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Roger Waters - Amused To Death CD (album) cover

AMUSED TO DEATH

Roger Waters

 

Crossover Prog

3.94 | 302 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I approached this album with a bad attitude some weeks ago. It had only been a few months since I'd first dragged my ears through the messy, confusing swamp that was Pink Floyd's "The Final Cut" which could reasonably be considered Roger Waters' first solo effort. So, not knowing anything about the two "official" all-by-his-lonesome records that preceded this one, I braced myself for disappointment. But I was pleasantly surprised by what I encountered. It's a fine album. Way above average. "Amused to Death" is as impressive as "The Wall" in many ways and I dare say that any Floyd fanatic will approve of what Roger put together. I expected that he would most likely still be the caustic curmudgeon mad genius he's always been lyric-wise but the quality of the music is on a par with the best of his peers. I suspect that Waters was being influenced to some degree by one of my favorites, Peter Gabriel, at the time he composed the material because I detect hints of his fellow Englishman's world beat style popping up often and it enhances the quality of the presentation greatly.

As you may or may not know, how the blatant obscenity of warfare had somehow become yet another form of in-the-comfort-of-one's-own-home entertainment for the masses (with the live telecasts of the Gulf War being the central culprit) is the main topic of discussion throughout the record. In other words, man's inhumanity to man is right up Roger's alley and he unloads line after line of outrage about it from beginning to end. Of course, his poetic tirade didn't stop as-it-happens battlefront coverage from gaining even more widespread acceptance in the 21st century but it did provide him with plenty of inspiration to create a damn good album. Released on 9/7/92, only a year and a half after Desert Storm ended, the conflict was still fresh in everyone's minds and its relevancy helped the disc to not only rack up some decent sales figures but to bring Waters out of the semi-obscure realm he'd existed in since leaving his famous former band.

"The Ballad of Bill Hubbard" raises the curtain with a mysterious, Pink Floyd-like motif creeping in, complete with indecipherable chatter afloat in the background. The tune evolves by pouring itself into an ocean of Patrick Leonard's deep synths buoyed by Jeff Beck's noodling guitar before a light rhythm emerges to guide the music beneath an old bloke's relating of his tragic story about having to leave a wounded fellow soldier behind. If Waters had stayed in that melancholy mode it would've been a major mistake but rude synthetic rips abruptly tear the listener away into an atmospheric setting for "What God Wants, Pt. 1" with a strident female vocal leading the charge. Then drums burst in to provide a strong downbeat for Roger to wail atop but it's the subsequent stunning, provocative guitar work from Beck that elevates the number to the level of greatness. It was at this point I realized that the album had serious potential. After another alarming rip "Perfect Sense, Pt. 1" begins with a subtle pulse, some scattered voices and ominous thunder. Patrick's delicate piano floats in and serves up a delicious musical entrée consisting of a serene melody that fully sates the mind and glides under Waters' and his female companion's singing of politically-infused observations. The two factors present a poignant contrast of the beautiful with the horrid. "Perfect Sense, Pt. 2" follows, dropping down to only Roger and a piano for a while and then sliding into a gospel-tinged aura where he admixes Marv Albert's excited sportscaster-describing-a-fierce-battle spiel with more of his acidic social commentary. "The Bravery of Being Out of Range" is next and it's a doozy. Its slow but heavy-handed drumbeat opens this one up behind penetrating power chords and a growling Hammond B3 organ to provide a sturdy foundation for Waters' sarcastic warbling about the insane absurdities of war.

Little birdies chirp merrily along with an acoustic guitar on "Late Home Tonight, Pt. 1," accompanied by strings and Roger's naked vocal. It eventually builds to include syrupy, elevator-worthy orchestration as he describes scenes of bloodshed and waste. The song suddenly turns tribal and then a loud explosion rattles the room as he segues into "Late Home Tonight, Pt. 2" that features a cosmic drift segment and a nostalgic-sounding horn section. On "Too Much Rope" unidentified angry punching noises precede the entrance of a bluesy Rhodes piano. In this tune Waters fronts a hearty chorale of singers to deliver another round of his frustration and angst. At this point his endless ire starts to get tiresome but the welcome addition of Steve Lukather's stinging guitar licks saves the number in the nick of time. It fades to the sound of a television doing its thing in the distance. "What God Wants, Pt. 2" is a revival of the song's funky vibe and fist-waving theme boosted by another dose of what I'd call "electronically manufactured crowd chants" that are very effective not only here but in other instances where it's employed as a backdrop. Again the music fades down, this time to crickets and a lonesome train's horn. A droning organ arises for the intro to "What God Wants, Pt. 3" wherein Roger's impassioned, strained vocal screams over Leonard's ethereal blanket of synthesizers. The tune then cops a heavy Floyd-ish presence for Jeff Beck to fill with his amazing guitar runs. Subsequently a phone rings loudly and an old man happily sings a barroom ditty from the other end of the line.

But it's the last four songs that made the biggest impact on me. I could be wrong but I suspect that they were formulated prior to or after the rest of the album was assembled because they can easily stand on their own merit outside the context. "Watching TV" starts the way you'd think it would but then a folksy acoustic guitar and a lilting vocal melody distinguishes this track from all that's come before. It's a delightfully satiric look at China's Tiananmen Square rebellion filtered through the tragic death of a young lady and it works from all angles. "Three Wishes" possesses a low key groove that lurks under Waters' breathy voice. It benefits from an intriguing arrangement and a glorious guitar ride from Jeff. "It's a Miracle" utilizes a lazy tempo to efficiently paint the tune with sad tones that surround Roger's mournful, softly biting lament. It meanders a little in the last movement but it wisely avoids becoming maudlin. "Amused to Death" is the closer. A plucked guitar pattern establishes the smooth-sailing mood that rolls alongside Waters' typically droll delivery before it grows larger and more intense in the middle. The old bloke from the first song reenters the stage in its last act and finishes telling his sentimental tale, bringing a sense of closure to the record. Crickets ensue.

One of the other reviewers said that if Roger had included his Pink Floyd mates in the construction of this concept album it may've been a spectacular masterpiece. He may be right but we'll never know because, like bratty spoiled children, they couldn't play together without fighting at that juncture and had to stay in their rooms. Nonetheless, it's apparent that Waters spent a lot of time and energy in creating this disc and his hard work paid many dividends. The overall sound of the record is astounding and the performances of those who contributed their talents to this undertaking, Jeff Beck in particular, are top notch. It's an album that Roger can be proud of and that all Pink Floyd fans can feel confident in purchasing if they haven't already. 3.9 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |

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