Though it in no way endangers the meisterwerk musical status of Dark Side of the Moon (still on the charts nearly seven years after its release), Pink Floyd's twelfth album, The Wall, is the most startling rhetorical achievement in the group's singular, thirteen-year career. Stretching his talents over four sides, Floyd bassist Roger Waters, who wrote all the words and a majority of the music here, projects a dark, multilayered vision of post-World War II Western (and especially British) society so unremittingly dismal and acidulous that it makes contemporary gloom-mongers such as Randy Newman or, say, Nico seem like Peter Pan and Tinker Bell.
The Wall is a stunning synthesis of Waters' by now familiar thematic obsessions: the brutal misanthropy of Pink Floyd's last LP, Animals; Dark Side of the Moon's sour, middle-aged tristesse; the surprisingly shrewd perception that the music business is a microcosm of institutional oppression (Wish You Were Here); and the dread of impending psychoses that runs through all these recordsplus a strongly felt antiwar animus that dates way back to 1968's A Saucerful of Secrets. But where Animals, for instance, suffered from self-centered smugness, the even more abject The Wall leaps to life with a relentless lyrical rage that's clearly genuine and, in its painstaking particularity, ultimately horrifying.
Fashioned as a kind of circular maze (the last words on side four begin a sentence completed by the first words on side one), The Wall offers no exit except madness from a world malevolently bent on crippling its citizens at every level of endeavor. The processfor those of Waters' generation, at least begins at birth with the smothering distortions of mother love. Then there are some vaguely remembered upheavals from the wartime Blitz:
Did you ever wonder
Why we had to run for shelter
When the promise of a brave new world
Unfurled beneath a clear blue sky?
In government-run schools, children are methodically tormented and humiliated by teachers whose comeuppance occurs when they go home at night and "their fat and/Psychopathic wives would thrash them/Within inches of their lives."
As Roger Waters sees it, even the most glittering success later in lifein his case, international rock stardomis a mockery because of mortality. The halfhearted hope of interpersonal salvation that slightly brightened Animals is gone, too: women are viewed as inscrutable sexual punching bags, and men (their immediate oppressors in a grand scheme of oppression) are inevitably left alone to flail about in increasingly unbearable frustration. This wall of conditioning finally forms a prison. And its pitiful inmate, by now practically catatonic, submits to "The Trial"a bizarre musical cataclysm out of Gilbert and Sullivan via Brecht and Weill in which all of his past tormentors converge for the long-awaited kill.
This is very tough stuff, and hardly the hallmark of a hit album. Whether or not The Wall succeeds commercially will probably depend on its musical virtues, of which there are many. Longtime Pink Floyd fans will find the requisite number of bone-crushing riffs and Saturn-bound guitar screams ("In the Flesh"), along with one of the loveliest ballads the band has ever recorded ("Comfortably Numb "). And the singing throughout isat lasttruly firstrate, clear, impassioned. Listen to the vocals in the frightening "One of My Turns," in which the deranged rock-star narrator, his shattered synapses misfiring like wet firecrackers, screams at his groupie companion: "Would you like to learn to fly?/Would you like to see me try?"
Problems do arise, however. While The Wall's length is certainly justified by the breadth of its thematic concerns, the music is stretched a bit thin. Heavy-metal maestro Bob Ezrin, brought in to coproduce with Roger, Waters and guitarist David Gilmour, adds a certain hard-rock consciousness to a few cuts (especially the nearfunky "Young Lust") but has generally been unable to match the high sonic gloss that engineer Alan Parsons contributed to Dark Side of the Moon. Even Floydstarved devotees may not be sucked into The Wall's relatively flat aural ambiance on first hearing. But when they finally areand then get a good look at that forbidding lyrical landscape they may wonder which way is out real fast. (RS 310)
(Posted: Feb 7, 1980)
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Review 1 of 3
2 of 8 found this comment useful ( 25% )
THE WALL.THE WALL SEPERATING BERLIN FROM EAST AND WEST WHO WOULD HAVE KNOWN PINK WOULD MAKE A ALBUM ABOUT THAT?THE MOVIE REALLY INTERPRETED THE WHOLE CD IN MY VIEWS.AFTER WATCHING THE MOVIE I COULD THEN UNDERSTAND THE CD MUCH BETTER THE WALL TOPS ALL PINK FLOYD HITS TO DATE AND PROBABLY WILL BE FOR THE REST OF THE BANDS HISTORY.AFTER THE WALL THEY TRIED TO MAKE MANY CDS BETTER THAN IT BUT ULTIMATELY FAILED.THE SECOND PART TO THE WALL IS CALLED THE DIVISION BELL WITCH WAS PLATNIUM BUT DEFINITELY NOT GOOD.AND TO CALL THIS ALBUM ROCK IS NOT REALLY WHAT THE MUSIC FORMAT IS IT TO ME IS SOMETHING ELSE THAT IS NOT ROCK.WHEN EVER I LISTEN TO PINK OR HEAR A BAND LIKE THEM I JUST CALL THE MUSIC PINK FLOYD MUSIC BECAUSE WE HAVE ALL HEARD MANY 70'S AND 80'S ROCK SONGS AND IT IS NOTHING LIKE THIS.IF ANYTHING IT IS MORE PROGRESSIVE ROCK IF YOU CALL IT ROCK BUT OVER ALL IT IS A GREAT SO I GAVE IT A FIVE.
Nov 6, 2006 16:46:39
Review 2 of 3
1 of 2 found this comment useful ( 50% )
I think that this album is the best of Pink Floyd's. I also found the movie quite good and I think there are so menny subliminal aspect thet even Pink Floyd can't tell you all of them.
Oct 30, 2006 09:47:58
Review 3 of 3
10 of 12 found this comment useful ( 83% )
By far the best album from Pink Floyd. No other album (period, from ANYONE) encapsulates the extraordinary wisdom found within. Someone said something about this album being a bit "whiny". That is akin to saying that some parts of a movie were a bit sad....this album is a whole visualization, the likes of which you will never understand. I especially love the connotation's to WWII and fascism in general. No one will ever top this album. If I could only choose one album, this would be it!
May 4, 2006 12:11:00