Review Summary: A good album, more of a pop album that his other albums, but it still has many good songs.
First review... so here it goes.
Roger Waters was considered by many to be the backbone of Pink Floyd during their high point. He was responsible for many of the concepts behind most of their greatest albums and wrote the majority of their most popular material. When Pink Floyd began crumbling, Waters declared it a spent force and disbanded it. I won't get into all the complicated parts of that, but Roger Waters decided in the end to work on a solo career. His first album The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking was very much a tribute to his old fans; it was Roger Waters in its purest form. This was overbearing for many people, however. Radio Kaos is much more of a pop album, it does however manage to stick enough the the basic principles of Roger Waters music to remain popular among his fans, while being listenable to everybody else.
The album's concept is an odd one, and I will try to explain it as I go through each track, but to be honest with you it doesn't make sense even when summarized and described by Roger himself.
Radio Waves- 3/5
The opening track is probably the most popish track on it. It's a good start, but my only problem with it is how hard it is to take it seriously. We are introduced to the protagonist (if it's right to call him that) called 'Billy' who can hear radio waves in his head, but is completely unable to communicate normally. I really wish Roger had chosen a name other than 'Billy', it is hard to listen to this song without laughing a bit inside about "magic billy in his wheelchair" let alone "Billy is face to face with outer space". On the good side though I like the guitar solo (although some may disagree), and the backup vocals seem very fitting for a song about radio (although I can't put a inger on what it is).
Who Needs Information- 4/5
Alright so this Billy guy has a brother called 'Benny' who decides to go have some fun. They (I haven't figured out if Billy is here, or if he's just reminiscing) see an electronics store. They take a brick and try to drop it from a bridge, but benny gets cold feet. They go home, but benny still goes to jail. The story STILL doesn't make sense, but the song itself is quite good in my opinion. 'Who needs information' is musically very strong, the vocals are much more convincing and less forced than in Radio Waves. The back-up vocals are well used, and the saxophone is a nice addition. it's hard to describe, but overall its a nice (if somewhat confusing) song.
Me or Him- 3.5/5
This song is a bit quieter than the other ones, but it's a nice change from the popyness of Radio Waves and Who Needs Information. I'd have to say that this song is a bit repetitive, and goes on a bit. I certainly like the references to Ronald Reagens advertisements, it adds some nice background to the song and makes it more believable. Having the detainees in one ear and the cowboy movie in the other ear (if your on headphones, which incidentally this album sounds best with from my experience) sends its message effectively. Overall a quite song, but a bit of a filler albeit a nice one.
The Powers That Be- 4/5
A powerful attack on the powerful in society, which in my opinion is one of the better songs in the album. Most of the song is long lists of things that the "Powers that Be" like, but its effective and interspersed with some interesting guitar parts and vocal breakaways. Pretty much nothing happens story wise in the album, but its certainly a central part of it.
Sunset Strip- 3.5/5
Back to the more popish songs here, but this one is generally quite nice. This song seems to be 'Billy' feeling homesick about being in LA (Billy is form Wales), he calls up Jim (A radio host who he has been talking to) to try to get his minds off things. The refrain of "A blood red dragon on a field of green" (and variations of it) serve as nice intervals to keep the song interesting. Overall nice, no real criticism other than that the back up vocalists making train noises seems silly.
Billy is now angry at the 'Powers that Be' and plans to fake a nuclear attack while also stopping them from responding. This song is more or less a plee from Roger Waters to not accept nuclear war and to go against the Powers that Be. It's saying that Nuclear weapons do not discriminate, and that they could kill anyone including the listener. Musically it has two sections which are brilliant breakaways from the normal theme of the song. Definitely worth a listen. From here and on this album becomes entirely anti-nuclear.
Four Minutes- 4/5
A continuation of the theme of 'Home'. In this song Roger (more or less) explains that when you get close to doom; you avoid that doom even more (which is why Billy is doing the fake nuclear attack). Musically its a segway into the last song, but it's a very good segway. It's a countdown, and ends with Billy's computerized voice doing a countdown, and Margaret Thatcher's voice claiming that "our own independent nuclear deterrent has helped to keep the peace" (clearly sarcastic).
The Tide is Turning- 5/5
The best is saved for last in this song, and this is arguably one of Water's best songs. It seems to be about him giving up some level of cynicism (the song was written after Waters watched Live Aid). Musically there isn't much to it, but it's its simplicity that gives it its power. The backup vocals smoothly sing "Ohh ohh ohh the tide is turning" while the song slows to an end. Overall a very impressive, even if simple, song.
Overall a very good album, it has its ups and downs and its story is very disorganized but its message is not. The Anti-Nuclear theme really only becomes apparent in the end, but the message is strong. Worth a listen if your a Waters fan, but it wont convince people who aren't.