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Pink Floyd - The Wall CD (album) cover

THE WALL

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.05 | 2053 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
4 stars (Another Brick in the Wall Part 4.5)

I had long celebrated The Wall as the greatest Pink Floyd album, an erroneous statement on my part. Not that it's not the greatest; oh, it is. Dark Side of the Moon? HA! There's not a single "Pink Floyd" album that can really hold up, as a whole, to either of the first two "Pink Waters" albums, this one in particular. See, my problem was that I didn't actually own it. I'd just seen the movie. The soundtrack kicked ass of course, but the album cost over thirty bucks! Stupid Pink Floyd; had to be a popular band AND release a double album. So, more than an examination of the music or philosophy of the album, this review should be read as a guarantee that your thirty plus bucks...were well spent. Let's go.

The best song might just be the ferocious album opener "In the Flesh." That cold riff, girded by blocky organ chords and powerhouse drumming might seem like a perfect combination for a genericky classic metal number, but, so what? It's totally un- Floyd. It's awesome! This is one of Pink Floyd's best, most honest hard rock efforts. Besides, it was supposed to be played by the "support band," right?

"The Thin Ice" has awfully familiar lyrics. Where have I heard that before? Skating away on the thin ice of something? Oh well. It's actually a kinda cool number. "Another Brick in the Wall Part 1" has eerie soloing, chilling vocals, and a real nice bassline.

"The Happiest Days of our Lives," aside from some fantastic lyrics (I dare you not to love the line "fat and psychopathic wives") provides a fairly driving and funky opening to "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2." Which is, of course, the "we don't need no education" song. I used to hate it, 'cause it got played on the radio so much, but in the context of the album, it's actually pretty good.

"Mother" is a nice ballad that takes a turn for the electric. Creepy lyrics though. Which is, I guess, the point. I love those final lines, "Mother did it have to be so high?" "Goodbye Blue Sky" is a ballad with a pretty chorus. It always SEEMS like it's ready to go over the top, but it never does. Atmospheric "Empty Spaces" is just plain creepy; I'm aware of the lighthearted purpose behind the backwards noises, but to hear 'em blasted through your headphones? Scary man. "Young Lust" is a fairly pointless song, but it's angry enough to slip by without any damage.

"One of My Turns" starts out with a sad little melody, depressing lyrics, but then it absolutely slams you against the wall (excuse the joke) with those violent vocals. Nice guitar work at the end too; once was my favorite song on the album. This morphs into "Don't Leave Me Now." Now, I used to HATE that one, what with Roger singing purposefully off key, until I listened the lyrics. That's gotta be one of the most sincere expressions of love (or NEED) that I've heard this side of Peter Gabriel's Us. Cool ascending guitarline at the end too.

"Another Brick in the Wall Part 3" has since become my favorite part of the trilogy. It lacks the atmospheric values of "Part 1" and the melodic values of "Part 2," but it's just angry, so...final. In fact, I'm surprised that we close the album with "Goodbye Cruel World," a bit of that's too short to really do anything.

The second half of the opera opens with the hopeful, desperate "Hey You," which contains perhaps the most gorgeous moment on the album in the form of that descending chorus, as well as a good solo and a reprise of our favorite riff (nice nods, melodically and lyrically, to Animals sealed in there too). It actually holds a decent shot for best song on the album.

Unfortunately, we hit a bit of a slump from which we cannot rise until...well, you should have a pretty good idea by now. "Is There Anybody Out There?" is certainly less creepy than "Empty Spaces" (cool acoustics though). The best aspect of piano ballad "Nobody Home" is that weird intro with Roger shouting at someone to shut up. The tune is okay, but Mother does it have to be so long? Or maybe it just seems long because "Vera" is essentially the same thing. Okay, tune, almost pretty, but not very effective. "Bring the Boys Back home" is also an almost good tune, but underdeveloped. Or perhaps it's TOO developed; the brass band is a bit bombastic even for me. Not to mention it sounds totally out of place in the album. Was Rog so angry he HAD to insert a blatant anti-war song on its head right here? ...Yeah probably. Cool enough though.

Now what's all this rot about "Comfortably Numb?" I can't see why THIS is the song that everyone remembers. It's not like it's evil or anything; the tune is, like most of the stuff at this point, decent enough. But the soloing is utterly forgettable (the first one is okay, but the second? Ugh. I find what's going on underneath the solo far more captivating). It's not heavy enough to be a power ballad, so I guess it's...soft rock? Don't you like your Dave angry? I know I do. Gimme "One of My Turns" anytime.

"The Show Must Go On" has some weird, Queen-like vocal harmonies...told you this was the least Floyd Floyd album...but it's just a precursor to "In the Flesh." Yeah. That one again. It still kicks ass. Really evil lyrics here; probably my favorite Nazi rocker of all time. Can't sing THESE as you waltz down the street like your precious Dark Side material, can ya?

"Run Like Hell" is the final Gilmour contribution. And, actually, it's probably the best, a driving, effective rocker (the lyrics are pure Waters though). But I still prefer "Waiting for the Worms," a march-like anthem of fascism. It's a smooth collection of some of our favorite themes, and Roger's encoded howl parallels Dave's smarmy intonations perfectly. Not to mention that it spills perfectly into "Stop," a desperate little number that, in turn, spills perfectly into "The Trial."

"The Trial" is just as bombastic as "Bring the Boys Back Home," however, it fits perfectly into the opera. It's got this back and forth verse alternating with the floaty chorus perfectly. And, at the end, where it gets all metallic? Awesome. Of course, the Wall must come down, and "Outside the Wall" is a fantastic ending, totally countering the bloated "Trial" with its simple, pretty, accordion/mandolin (?) based medley, as well as countering the entire plot as we've (thought) we've known it.

In fact, that's what makes this Wall thing so great, perhaps the most important record to ever come out of the progressive movement. At least, considering that a classic band, at the end of the era, when everyone else was either selling out or releasing a low key, sorta okay, progressive product, the fact that Waters pulled through with such an artistic statement AND sold it has got to mean something. And the other wanted him dead. Fools.

Okay, I know it's very personal, but it's still intelligent: the fact that the meaning of the thing is turned on its head by those last two tracks, and that it starts back up again, has got to make you rethink at least a couple of things. Like, where are we when start? Is the wall up or down or what? And what about "Hey You?" Is that being told from the inside, the outside, or...both?

Oh well, it's hardly my (or anyone else's really) place to tell you what the Wall is about. No one really knows anyway, not even ole cold, calculatin' Mr. Waters (he admits that he's still not sure what happens at the end). That's actually a bit of a dent in the artistic integrity. Hmm...maybe that Roger dude ain't so clever after all. I mean, the plot does sound somewhat familiar...kid, pilot dad dies in the war, raised by an involving yet distant mother, gains celebrity, launches global campaign, is turned on by followers, everything ends badly. Now, Who did that before? Can you hear me? Actually, I prefer to think of the Wall less as Tommy's evil clone, and more of its dark anti-thesis (Tommy dealt with pseudo-religious fantasy, The Wall is about the horror of insanity (NOT a descent though; Pink was always nuts. If you think it's a descent, you've missed the point of the opera)). Either way, it's a hell of a ride.

In fact, barring that slump towards the start of the second record, it's a really stable piece. A bunch of repeated themes to be sure, but it's an opera! Get over it. Besides, the whole thing flows like a well oiled machine: the melodies, the lyrics, the sound effects, everything. That first record is probably one of the most perfect albums in prog (and has less than a half of a Gilmour song! HA!). Very Thick as a Brick that.

Oddly enough, the best musician on this album is...Nick Mason. He really drums his guts out here. Uh, in a relative way (Nick Mason drumming his guts out just means that they get all over the kit, as opposed to Bruford, who'd get 'em all over the studio). Suffice to say that the last time I was ever this AWARE of Nick was on "One of These Days;" a single song.

Everyone else? Well, ole Dave serves out some his usual bag of guitar chops, but I'm more impressed with the intense riffage than the soloing. Roger gives himself some solid enough bass parts, but his strength is the vocals; what? Was he trying to outdo Peter Gabriel or something? The lyrics are not quite as good as those on Animals, but still, some real choice material ("One of My Turns," "Hey You").

What places this farthest from all other Floyd albums is Rick Wright; the synths are toned way down, there are no keyboard solos to speak of ("Run Like Hell," and...that's it?), and Rick sticks to piano and organ. Any synth effects are used for atmosphere, and most of the atmosphere is handed off to the sound effects anyway. I'm not complaining though; Rick was never a Wakeman at the keys, so a restrained performance from him takes on very noble connotations.

Obviously, The Wall is almost endlessly debatable (I didn't even question when the reality ends and the fantasy begins)...assuming that the "debate" never settles into the comfortably numb world of name calling (I think Pink's wife was innocent." "Yeah? Well, I think you're a stupidhead!" Hey, this'll be fun! Let's check in on 'em later). However, I do feel I can answer the question I posed at the start of the review. YES, this album is worth your thirty-five dollars and ninety-nine cents. Besides, I had a thirty percent discount...

The Whistler | 4/5 |

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