Pink Floyd’s Hey, Hey, Rise Up! is their first new material in 28 years – was it worth waiting for?

Hey, Hey, Rise Up! by Pink Floyd with Andriy Khlyvnyuk is definitely long – but is it strong?

There is a terrible symmetry to the release by Pink Floyd of their first original material since the Division Bell 28 years ago. In 1994, the conflict in the Balkans had unleashed the worst in humanity and Europeans were waking up to the new but also very old reality of war crimes on their door-step.

A generation later, the savagery is being perpetuated by Russia in Ukraine. And it is to raise funds for humanitarian relief for victims of Moscow's aggression that Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour has put the band back together. Or, at least, put it partly back together. Because Hey Hey Rise Up is officially credited to "Pink Floyd with Andriy Khlyvnyuk of Boombox" – and is as much his song as theirs.

Khlyvnyuk is a Ukrainian musician with whom Gilmour had played at a 2015 benefit gig in London. Gilmour, who has a Ukrainian daughter-in-law and grandchildren, was understandably shocked to see recent footage on social media of Khlyvnyuk in military fatigues outside St Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv singing the old Ukrainian war song, Oh, the Red Viburnum in the Meadow. This is a conflict that has turned musicians into soldiers.

Feeling it is duty to do something, Gilmour has taken that performance – delivered in a war zone by a man who had returned to fight for his country – and built an epic Floyd chugger around it.


He isn't acting alone, having recruited Floyd drummer Nick Mason, keyboardist Nitin Sawhney and long-time Floyd bassist Guy Pratt. Recorded at speed in London last week, the track understandably feels slightly bolted together – there's the Khlyvnyuk vocal and, then, like the flood gates in rock heaven crumbling, there comes one of those Biblical Gilmour Solos – the "rock god" bit, as he described it to the Guardian recently.

One absence is Roger Waters, who remains more or less permanently estranged from his old bandmates and who has been accused of prevaricating about the Russian invasion.

A week before Putin’s tanks rolled into Ukraine, Waters described the speculation of imminent aggression from Moscow as “bulls**t ... anybody with an IQ above room temperature knows [it] is nonsense”, though he has since condemned the war as “the act of a gangster”.

Hey, Hey, Rise Up! – the English translation of the final line of Oh, the Red Viburnum – is no Floyd classic. But nor is it a disgrace to the legacy of the group who reinvented rock’n roll though the 1970s as a sort of noodler’s paradise. On and on Gilmour’s solo goes, a sort of mutant offspring of his segment in the middle of Shine On You Crazy Diamond and the fade-out from Comfortably Numb.

As an addendum to Pink Floyd – and given the worthiness of the cause – it’s hard to be cynical about. And if it’s a bit of a lumbering Frankenstein of a track, there is no quibbling with the sincerity of Khlyvnyuk’s singing. As with all his best Floyd work, it rumbles on longer than all the Lord of the Rings novels set end-to-end (including appendices) but nonetheless feels over far too soon.

It is a shame that it took a war for Gilmour to dust down the Pink Floyd brand (he and Mason did reunite in 2014 to patch together the ambient collection The Endless River from old outtakes). And yet, as a statement of artistic outrage in the face of evil, it glimmers with indisputable ferocity.

All proceeds from Hey, Hey, Rise Up! go to the UN’s Ukraine Humanitarian Fund.