Posted in Music Reviews, Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd – Obscured By Clouds Review

pink_floyd_-_obscured_by_clouds

Heaven sent the promised land
Looks alright from where I stand
Cause I’m the man on the outside looking in
Waiting on the first step
Show where the key is kept
Point me down the right line because it’s time
To let me in from the cold
Turn my lead into gold
Cause there’s chill wind blowing in my soul
And I think I’m growing old

-Wot’s…Uh The Deal?

You know what I love about Pink Floyd? Not only did they dabble in soundtracks, and not only did those soundtracks turn out to be overlooked treasures, but they used the freedom from their regular studio time to completely reconfigure their sound. Waters discovering his aptness for folk songs on More set the pattern for most of the best work in Floyd’s prog phase, and with Obscured By Clouds the band sets the foundation for a bluesier, psychedelic sound that they would milk in the 70s, producing some of the biggest rock albums of all time.

It helps that the album itself is pretty bloody good. Cool atmospheric experiments with minimal filler? Alrightly then.

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Posted in Music Reviews, Pink Floyd

Meddle – Pink Floyd – Review

OLD REVIEW DUMP #3: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO (4/6)

I have literally nothing to say about this one. It seems like I wrote it yesterday.

Here it is, with all fifteen of its meddling kids…

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Strangers passing in the street
By chance two separate glances meet
And I am you and what I see is me
And do I take you by the hand
And lead you through the land
And help me understand the best I can
And no one calls us to move on
And no one forces down our eyes
No one speaks
And no one tries
No one flies around the sun

-Echoes
People who aren’t so high on Atom Heart Mother tend to rave about this album as being “the good version.” If you saw the heap of praise, masterpiece tag, and subsequent 10/10 on my review of it, you know I disagree. In fact, it was this reputation that made me come into Meddle with some embarrassingly immature resentment, and come out of my first listen not all that impressed. I chalked it up as a noble but mostly uninteresting experiment and went back to “If” and “Summer 68.”
I was dead wrong. Coming back to this album to review it, I found myself completely carried away by the musical landscapes that it offers. After I gussied up and put my immaturity aside, I was easily enveloped in a torrential musical experience. Then “Seamus” happened, but I recovered quickly. After the final notes of “Echoes” had themselves become echoes, I slumped in my chair, filled with utter musical bliss. Then I repeatedly facedesked as I recounted my initial reaction. So yes, Meddle is marvelous, almost as much as Atom Heart Mother.

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Posted in Masterpiece, Music Reviews, Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd – Atom Heart Mother – Review

OLD REVIEW DUMP #3: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO (2/6)

More adjectival and adverbly experimenting. It’s not as emotionally fueled as the Funeral review, but I’m getting there. There’s a few imprecise words and hazy descriptions I would be more careful to weed out if I was writing this today, but the review as a whole holds up fine.

Here it is, in all its lack of maternity…

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If I were a swan, I’d be gone
If I were a train, I’d be late
And if I were a good man,
I’d talk with you
More often than I do
If I were to sleep, I could dream
If I were afraid, I could hide
If I go insane, please don’t put
Your wires in my brain
-If

1970: the magical time when a picture of a cow was going to sell you an album. What happened to the art of cover design?
Atom Heart Mother is a wonderful little experimental album. It’s more ideas then substance, but the concepts are strong enough to hold the album together. There are only five songs, and even though two of them are over ten minutes, the album is a brief, clever, and enjoyable listen. It’s more polished and focused then Ummagumma by light years. There are no excesses here, just good ideas.

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Posted in Pink Floyd

The Wall: Explained for Normal People

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Background

The Wall is a rock opera by the British psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd, released on November 30, 1979. It was written and composed primarily by Roger Waters. It was conceived after an incident during Floyd’s In the Flesh tour, where Waters became so angry at a rabid fan that he spat in his face. In the hotel room later that night, the weight of his actions crushed him and he started looking back on his life for the roots of this behavior, eventually drafting a story about a fictionalized version of himself being screwed up by a bad childhood and isolating himself from society. This grew into a double album, receiving positive reviews at time of release and gaining an even better reputation as time went on. It contains three of Floyd’s most famous songs (“Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” “Comfortably Numb,” and “Run Like Hell”) and is their best-selling album behind Dark Side of the Moon. It was adapted by Alan Parker into the cult classic film Pink Floyd – The Wall.

The story of The Wall can be confusing and inaccessible to people who aren’t used to albums as a format of storytelling, and even then there’s a lot to dig into. This is a guide to help people who aren’t freaks like me understand and enjoy this album. It contains subjective interpretations, but is by no means an exhaustive analysis, just a plain language summary. Enjoy.

Elevator Pitch

There’s a guy named Pink. His childhood is crap. He gets married and becomes a rock star. Neither of these things go well. The terribleness of his life crashes in on him, so he uses those events (the bricks) to build a metaphorical wall around himself. It turns out complete social and psychological isolation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. He turns to drugs. He gets so high before a concert that he becomes a fascist dictator. After a political rampage, he realizes that it’s not his upbringings fault he’s such a terrible person, it’s his. He puts himself on trial, and concludes that his only suitable punishment is to tear down the wall. Then this happens all over again. Forever. OR DOES IT?!?

Song By Song Breakdown

This is covering the album. The movie is a whole different beast with additional symbolism I don’t have the time or brain power to get into. Even the album is a lot more complex than this, but hopefully this will give you a head start on figuring it out.

In the Flesh?

A revisionist flash forward, if that makes any sense. Pink, as a fascist dictator, bellows at his audience. In this case, the audience is not only his loyal supporters but the listener of the album. He invites you to “the show,” a tour of his life. He doesn’t just tell you, he DROPS it on you.

And yes, that WAS a faint voice at the very start saying “…we came in?” The album ends on the same faint voice saying “Isn’t this where…” Bookending is very common in Floyd’s 70s catalogue, and The Wall’s hidden message of “Isn’t this where…we came in?”, besides making an endless loop of the album feasible, is also what splits pessimistic and optimistic interpretations of this album.

None of that matters right now. Basically, welcome to the show.

The Thin Ice

Pink is born in 1943. An extremely helpful narrator (possibly himself, speaking in hindsight) tells him that he shouldn’t expect much out of the ice of life, just a lot of cracks.

Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1

Pink’s father is killed in World War 2. To cope, Pink puts up a mental defense mechanism: distance and apathy. This initial pain provides the first bricks for his mental wall, a wall that will gather more and more bricks from the pains of life, causing Pink to retreat deeper and deeper into himself.

The Happiest Days of Our Lives

Pink elaborates on his unpleasant childhood by turning from one government institution (the army) to another (school). His teachers were psychologically abusive, putting down and humiliating their students whenever they were given the opportunity. As some measure of compensation, they got smacked around by their wives a lot. More than anything, they suppressed individualism, forcing their students to conform into…

Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2

…uniform, faceless bricks. The “wall” this time is twofold: the wall of society, which tries to squish Pink into a meaningless statistic like his dead father, and Pink’s personal wall, which this process has provided bricks for. If he can’t trust society, who can he trust?

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Posted in Music Reviews, Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd – Ummagumma

OLD REVIEW DUMP #2: THE SQEAKUAL (6/7)

Oh look, a review that sounds like it was written by an actual human being. PRAISE THE SUN!

The album itself I’ve mellowed even more on then when I first wrote this (despite how amazing the live section is), but I still enjoy this review. Everything is better: the critique, the description, the humor, the voice. Some of the complaints are a bit repetitive, and I think that just lampshading that wasn’t enough, but overall this is a vast improvement, even if it lacks the enthusiasm I generally associate with my best reviews.

Here it is, in all its grooving furriness:

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Hear the lark and harken to the barking of the dog fox
Gone to ground
See the splashing of the kingfisher flashing to the water
And a river of green is sliding unseen beneath the trees
Laughing as it passes through the endless summer
Making for the sea
-Grantchester Meadows

WHAT THE CRAP DID I JUST LISTEN TO?!? I mean, being weird is Floyd’s forte but…geeze. Syd Barrett sounds downright normal compared to this. As far as unapologetically wacko Floyd albums go, it’s not as good as Piper at the Gates of Dawn, but it’s okay nontheless. It feels a bit criminal (but still understandable) that this is more well-known than More or Obscured by Clouds, but at the very least, it’s an interesting album, albeit not always an engaging one. This was basically the experimental, toss-everything-against-the-wall-and-hope-it-works album, and the results are more fascinating to discuss then listen to. The album’s major saving grace is an AWESOME live section that blows any other live Floyd out of the water in terms of sound and tightness of playing. This alone is worth the price of admission, and you get some cool other stuff too, so overall, Ummagumma is a reasonable success.

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Posted in Music Reviews, Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd- A Saucerful of Secrets

OLD REVIEW DUMP #2: THE SQEAKUAL (2/7)

Ooooooh, I’m still inexplicably infatuated with Saucerful. Once again I would raise the “Reasonance” category, though I’m not sure if it would be a 4 or a 5 (probably the former because of “Corporal Clegg,” which is still hilarious).

The review itself is more or less on par with the Piper one, though I was getting more adventurous and imaginative in my description of the sound. It’s a short review of a short album and like it’s subject doesn’t really flow or build, but the bits themselves I’m still reasonably proud of.

Here it is, in all its SoS. I was not expecting to make a Youtube Poop joke today.

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Remember a day before today
A day when you were young
Free to play alone with time
Evening never came
Sing a song that can’t be sung
Without the morning’s kiss
Queen – you shall be it if you wish
Look for your king
Why can’t we play today
Why can’t we stay that way
-Remember A Day

Okay, so originally the plan was to review Please Please Me this week and alternate between Floyd and The Beatles, but seeing as how I’m now in a Piper at the Gates of Dawn mindset, there’s no better time to get its kid brother A Saucerful of Secrets out of the way. Besides, I’m uploading this on Monday, there’s plenty of time to review Please Please Me later on this week. Cool? Cool.
At this point, poor Syd was badly deteriorated. He was spacing out in the middle of concerts, screwing up press interviews, and generally not helping the band’s reputation at all. In the following transitional period, Syd was phased out of the band. The result is this short album, consisting of outtakes from Piper and some new material. Basically, it was hastily slapped together to fill time, sounds almost nothing like the preceding album, and Syd only has one song on it. It’s an incoherent, mad scramble with no flow between any of the songs.
And yet…I adore this album. I honestly think it’s one of the most underrated albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening too. Yeah, it doesn’t really work AS AN ALBUM, but as a playlist, it’s great. I don’t dislike a single song on here. Even if you disagree, you can’t deny that it’s far more accessible then Piper. Less fascinating, to be sure, but still interesting and perfectly enjoyable in its own right. Spoiler: it gets a higher rating then Piper. I know that sounds like blasphemy to a lot of Floyders, but my love for this hodgepodge takes me beyond the boundaries of caring. Kind of like LSD, actually, though there’s less of that on this album.

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Posted in Essential Albums, Music Reviews, Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd – Piper at the Gates of Dawn

OLD REVIEW DUMP #2: THE SQEAKUAL (1/7)

Welcome to this week’s Old Review Dump, where I’ll reupload and comment on my second “wave” of review material. This wave is marked by me finally committing to the “one review a week” schedule and complete catalogue exploration.

So…Piper. It’s pretty clear from the ratings that this was before I had fully defined the categories of “Listenability” and “Resonance.” I meant them both in the traditional sense here, which limited my artistic scope. I would raise both to a 4 today, denied a five because of a few bad musical ideas and filler.

Piper, from where I stand, is still probably Floyd’s most overrated album, but only in the sense that I give it an 8 when everyone else gives it a 9 or 10. It’s still a fantastic album, an essential one for classic rock fans, and I still agree with just about everything I said here. I’m not sure my prose really does the album justice, but all in all I was much more comfortable writing about music as a SOUND then I was even on the last review.

Here it is, in all its Barrettability:

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Alone in the clouds all blue
Lying on an eiderdown
Yippee! You can’t see me
But I can you
Lazing in the foggy dew
Sitting on a unicorn
No fair, you can’t hear me
But I can you
-Flaming

Since reviewing The Wall and especially Revolver was so fun, I’ve decided to go through the entire catalogues of my current two favorite bands. Since I’ve yet to become fully acquainted with either, this should be a fruitful exercise. So let’s talk about Syd Barrett.
Syd was a weird guy by any measure. His tastes resided in the realms of science fiction, fairy tales, and LSD. He headed Pink Floyd through their debut album before his deteriorating health led him to quit, embarking on a short-lived solo career. Though his leadership of the band was short, he got his money’s worth, making what many consider to be a psychedelic masterpiece: Piper at the Gates of Dawn. He penned all the songs except one, and those eclectic tastes I mentioned earlier informed all of them.
So is it good? Pretty much, yeah. I’m not quite as infatuated with it as a lot of people are, but as a piece of pure psychedelia, it’s amazing. This is definitely one of the weirdest albums you will ever listen to, though whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to your judgement.

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Posted in Music Reviews, Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd – More

OLD REVIEW DUMP #2: THE SQEAKUAL (4/7)

More continues to be unjustly overlooked. Not that I was expecting to impact the world or anything, but after really immersing myself in it and complimenting it to high heaven, I feel entitled to SOMEONE else gushing about it.

Anyway, the review is mediocre. I’ve got some good description and critique in here, but mostly it feels like I’m going through the motions. I had set up a very comfortable routine for myself (Complete with the cementing of the running “So let’s…” opening and “And that’s…” closing) and I wasn’t really putting in the effort to make my writing anything special. I’d like each of my reviews to stand out, but aside from it’s oddball subject this one blends into the background. Thankfully, this slog only lasted to Ummagumma before I tried to completely revitalize myself with Funeral. I can only hope I succeeded.

Here it is, in all its…um…moreness?

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In a churchyard by a river,
Lazing in the haze of midday,
Laughing in the grasses and the graze
Yellow bird, you are alone
In singing and in flying on,
In laughing and in leaving
Willow weeping in the water,
Waving to the river daughters,
Swaying in the ripples and the reeds
On a trip to Cirrus Minor,
Saw a crater in the sun
A thousand miles of moonlight later
-Cirrus Minor

Pink Floyd. Avant-garde French film no one has ever seen. Soundtrack. Sure, why not?
More is a nice, underrated, minor achievement for Floyd. In a time when the band had lost its front man and was struggling to find an identity, soundtracking a film turned out to be a surprisingly good idea. I have no information at all about the movie because I can’t be arsed to look up anything, but the album is extremely enjoyable on its own despite some glaring duds.
I think the thing that impresses me most about this album is just how different it sounds when compared to any other Pink Floyd album. The major styles here are folk rock songs, artsy instrumentals, and balls-out hard rock. That second one is something that Floyd would consistently return to, but the first and third are things you would never think to associate with them. Best of all, they pull off two of those things really well. So yeah, More isn’t a terribly important or revolutionary album, but it’s one that every Floyder should listen to at least once, if only to see the sheer range of these guys.

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Posted in Cosmic Masterpiece, Music Reviews, Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd – The Wall

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:

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So ya
Thought ya
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.

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