Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pink Floyd, Part 4

The Wall (1979)
Rating: 15
"Is there anybody in there?"
Best Song: Comfortably Numb
Worst Song: Is There Anybody Out There?

        Ughhhhhhhh.....where to start? This is THE WALL. Not just any wall, no. It's....THE WALL. It's sold 23 million copies. Everyone knows it. And as you can see, I consider it to be among the greatest albums ever recorded, which is rather contrary to modern critical opinion. Sure, it sold about a jillion copies and was loved greatly upon first release, but now it is generally considered to be the worst of Pink Floyd's "Big 4". (Well, I still think that the worst of the four is Animals, but to each his own.) I've gotta say....I disagree. I absolutely love this album. Sure, the 2nd disc is a bit messy, and there's a wee bit 'o filler, but This thing's mind-blowing.
        As I'm sure you're aware, The Wall is a rock opera. The ultimate rock opera, to be exact. I'm not sure that there's another album out there with this insanely good of a flow. Seriously, the flow's SO GOOD that it's essentially impossible for me to listen to any one song from this album and not want to listen to the whole thing. For example, the opener "In the Flesh?" ends up with this big wind up of synth noises that come crashing down, that give the impression that they're going to lead to some big, triumphant final note. However, instead of this big note, we get a random sound effect of a crying baby, which leads us into "The Thin Ice". That song then proceeds until the ending, which is the actual triumphant note that you expected to come at the end of the previous song. BRILLIANT!!!! (EDIT: I just realized inadvertently ripped that off from Mark Prindle. Oops.
        To further help the flow, we also have the repeating melody of "Another Brick in the Wall" that continues throughout the first disc. In yet another example, the opening lyrics of "Comfortably Numb" are "Is there anybody in there....Is there anybody home" which follow up the two previous songs "Is There Anybody Out There" and "Nobody Home", respectively. Isn't that cool?!?

        As far as the actual story's a bit of a mixed bag. For starters, the entire first disc's story is perfect. Absolutely perfect. Okaaaayyy, it's a bit random how Pink goes and becomes a rock star over the course of one song, with absolutely no explanation, but hey, I can deal with it. Now, as for the second disc.....ehhh. The entire first disc builds up the epic story of this guy's horrible life, right? And all of this leads to him holing up in a hotel room and building a wall between himself and the rest of the world.....for one night in a hotel. Then he gets forced to go to a concert by his manager. On the way there, he has a dream that his wall has turned himself into a he decides that he shouldn't build a he breaks it down. End of album. Woo freakin' Hoo. I mean, seriously, all of this build up for a one-night dream sequence??? I dunno, it just seems a bit....unimportant, that's all. But hey, the build up's absolutely fantastic, so if the ending's a bit disappointing, it's okay.

        And now we come to the actual music. Well, it's great. That's all there is to it. "Mother" has some great lyrics (wait a second, they ALL have great lyrics!), passionate singing from both Dave and Roger, AND a mind-blowing guitar solo that's even better than the one from the epic "Comfortably Numb" that you've probably heard about 1000 times. "Another Brick in the Wall" and all its reprises are great as well. Slightly more disappointing is "Run Like Hell", which starts off amazingly. Great riffing, a catchy drum beat -- hey, this is a good song! But then, Roger comes in with a vocal melody that's absolutely uncatchy in every possible way....on an album chock full of awesome melodies. Why does this otherwise awesome song get stuck with the worst melody of the album?!? Heck if I know. 
        A much better song is the simultaneously beautiful and ominous "Goodbye Blue Sky", which features a gorgeous acoustic guitar part AND a reference to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. (Roger must be a book fan, what with this, Animals, the "Run, rabbit, run" line in "Breathe (In the Air)", and the Lord of the Flies reference in "Run Like Hell") There's also the proto-industrial "Empty Spaces" and the moody, threatening "One of My Turns", both of which are great. 
        Most of the criticisms leveled at this album come from the supposed filler on Side 3. Umm....really? OK, "Is There Anybody Out There" is filler, no doubt about it, but at least it's only 2.5 minutes. And sure, "Vera" could be argued to be filler...but it's a minute and a half long. Sorry, but that's too short to be of any negative consequence. And heck, I like the silly, rousing "Bring the Boys Back Home", so that's fine. And that's....about it. So yeah, not much filler, if'n you ask me. Of course, "The Trial" is absolutely unintentionally hilarious and completely ineffective as a big, emotional album closer....but I like it, if only for the sheer surrealness and campiness of the thing.
        In short, you NEED this album. It's not quite as good as Dark Side of the Moon, but man, is it close. Absolutely essential.

A dark blue textured square, with one quarter of a poppy on the top left corner, and a selection of British medals along the bottom edge.
The Final Cut (1983)
Rating: 9 
"Should we shout? Should we scream?"
Best Song: The Post-War Dream
Worst Song: ???

       Lyrics, ladies and gentlemen. Oh, and "Not Now John". That's all this album has to offer you. And oh yeah, the first track's pretty good. 

       OK, I'm exaggerating it a little, but in all honesty, that's pretty much it. The lyrics, Roger's rants on war, are actually interesting, clever, and are overall quite good. But you can just print those out and read them, can't you?
       The music is basically nothing but the moody kind of stuff found on sides 2 and 3 of The Wall. You know, "Is There Anybody Out There", "One of My Turns", that kind of stuff. Sadly, though, none of these melodies, save for "The Post-War Dream", come close to something like "One of My Turns". But hey, none of the melodies are bad, it's just that none of them are memorable in the slightest.
       One extremely notable exception to this is the absolutely HILARIOUS Gilmour rocker, "Not Now John". It's completely out of place, David's singing is terrible the background singers are absolutely horrific (What happened to the days of "Time" and "Us and Them"?!?), and overall the piece is just a fantastic work in awfulness. I know I should hate it, but I kind of view it as a sort of song version of movies like The Room or North; you know, they're so bad they're quite entertaining. The band hasn't experienced this sort of phenomenon since the days of inadverdent laugh riots like "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk" and "Corporal Clegg"!
       So, in short, I'm not sure that I would recommend it very highly. I can't give it a low score since the lyrics are of such a high quality, and also the melodies are never really bad, just somewhat unmemorable. I really don't see myself wanting to relisten to it very often, though. Listen to it on YouTube, maybe, just so you can experience it, as it's overall a somewhat pleasant (albeit somewhat boring, as well) experience, but eh, it's not for me. Do a Google search for the lyrics if you really want to analyze them.

(Since I'm such a nice guy, here's a link to the whole thing on YouTube: The Final Cut -- Full Album. Again, you may love it and find Roger's ramblings to be the most emotional, heart-wrenching things you've ever heard, and in that case, feel free to buy it. But for me? I'll stick to Dark Side, thankya very much)

A multitude of hospital beds stretch into the distance, on an overcast beach.  A man sits on one bed, holding a broken stick.  A group of dogs can be seen lying on the sand, between the beach and the sea.  The sky is slightly purple.
A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)
Rating: 4
Best Song: Learning to Fly
Worst Song: EVERYTHING....err...Yet Another Movie / Round and Around

       And so we begin the "Roger's gone, and David's really god-awful" period. I dunno what happened, but for whatever reason, poor Dave seems to have lost all songwriting skill that he once had. He also seems to have an amazing fondness for "popular" circa-1987 production techniques, which as I'm sure you know, age excellently....(sarcasm). 
       This is one of those albums where if you listened to one track every day, you'd think "Eh, that's some pretty mediocre 80s rock crap" and move on. However, when one attempts to listen to this thing in one sitting, it becomes MORE than mediocre 80s rock crap. It becomes...terrible 80s rock crap. Oh yes.
       Let's see here..."The Dogs of War" is an awful attempt to blend a poor man' just regular 'ole poor. Like, a third world country, dying of hunger and malaria, covered in flies version poor. Anyways, an attempt to blend a REALLY poor man's "Welcome to the Machine" with a sort of..."Bad to the Bone"-esque bluesy shuffle. And it's even worse than that makes it sound. And the worst thing here is the endless bore of "Yet Another Movie / Round and Around", which does nothing slightly pleasant in all its nearly 8 minutes. 
       Of course, as you probably know, this album's sole piece of decency comes to us in the form of "Learning to Fly". It's not anything great, and it's definitely NOT a Floyd classic, but it is indeed decent, and that's some mighty high praise for this album. Heck, it might even be a classic if not for those irritating synth noises that pop up every so often. Those are EXTREMELY annoying. It's like if you took the synth solo from Brian Eno's "Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch" and placed it completely inappropriately into a completely serious song. Yup.
       Also decent is the Phil Manzanera-featuring "One Slip", which sounds like typical Phil Collins-y late 80s arena rock. Sure, the intro is PAINFULLY plagiaristic of "Time", which makes me want to smash something, but the song itself isn't bad...unlike everything else here. And since everything else is so bad, decent things like "One Slip" don't stand out AT ALL in this swirling sea of horrible mediocrity. Even the GOOD songs on this album sound bad in context!!!!
       Anything else? Well, "Sorrow" isn't very good, but I don't hate it as much as the other stuff, "Terminal Frost" has a decent piano line, "On the Turning Away" is pretty for about 30 seconds, and...that's the rest of the positive things I can say. "A New Machine" would be an easy frontrunner for worst track if it wasn't so short, "Signs of Life" is a dumb-sounding "SOYCD" rip-off, everything other than the piano line in "Terminal Frost" sucks, and...yes. It's very bad. Don't buy it. Maybe "Learning to Fly" and "One Slip" if you're particularly interested. Other than that...NO.

No comments:

Post a Comment