Review Summary: Pink Floyd's magnum opus, this sadly marks the ending of the bands golden era. Luckily, they go out with a bang.
There are few albums that I can really describe as a masterpiece IE: something so perfect and beautiful in every way that it is not possible to duplicate or copy. Pink Floyd's The Wall is the only album that I have ever heard that could truly be considered a musical masterpiece. There have been many reviews of this album, but I want to shed my own personal light on how epic and astounding this album really is.
Pink Floyd is:
Roger Waters: Vocals, bass, concept
David Gilmour: Guitar, vocals
Richard Wright: Piano, organ, synths
Nick Mason: Drums
'The Wall', as you probably know, is what is known as a rock opera. It has it's own storyline and plot, which is progressed through the music. The storyline here revolves around a character named Pink, who has reached his pinnacle of fame through being a rock star. This fame, however, begins to wear away at his already damaged soul, and he resurrects past memories of his broken childhood, and realized how worthless his life really is. His anguish and depression grows and grows until he becomes and entirely different person. This alter ego, unlike Pink, is evil and Hitler-like, gathering an army of followers to stamp out minorities. The whole album ends with Pink being judged in his mind and eventually, supposedly comitting suicide. 'The Wall' is a mental block that Pink puts around his mind, blotting out the real world around him, and trapping him within his own twisted brain.
This dark, sinister plot is carried through by dark, depressing lyrics. This is not a setback whatsoever, as the brilliant lyrics help convey the dark concept that the album revolves around. Historical references are used, often involving World War II. 'Goodbye Blue Sky' displays Pink's childhood memories of watching as his home country of England is bombed. Nazi-like principles are spewed out on the sinister final songs of 'In The Flesh', 'Run Like Hell', and 'Waiting For The Worms'. Overall, the lyrical content is spectacular, and really showcases the writing talents of Roger Waters and David Gilmour.
Both Waters and Gilmour deliver these lyrics to your eagerly awaiting ears using their own styles of singing. Gilmour's vocals are similar to those on Dark Side Of The Moon, and have a sort of machine like quality to them. 'The Happiest Days Of Our Lives' and 'Another Brick In The Wall Part 2' both are good examples of his vocal style. Waters, however, has a much more distinct voice, sometimes rising into high pitched shouts, sometimes whispering and mumbling. He sings mostly on songs that are meant to be from the prospective of Pink, and pulls of the whole maniacal, depressed feel very well. There is little vocal harmonizing overall, save from the epic 'Comfortably Numb', where the two talents exchange vocal parts, giving the song a very grand feel.
These two talents are not only good singers, they are also masters of their respective instruments. The 'Another Brick In The Wall' trilogy contains some excellent bass work from Waters, and he plays his four string like a god on the upbeat 'Run Like Hell'.
David Gilmour is an amazing guitar player. Using mostly slide guitar, he creates some of the most amazing guitar solos that I have heard. The prime example of this is on 'Comfortably Numb', where he plays not one, but two spectacular solos. He also creates mighty, crushing riffs on the 'In The Flesh' duo, both of which also feature excellent solos. His guitar style can range between the funky, jazzy work found on 'Another Brick In The Wall' and 'One Of My Turns' to quiet, haunting acoustic pieces such as 'Goodbye Blue Sky' and 'Is There Anybody Out There'.
But what of the other half of this quartet? Well, Nick Mason is a truly magnificent drummer, making great use of cymbal crashes and fills. His greatest work on this album is probably 'In The Flesh', which ends in a miniature drum solo amidst the chaotic guitar riff. Richard Wright (RIP) is a underrated pianist, his keys providing spectacular backing on the two ballads of 'The Thin Ice' and 'Nobody Home'. He also can play a mean organ, as displayed on 'In The Flesh'. 'Stop', while being the shortest song on the album, also features a wonderful piano riff which, as I have learned from personal experience (and tired fingers) is very difficult to master.
Most people are familiar with the first several songs on the album, if only because they are linked to the massive radio hit 'Another Brick In The Wall Part 2'. I will offer some advise to these people: skip past that song and go right to the center of the album. It is indeed here where many unknown masterpieces lie dormant. 'One Of My Turns' starts off with some slow piano and dark, whispered vocals, before exploding into upbeat, funky guitar madness. 'Don't Leave Me Now' is quite the opposite, with slow, brooding piano occompanying some wailing, near psychopathic vocals. 'Empty Spaces' is almost ballad-like, with Richard Wright playing his ivories gorgeously.
The final songs on the album are some of the grandest and darkest tunes to ever enter my eardrums. 'Comfortably Numb' is a soaring epic, with powerful vocals and stunning guitar. At this section in the plot, Pink enters his evil doppelganger stage, where he gains Nazi like ideals and thoughts. 'In The Flesh' is similar to the album opener, featuring the same guitar riff and backing orchestra. However, the vocals are much more high pitched and borderline insane, along with much heavier instrumentation (awesome drums from Nick Mason). 'Run Like Hell' is about people trying to escape the oppression placed on them by Pink and his 'army'. The lyrics deal with rape and murder, but are delivered with a catchy, disco like beat, making the song all the grander. 'Waiting For The Worms' has similar lyrical content, with some of the crazed vocals being delivered via a megaphone. The song ends in madness, with Rogers uttering a scream of 'Stop!', leading into the next song, aptly titled 'Stop'. Although it is very short at under a minute in length, the piano and whispered singing makes up for this short duration.
And so we arrive at the penultimate song, and possibly one of the strangest tunes I have ever heard. Named 'The Trial', the song is meant to be about Pink being judged in his own mind by twisted versions of the people from his past. Rogers sings at his most maniacal here, his voice changing to correspond to different characters speaking in the trial. For the first two thirds of the song, and orchestra provides the instrumental backing. In the final third of the song, the guitar comes crashing in, along with mighty, thunderous vocals meant to represent a 'judge'. The song ends with crowds shouting 'tear down the wall!' and some loud crashes as 'The Wall' collapses. 'Outside The Wall' ends the album quietly, with what sound like some mandolin and a choir. The lyrics of this last song are very cryptic and mysterious, and don't seem to relate to the rest of the album. Although it is not certain, I am pretty sure that the album ends with Pink commiting suicide, and his spirit floating free.
With most reviews, you will probably expect to find a section near the end of the review (unless it is a 1) that is meant to show insight to the cons of the album. With this review, I will have no such section, for I believe that this album is quite flawless.
In conclusion, 'The Wall' is a monster of a rock opera, with quiet, haunting songs such as 'Nobody Home' and 'Goodbye Blue Sky' as well as some truly amazing rock epics. The instrumentation and the vocals are exquisite, and I have no choice but to give this spectacular album a solid 5/5.
Recommended Tracks (Download or Die)
-In The Flesh?
-The Thin Ice
-Another Brick In The Wall Part 1
-The Happiest Days Of Our Lives
-Another Brick In The Wall Part 2
-Goodbye Blue Sky
-One Of My Turns
-Don't Leave Me Now
-Another Brick In The Wall Part 3
-Goodbye Cruel World
-Is There Anybody Out There?
-Bring The Boys Back Home
-The Show Must Go On
-In The Flesh
-Run Like Hell
-Waiting For The Worms
-Outside The Wall.