profound lyrics 

Pink Floyd has always been lauded for its ability to be profound yet irreverent with its wording and imagery. Nowhere does it hit home as much as with the band’s lyrics. 

A lot of the band’s lyrics read out like poetic passages. And the messages they convey are some of the most relatable and relevant experiences. 

Here’s a section from The Final Cut about showcasing insecurities:

“And if I show you my dark side

Will you still hold me tonight?

And if I open my heart to you

And show you my weak side

What would you do?

Would you sell your story to Rolling Stone?

Would you take the children away

And leave me alone?

And smile in reassurance

As you whisper down the phone?

Would you send me packing?

Or would you take me home? 

These lyrics speak to the uncertainty of human nature. They ask the question of laying your true self bare while not knowing the outcome that follows it. 

At times, their lyrics get away from the philosophical and enter the real world. Here’s another piece from Have a Cigar:

“The band is just fantastic, that is really what I think,

Oh, by the way, which one’s Pink?”

This one is based on a real interaction that the band has with a producer. It shows the band’s disdain for the music industry that focuses on success rather than the music or the artist itself. Case in point, the producer in these lyrics shows his ignorance by assuming that Pink Floyd is the name of a person in the band. 

They Function at Their Own Pace

Over the years, Pink Floyd has gotten both critical acclaim and criticism in the same vein. But the band’s vision has always seemed to follow its own time and space. A quality that has really made it feel otherworldly. 

Look no further than the 60s, where Pink Floyd saw its conception. You either had slow singer-songwriter artists or upbeat rock bands making headway. Setting yourself up as a down tempo progressive rock band with heavy lyrical themes and electronic elements seems so impossible.

But conventional industry success could never predict that the band would make it anyway by following their own unique approach. And it stood corrected. 

They Capture the Human Experience

Above all, what really makes Pink Floyd unique is how it’s captured a haunting feeling of nihilism and futility of the human experience. 

Balancing these perspectives takes more than just a little awareness. Few others would be able to tread that line carefully. 

Works like ‘The Wall’ paint a bleak picture of pain and agony in the larger search for acceptance. Despite achieving fame and popularity, Pink Floyd’s feelings of uncertainty, self-loathing, and dissidence are ever-present. And they are captured in their most purest form. 

From an outsider’s perspective, it’s hard to imagine how such a feeling of disdain could be channeled to make such beautiful art. But there it is. Floyd is able to take some out of the most agonizing human experiences and present them in a way that doesn’t rub anyone the wrong way. 

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