The Wall

Pink Floyd

Columbia Records, 1979

http://www.pinkfloyd.com

REVIEW BY: Gordon T. Gekko

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/22/1998

Everyone knows of Pink Floyd's 1979 epic The Wall. It is one of the ten top-selling albums of all times, and three years after its release, was turned into an Oscar-nominated feature film. But the single thing most people think of is the dynamic single, "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)," which hit number one in the Billboard charts for several weeks in 1980.

The album brought the term "concept album" to new heights. The idea of a rock album telling a story was nothing new at the time. From Tommy to Hotel California, concept albums had been around for at least a decade. The approach here, however, was radically different in that the songs were coupled with extensive spoken dialogue, and many complex sound effects, in order to enhance the "theater of the mind" concept.

As for the story itself, here is a brief synopsis. Pink is an over-toured, borderline-psychopath rock star. He had a torturous childhood, with his father dying in World War II, his mother being extremely overprotective, and his teachers verbally assaulting him in class every day. He became a sexual-compulsive as an adolescent, and finally hit it big. Now his wife is having an affair, which doesn't account for the numerous ones he has had through the years. He is trapped by his own resentment, and scared of his surroundings.

This is basically the story behind the first disc of the album. Each aspect of the story is told through some very well written songs, and barely audible dialogue. Everyone knows of the massive-hit single, which, for AOR purposes, is usually coupled with "The Happiest Days of Our Lives". Another FM staple from the first disc is "Young Lust," a silly, dirty song, with an adventurous catchy beat.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Pink is really in danger of losing it. He is depressed, and isolated, before going, pardon the term, completely wacko. The most simple solution is to give Mr. Floyd some uppers, which stabilize him, but eventually make him extremely paranoid. He becomes a racist, homophobic, uptight jerk, endangering himself and others, and I don't think Waters had ever even heard of Pat Robinson. He catches himself again, laments death for a while, and eventually becomes his normal, happy self once more, even if he is a little disillusioned.

This may seem outlandish and manipulative, but this just may be how many rock stars feel. The masses can never explain the actions of the musically elite. There is some great music on this disc, however, the most popular tracks being "Run Like Hell," and "Comfortably Numb."

Many fans of the band truly dislike this album. They think it signaled the beginning of the end for Waters-era Floyd. They make a good case, but the album itself is spectacular. It was, however, the first time Floyd wasn't striking new ground thematically. They had already spoken extensively of madness (Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here), World War II (Animals, The Final Cut), and drugs (pick an album), and the travails of being a rock star (ditto). They were, however, assimilating it into a aural plethora of all these things rolled into one.

The album is by no means flawless, however, and the voiceovers, (by John Cleese and Toni Tennille, to name a few), may be entertaining the first couple of listens, but are essentially annoying. Also, for a band with generally stellar instrumental tracks, the arrangements here are generally repetitive.

In general, The Wall is a great album at times, and a tepid one at others. It contains some great songs, and some that I guarantee you will skip after the third or fourth listen. In essence this is Pink Floyd as they had never sounded before, and would never sound again. The album encompasses several narrative voices, none of which are familiar. The album is in no way comparable in itself to any other Floyd albums. It's still a great album. It just makes you ask yourself in the long run: "By the way, which one's Pink?"

Yes, it's a silly statement, and, yes, I realize that The Final Cut was not released until 1983, but sometimes the points made by music reviewers must suffer in fact in order to come across. This is a great album which you probably already have, and if you don't, it's definitely worth checking out.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B


Comments

When you're a young teenager, The Wall seems so deep. All of Pink Floyd's Roger-era material does, actually. But whereas the Orwellian Animals and the existentialism of DSOTM still present plenty of food for thought regardless of age, The Wall just seems self-indulgent and rambling now that I'm a bit older.

The basic plot centers around the trials and tribulations of Pink, an egocentric rock star who suffers a cruel childhood and even crueler adulthood. He suppresses his overwhelming depression first with drugs, then with a psychological "wall" he builds to keep the entire world at bay. The album concludes with Pink tearing down the wall and making a return to lucidity.

Some could argue the story of The Wall is largely an autobiographical account of Waters' own life, with a pinch of Syd Barrett's mental illness sprinkled on top for dramatic effect.

Much like the Who's Tommy, the story becomes less and less compelling as the years go by. I suppose the reason for this lays in the fact that Pink's story is far less relatable to the average Joe than are the more universal themes of Floyd's earlier albums.

Wish You Were Here, PF's 1975 tribute to former leader Syd Barrett, is a far better commentary on the contortions that stardom can perform on the human mind and the madness that can result from it. The Wall and WYWH share that same basic concept - the difference lays in that WYWH actually evokes in the listener's heart the pity for the subject that Roger Waters is so desperately vying to foster for himself on The Wall.

It is deservedly a classic, but Waters' pathetic self-loathing permeates every layer of this expansive double-album set. WYWH carries the exact same message, but in a more direct, authentic light.








© 1998 Gordon T. Gekko and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.