also by Pink Floyd:
At the close of the 1970s double rock-opera concept albums were the height of uncool, so it was interesting how gigantically successful "The Wall" was. Oblivious to the punk bandwagon, Roger Waters constructed a monumental piece of theatre, based around the decline of a rock star named "Pink Floyd". After various personal demons and worldly strains combine to screw him up, Pink retreats behind his "wall" into an inner psychological world. The show was taken on a lavish world tour, and later made into a film by Alan Parker and starring Bob Geldof.
It's largely comprehensible listened to on its own, but I think after seeing the movie, I'll always maintain that pictures are really needed to flesh out the story properly. For example the phone scene where Pink finds out his wife is sleeping with another man, followed immediately by Pink smashing up his hotel room in front of a frightened groupie, is a little too disjointed and confused in the album. Of course there will always be purists who disagree, but if you love the album then the film is indispensable.
The music here was much stronger than its hit-and-miss predecessor "Animals". For the first time, instead of stretched-out instrumentals, they concentrate solely on lots of lyric-focused short tracks, so the narrative proceeds at a fast pace. The only point where it gets bogged down to me is the "fascist" section, around "Waiting for the Worms", but this is arguably suitable while we're in the depths of Pink's fantasy. Roger's lyrics are often backed barely with just a piano or delicate orchestral hum, and his tunes are, by and large, decent.
But notably it's the songs with a writing credit to both David Gilmour and Waters which have the most lasting permanence, although that view may be coloured by the later Roger-free incarnation of the band's choice of live material. The stand-out track "Comfortably Numb" is perhaps the perfect fusion of the personalities of the warring band leaders. Roger's nasal voice plays the doctor prodding at the tormented Pink, while Dave's breathy tones relate the rock star floating into drugged mellowness. All topped off by one of Gilmour's most celebrated guitar solos. The reflective "Hey You", the cock-rock pastiche "Young Lust" and the perpetual-motion illustration of paranoia "Run Like Hell" are also colourful gems.
The forgotten contributor to much of The Wall's success was producer Bob Ezrin, who polished Roger's songwriting up with a slick, relatively commercial sound. "In the Flesh" is a deliberate pastiche of pudgy stadium rock, supposedly played by Pink's band, and sung by Bob Geldof in the film. Then there's the famous single "Another Brick in the Wall part 2" - they might have ignored the punks of the late 70s, but they certainly noticed disco! It's not exactly the Bee Gees, but it's got that funky bassline. Most distinctively there are orchestral arrangements by the dozen, by Ezrin and Michael Kamen. These are largely subtle and non-bloated, until the end, when the orchestral pudginess explodes in ham on "The Trial". Here characters from Pink's life come to testify to his nuttiness, memorably illustrated in the movie by Gerald Scarfe's creepy caricatures. This number is often spuriously compared to Gilbert and Sullivan, but it's more like a twisted stew of Lloyd-Webber, Queen and B-movie soundtrack.
After 90 minutes of memorable musical theatre, the futile ending leaves you empty and gloomy, as you're still "banging your head against some mad bugger's wall". But on the more worldly follow-up "The Final Cut" Roger would leave us with an even more depressing and futile conclusion.
July 6, 2004