It’s #ThrowbackThursday, which means there’s no better time for…
OLD REVIEW DUMP #1 (3/5)
This fourth review is a milestone, because it was the first one I wrote SPECIFICALLY for Tumblr, EG with an audience besides my mom in mind. The fact that it was about one of my favorite albums, one with a history as fascinating as its content, made it a review oasis in the Imagine Dragons desert I was currently stuck in.
This review still makes me smile. Stealing the famous “Isn’t this where…we came in” catch for my own amusement (“But yeah, it’s possible I love…this album way too much”), my final embracing of the “accept art for what it is” philosophy, and of course the endless gushing over the content of the album itself.
Incidentally, I would rate this album even higher today. After watching the film adaptation, reading Bret Urick’s famously exhaustive analysis, and thinking about it for a long time, I’ve come to grips with the fact that my major complaint with The Wall in this review (the filler) is all but irrelevant on a song-by-song basis. Some of the songs have filler IN them, but as a collective whole there’s not a single song that doesn’t add to the atmosphere or story. That takes the “themes” category up to a 5, giving the album an overall rating of 10+/10 and the rank of “Cosmic Masterpiece”, which I wholeheartedly believe it deserves.
This was the first review where I felt I was comfortable both creating a tone for the description of each song and explaining exactly what I thought about it. Amidst all the gushing, I was seriously thinking about what makes a song work or not work, and that was an important development.
Here it is, in all its brickiness:
Might like to
Go to the show
To feel the warm thrill of confusion
That space cadet glow
Tell me is something eluding you, sunshine?
Is this not what you expected to see?
If you wanna find out what’s behind these cold eyes
You’ll just have to claw your way through this disguise
Lights! Turn on the sound effects! Action!
Drop it, drop it on ‘em! Drop it on them!
-In the Flesh?
…this album way too much.
I suppose I should start out with an acknowledgement that not enough fans of this album are willing to make: The Wall is an album for teenagers. The audience that has, throughout the history of music, been the most instrumental in turning this album into the landmark that it is has been angsty, angry, rebellious, whiny, entitled teenagers. Minus the teenage part, none of that (hopefully) applies to me. It’s a bit humorous to think about Roger Waters penning the ultimate classic rock favorite of high school seniors and disillusioned twenty-somethings at the age of thirty-six.
That being said, none of that matters to me. Yes, The Wall is big, bloated, self-indulgent, and filled with anger and self-pity. On the other hand, The Wall is big, bloated, self-indulgent, and filled with anger and self-pity! It’s two whole discs of stylish music, raw emotion, and infectious passion. Maybe it’s misdirected, maybe it isn’t, but The Wall is a unique, bombastic, unforgettable product.
The story behind The Wall is that was written following a tour where Pink Floyd’s current frontman, Roger Waters, got so angry at an obsessed fan that he spat in his face. When he lay in a hotel room that night, he became horrified with what he had done and started reminiscing about what in his childhood might have screwed him up so much. This idea was developed until it became the semi-autobiographical behemoth double album we know so well today.
For those who don’t fall into this camp, The Wall is a concept album (by way of rock opera) that explores the life of the protagonist, Pink. With a father lost to war, an overprotective mother, and a variety of abusive teachers, Pink leads a relatively crappy childhood, eventually getting married and becoming a rock star. His marriage falls apart after an affair, and in his desperation he separates himself completely from society with a metaphorical wall, becoming an insane, lonely wreck dependent on drugs. One high reached before a concert leads him to believe he is a fascist dictator, and he lives out this fantasy in a drug trip. Suddenly he realizes how pathetic he’s become and puts himself on trial. The bellowing judge of the “worms” eating away at his sanity finds him guilty of…being an adulterous, antisocial, unappreciative jerk, basically. His sentence is to be exposed before his peers, and orders are given to “tear down the wall”. It ends ambiguously, with the relatively calm outro suggesting that Pink somehow gets a happy ending. The famous catch of the album is that the last song appears to abruptly cut off, with a faint voice saying “Isn’t this where…” The last song actually transitions into the first song, where a faint voice can be heard saying “…we came in?” Besides meaning that the entire album could be feasibly put on an endless loop, the more unsettling implication is that the events of the story repeat over and over.
If you’re wondering why I just told you the whole story…well, first of all, you should already know it, but it’s mainly because I think the music and story should be discussed separately. Also, The Wall can be a confusing album, especially for first time listeners, so if you haven’t heard this album yet but are planning to, I just saved you a lot of brain-racking. But back to the story: it’s similar to Tommy, The Who’s rock opera, but Water’s semi-autobiographical lyrics elevate the material. Almost the entire thing is told as a reflective inner monologue, so when another character jumps in (Pink’s mother in “Mother”, the doctor in “Comfortably Numb” and the members of the court in “The Trail”), it’s a bit of a jolt. The reflections are affecting and honest, adding an important degree of sympathy to its pathetic, amoral main character.
Unfortunately, the rumors and whispers of this album’s critics are true: there’s distracting filler, on the second disc anyway. Disc one is perfectly paced, moving from the past (side one) to the present (side two) seamlessly and establishing its main character well. On side three, we have five songs detailing Pink’s experiences behind the wall when we really only needed two or three. One side four, Pink’s fascist drug trip lasts three songs, none of which are particularly interesting. So yes, the pacing is a bit wonky, but the important thing to remember is that the story is less a story and more a framing device for the music, and in this case, we got some awesome music. I’d just thought I’d get my feelings on the story out of the way before moving on to the song-by-song discussion, because there’s a LOT of songs on here.
Continue reading “Pink Floyd – The Wall”