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The Wall - Pink Floyd
Member Name: Renza_e
The Wall - Pink Floyd
Date: 21/09/11, updated on 21/09/11 (62 review reads)
Advantages: Some of the best rock songs of all time, cracking lyrics, great musicianship.
Disadvantages: Don't recommend if you're feeling a bit depressed.
This album was the first Pink Floyd album that I ever listened to. I was enamoured with it for weeks but soon moved on from this album to explore their earlier works, including some of their more abstract and experimental albums. However, I always returned to 'The Wall'.
Undeniably, most Floyd fans will sing praises of the 'Dark Side of the Moon' and understandably so - it was an album which raised their standing from a group of talented experimentalist musicians to Mozarts of the rock world. The album's success was stratospheric and it has been included in top 10 album lists since.
Nevertheless, 'The Wall' will always be my favourite Pink Floyd album. It certainly is the most accessible of all their albums, quite a departure from their lengthier experimental music. However, I don't love it because it is more accessible. I love it because the way in which the story and melodies are weaved throughout the whole album. Each song, telling part of the story, is iconic and memorable in its own way. Even without the film or a stadium show, it is an album which resonates on a theatrical level through the music alone.
'The Wall' is the rock opera of all rock operas. It tells the story of a character 'Pink' (loosely based upon bassist/vocalist Roger Waters) and his progression through a difficult childhood with abusive teachers, an absent father (killed in WW2), an overprotective mother and the latter breakdown of his marriage. He experiences an adulthood troubled by his past, by insanity and by drug abuse (surely references to past band member Syd Barrett?). Unable to deal with his life's troubles, Pink begins to build up a metaphorical wall, isolating himself from society and the world around him.
Musically, the album is an absolute delight. The opening track, 'In the Flesh?' is possibly one of my most favourite rock tracks of all time. I will never forget seeing Roger Waters perform this live in May this year. This song features a powerful and explosive guitar part that never fails to move me. Seen live, it made my hair stand on end and gave me goosebumps. The track itself introduces the narration of Pink, an individual who has begun to create a divide between him and the world. Pink assumes the persona of a fascist dictator and the audience participate in a twisted political rally. It is a song that builds up to a furious climax with the sound of a dive bomber followed by a baby's cries. This is reference to the death of Pink's father during the war, followed by Pink's birth soon after. It introduces one of the many difficult influences upon his life.
Every track on this album is memorable in its own way and integral to telling each part of Pink's story. Amongst the tracks, is the iconic 'Another Brick in the Wall Part 2' - unforgettable with its distinct disco beat, bass line, guitar sound and children's choir. It is an empowering song even if you feel no real reason to be empowered. A protest song with a rebellious spirit, the lyrics surely resonate with an older generation, when (as my dad has told me) teachers were more inclined to be unkind and corporal punishment was a popular form of discipline.
'Another Brick in the Wall' is a powerful song because it is all about standing up to the status quo. Upon its release, this was recognized by Non White protestors in South Africa who adopted it as the anthem of their nationwide school boycott which resulted in the ban of the song by the South African government.
Another iconic song on the album is 'Comfortably Numb', featuring the soothing vocals and amazing guitar solos of David Gilmour. This is a song which revolves around the idea that Pink is losing a battle and is continuing to shut himself off completely from the world around him. This song is firm favourite of many Pink Floyd fans. Just as Pink loses himself, it's easy to lose yourself listening to this song...
The next two songs which I am going to mention are personal favourites of mine. The first is 'Run like hell'. Following the reprise of 'In the Flesh', Pink has struck up the audience into such a frenzy they have grown into a furious mob. During the 'In the Flesh' tour of 1977 Roger Waters developed an animosity towards the crowds at their gigs and began to feel a sense of alienation towards those around them. An altercation with an audience member provoked him to spit on them and a bit of scandal surrounded this incident. As a result, Waters expressed a desire for an imaginary wall to be erected between the fans and the band so that they could enjoy their music without actually interacting with each other. It was through this idea of an imaginary wall that the concept of the album 'The Wall' was born.
I view the songs 'In the Flesh' and 'Run like Hell' as a sort of derisive commentary about mindless worship that can occur amongst crowds, such as at rock concerts. These fans are caught up in a frenzy, portraying an unnerving, almost violent, adoration of the band. This mindless adoration is one that resembles the relationship between a fascist dictator and his loyal followers. Within Pink's fascist dictatorship, there is discrimination but it is not discrimination against race but discrimination against feeling, against emotions. Putting on his 'favourite disguise' and keeping his 'dirty feelings deep inside' Pink sets out to purge himself of all the emotions which have caused him trouble throughout his life.
The other song which I love on the album is 'The Trial'. I love it because it is like a piece of musical theatre, a genre of music I am passionate about. The song has a fabulous orchestral backing which is complemented by the introduction of Gilmour's appropriately menacing guitar part someway into the track. This has further confirmed my view that rock guitarists and orchestras need to play together more often.
Within the plot of the whole album, this song is the climax of the story, when Pink is at a breaking point psychologically and has built up the wall all around him. In his own mind, he hears the perspectives of a judge, his schoolmaster, his wife, his mother and of himself. Voiced rather interestingly by Roger Waters in various British dialects, each character represents certain influences upon his life that have caused him to build his mental barrier between those around them. In the end, Pink is forced to face the idea that is the guilty one, driven mad but accountable for the mess he has made of his own life and the negative affect he has had upon others. Facing his own guilt, the judge, a figment of his own imagination, tears down his metaphorical wall and he is left exposed to society in his weakened crazed form.
All in all, 'The Wall' is an epic 26 track masterpiece and there is not one track on there that I have a bad word to say about. It is certainly not the cheeriest of albums, melancholy all throughout and dealing with dark issues including mental illness, alienation, broken marriages and drug abuse. I would suggest that if you are easily depressed, don't sit yourself down to listen to 'The Wall'. Go listen to Reel Big Fish or the Beach Boys or something. In this album Pink is constantly facing his demons. His wall may very well have been destroyed towards the end of the album but rather than stand up to and overcome his problems, he sinks into a deeper, darker pit of despair. By 'Goodbye Cruel World' he seems to have wished farewell to society entirely. This is a rather depressing conclusion to such a dynamic album. Nevertheless, I still find the album to be strangely uplifting. This is no doubt due to the power of the music and the themes that run throughout it. Furthermore, whilst it is an album with great depth and thought-provoking lyrics, ignoring all of this it still is essentially a fantastic album with some of the greatest rock tracks of all time. You have tracks like 'In the Flesh' which has one of the most gripping and inspiring guitar parts I have heard and 'Another Brick in the Wall', with its distinct lyrics and musical backing which, undeniably, makes it one of the best rock songs of all time.
Excellent musicianship and thought-provoking lyrics combined, I consider 'The Wall' to be one of the most outstanding and influential albums of the 20th century.
*~Thank you very much for reading my review :-)~*
*~Also published on Ciao under 'Renza' - September 2011~*
Summary: Great album to listen to, even better when you hear it in the flesh!