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Pink Floyd - The Wall CD (album) cover

THE WALL

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.05 | 2031 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
2 stars First an unapologetic confession: I've been avoiding "The Wall" for thirty years now, and for a lot of reasons, among them the absurd popularity of "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II", maybe the silliest Top-40 song cluttering the airwaves in 1979. Pink Floyd had apparently stumbled on the perfect recipe for a hit single at the time: bad grammar and a disco beat, in this case with trite anti-authority sentiments borrowed wholesale from Alice Cooper (remember "School's Out"?).

Yes, I understand the album is considered a masterpiece by listeners who didn't grow up with "Dark Side of the Moon", or who never risked exposure to the band's more subversive back catalogue (Ummagummawhat? Syd who?). I'm also equally aware of just how valuable a slice of musical and cultural history it is.

But in retrospect Pink Floyd's (more precisely, Roger Waters') magnum opus has a lot to answer for. Contrary to received opinion Punk Rock didn't kill Progressive music; it was lumbering behemoths like this fan favorite that delivered the final axe blow to Prog's swelling head and shrinking ideals. The album showed exactly how far the 14-Hour Technicolor Dream had devolved by the end of the 1970s, in this case into an artless misanthropic rant, expending a lot of time and energy on a very simple (and dubious) theme: that post-war British middle class society was a cruel and stifling environment for aspiring rock 'n' roll stars.

A crummy film adaptation didn't exactly recommend the album either. Heck, it was even dismissed by Roger Waters himself, and harshly. And I don't even need to critique the music itself (since I'm probably the only Proghead on planet Earth who, until yesterday, had never actually listened to the entire album from beginning to end), except to note the bombastic arena-rock clichés, and belatedly acknowledge the album's influence on an entire generation of Neo-Proggers. Not unlike the movie, the album was a triumph of empty cosmetic style, albeit thankfully lacking director Alan Parker's overwrought visual cues.

But enough ranting on a sore subject. I think what really riles me about the album is that it signaled the end of what had once been a tightly knit creative unit. In the time it took to conceive, write, and record all four sides of the original vinyl, the energy driving the 1977 "Animals" album had completely drained away from what was left of the rapidly disintegrating band. The music snob in me wants to respond by punishing it with a single dismissive star before having heard a single note of music, but I have to at least acknowledge Waters' conviction, and the singleminded care (bordering on obsession) he brought to the project. I also need to applaud graphic artist Gerald Scarfe for copying all those pages and pages of lyrics in his inimitable shorthand scrawl.

It seems to me that Roger Waters was guilty at the time of exactly what he would later accuse bandmate David Gilmour: exploiting the marquee value of the Pink Floyd name to market what really was a solo album. This had been a band that could never be dismissed as sell-outs. But, despite its obvious scope and ambition, that's exactly what "The Wall" represented.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |

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