Roger Waters
The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking


4.0
excellent

Review

by Irving Tan STAFF
September 11th, 2011 | 91 replies


Release Date: 1984 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Guten Abend meiner Damen und Herren ha ha ha ha!! Willkomen in Konigsburg ha ha ha ha!!

As one quarter of Pink Floyd, Roger Waters built his legend around crafting albums tied together by grandiose thematic ideas, philosophical lyrics, and spectacular sonic experimentation. But the eventual, early-1980s disintegration of Pink Floyd left him free to pursue his own artistic inclinations, completely unencumbered by the creative and interpersonal restrictions of his former band mates. Ironically, it was a project that had very nearly been taken up by the Floyd that would end up as his first solo release: Waters had originally demoed The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking along with another album – entitled Bricks in the Wall – to the rest of his band in July 1977. After a long debate, the band eventually decided that they preferred Bricks in the Wall (which, of course, eventually ended up as the now-famous The Wall) and the draft of The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking was dropped without much fanfare.

The concept of The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, as envisioned by Waters in 1977, rotates around a man (curiously named Reg) who has a series of dreams about committing adultery during the onset of a midlife crisis. The concept of hitch hikers is presented here as a metaphor for unattached and lonely people, and the middle-aged Reg, who dreams that he and his (unnamed) wife are tourists driving along a country road in West Germany, is made to introduce one such person into his subconscious mind when he unwittingly picks up a hitch hiker in his dream. The album then follows his subsequent, semi-conscious examination of his failing marriage and his personal struggles with fidelity, with events taking place in real time (as indicated by the song titles). As an abstract peering into the human mind’s deepest and most boorish desires, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking is a work dense with heavy symbolism, disturbing imagery, bizarrely shifting scenes, and Waters’ trademark black humour, which are all used to help unravel the tale of Reg’s internal battle with himself.

Unfortunately, Waters’ work proved too dense and complicated for most to comprehend – despite being backed by an elaborate supporting tour which featured a stage set up like a bedroom and a 27 foot high back screen, the album’s confusing plot structure and Waters’ stubborn insistence on wanting to perform everything as it had been recorded on the album resulted in a bewildering pantomime that didn’t go down well with most audiences, and ticket sales soon started to suffer. Some of the tour’s bad luck rubbed off on the album sales – The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking took eleven years to go gold, and by March 1985 – barely a year after its release – could only afford to be played in North America’s smaller venues. To rub salt in the wound, David Fricke, one of the Floyd’s biggest former champions, wrote that Waters’ latest creation was nothing more than "a petulant echo, a transparent attempt to prove that Roger Waters was Pink Floyd".

As such, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking isn’t as much a compilation of honest artistic expression as it is a revealing snapshot of its creator’s artistic insufficiencies and the actual mid-life issues plaguing him at the time. Even the unusual recklessness of the album cover, which features a rear-view nude photograph of pornography actress Linzi Drew (and subsequently drew heavy criticism from various feminist groups for being sexist and advertising rape), tells us as much: here was a man with nothing to lose but everything to prove. But even if the racy cover of The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking dramatically casts Waters as some modern-aged sexist, the contents of the album don’t quite share the same sentiment. Instead, opening track “4.30 AM (Apparently They Were Traveling Abroad)” introduces us to Reg, who divulges his tale with the greatest reluctance: “We were moving away from the border/Looking for somewhere to sleep/The two of us sharing the driving/Two hitch hikers slumped in the back seat,” he explains, with the barest hint at a plea for understanding in his voice as thunder rolls ominously in the distance. It is amidst these bizarre surroundings that Eric Clapton, who features on the album as a guest guitarist – and, as one suspects, the only able substitute for the now-estranged David Gilmour –, pipes up a mournful two-note solo that anticipates the rest of the album’s somber tone. Then, the album simultaneously settles into its story-telling groove and wildly ratchets up its sound: “4.33 AM (Running Shoes)” opens with a deafening saxophone blast from David Sanborn and finds Waters steadily upping the ante by having a trio of backing girls echo his every other line. Tellingly, Waters sounds a great deal more interested on here than he did the last time we heard him, which was on the final Pink Floyd album prior to the band’s dissolution (The Final Cut), and rightfully so – for this was his one chance to prove that he would always be the true brains of the classic Floyd lineup.

Likewise, the album frequently finds itself lacking in terms of mellifluous moments. Apart from Clapton’s tuneful solos and masterful contributions from David Sanborn’s sax, a significant amount of The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking presents itself as anathema to the ears. Before long, it becomes clear that the tempering influences of Gilmour, Wright, and Mason are sorely missed – no matter how much Waters wants to believe otherwise. For all its strident embellishment of the album’s placement in a foreign land, massive chunks of “4.37 AM (Arabs with Knives and West German Skies) are close to being completely unlistenable, with several passages devoted to unintelligible background whispering that painfully hearken back to the dullest moments of “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” from 1970’s Atom Heart Mother. But for all his flaws when it comes to crafting rhythms and hooks, Roger Waters lyrical prowess has never been more complete. Perhaps wanting to underscore the obtuseness of Gilmour’s rather third-rate lyrics on About Face (his second solo effort), on “4.56 AM (For the First Time Today – Part 1)” Waters delivers a dispassionate yet well-weighted soliloquy on the senselessness of marriage to a couple which has all but lost their passion for each other: “You were my everyday excuse/For playing deaf, dumb, and blind/Who’d have ever thought/This was how it would end for you and me/To carry my own millstone/Out of the trees.” On “4.58 AM (Dunroamin, Duncarin, Dunlivin)”, he admits, with only the slightest hint of irony that, “I’d like to go on with this bit of a song/Describing this schmuck/I’d like to go on, but I’m going to throw up.” It’s powerful stuff.

As it comes from roughly the same timeframe as The Wall, much about The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking is strongly reminiscent of the former’s theatrical and much more stripped-down demeanor: the thundering introductory riff of “4.33 AM (Running Shoes)” is a dead-ringer throwback to both “In the Flesh” and “Young Lust”. Elsewhere, the petrified whispers of “4.47 AM (The Remains of our Love)” have clearly borrowed a thing or two from the terrified mumblings heard on “Don’t Leave Me Now” and the mournful hum of “Mother”. Considering that the Floyd could so easily have worked on The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking instead of The Wall, it does give one pause to think how much more influential the Floyd could have been had they chosen to work with the former concept instead – particularly given that one frequent latter-day criticism of The Wall is the difficulty of trying to empathize with the insufferable character of the rock star Pink. In contrast, the fate of Reg – who is every bit the middle-aged and tormented everyman – would have been a much easier cause to champion. And who knows how more introspective The Wall could have been had Roger Waters been allowed to write about his disillusions with his rock star life completely on his own?

Instead, we hear a brow-beaten middle-aged man try and worm his way through a set of sketches that really would have benefited from the musical chemistry of his former band and the excising ruthlessness of Bob Ezrin, all while gazing down the boulevard of what-could-have-been. Still, even when viewed independently, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking illustrates the sheer genius of a man at the peak of his artistic prowess and captures him in a state of single-mindedness that he had never demonstrated before, and, strangely, that he never would again. Considering its poor sales and the failure of its supporting tour, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking is hardly the auspicious start that Waters would have wanted for his solo career, but he can still take heart in the fact that his first work still contains enough mystery worth unraveling even a quarter of a century later. If only the same could be said about 95% of everything else.



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user ratings (130)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Tyrael
September 11th 2011


20974 Comments


So, you think german is funny irving? o.O

Anyway, amazingtastic review. Pos.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2011


7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes, I know - this review is massive. But it's my one year anniversary of joining this site today (yes I know of all the days in the year eh?) and I wanted to do something special to commemorate it.

I don't expect many of you to read this, but when I set out to write this monstrosity, I wanted to do two things: a.) write my best review ever and b.) best Rasputin's review of Pink Floyd's Animals. It would mean a lot to me if any of you managed to sit through this.

Also, for those interested, I found this YouTube user's channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/gravesing

The bloke has made videos for each track on the album, and - even if they look like the Sims on a particularly bizarre day - I found that it helped a lot with my understanding and appreciation of the album. This is the first song in the series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6wXcINoHIE

Enjoy.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2011


7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh man Ty I wish you had at least let me comment and apologize first for the length of this review
lol.

someguest
September 11th 2011


21390 Comments


there's an ass on the album cover!

Digging: Pet Shop Boys - Please

Tyrael
September 11th 2011


20974 Comments


Sorry, I am a really fast reader :'[

iFghtffyrdmns
September 11th 2011


7047 Comments


holy hell Irv, monstrously good review, and congrats on one year here! This sounds epic, and that Sims video thing was kinda awesome. I will say it sounds like this record would take a LOT of time and effort to really get into though haha

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2011


7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

there's an ass on the album cover!

And it's not just any ass. It's the ass of a pornstar.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linzi_Drew

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2011


7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

holy hell Irv, monstrously good review, and congrats on one year here! This sounds epic, and that Sims video thing was kinda awesome. I will say it sounds like this record would take a LOT of time and effort to really get into though haha

Yeaaaaaaaahhhhh...it took me about three days of straight listening (by this I mean I only put this album on/read about it) when I was on my computer. It started out as a "fuck-this-shit" 2.0 to me, but slowly it grew into the immense appreciation that you see here. In other words, this album is a real slog but once you understand it it's as rewarding as hell. I imagine this is what most people must have felt about The Wall when it first came out (I hated that album).

Parallels
September 11th 2011


6643 Comments


This should have been all in german. I would've pos'd and showed it to my friend. lol


Is that a guy or a girl on the cover? Pro or Khan? lmao

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2011


7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Pop the whole thing in Google Translate and then show it to him? *hopeful look*

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
September 11th 2011


21610 Comments


Excellent review, pos'd.

Digging: Foxes in Fiction - Ontario Gothic

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2011


6344 Comments


good call for a review, i have this in physical copy, but never really delved into it...

Will read later.

Digging: Aspherium - The Fall of Therenia

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2011


3503 Comments


god i hate this guy, but this review makes me listen to the album.pos

Digging: Motorpsycho - The Motorpnakotic Fragments

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2011


7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks guys. Question: why do you hate Roger Waters insomniac15? And yes - I'll hold you to your promise Voivod ;)

Hope everyone is having a great day, wherever everyone is =)



insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2011


3503 Comments


I don't know, the dude's an asshole (from all I've read about Pink Floyd), and as much as I love David Gilmour's work, I don't like his' (I'm not a fan of The Wall or The Final Cut, it's too much theatricality and less music) However, I haven't listened yet to any of his solo albums, because they all seem to be Wall clones (almost everything he writes is about war - at least what I've heard so far ). I should still check the music, maybe it will change my opinion on him, at least the music part.

scissorlocked
September 11th 2011


3511 Comments


review is massive but also really great

will check this one soon

Digging: Low Roar - Low Roar

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2011


7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I don't know, the dude's an asshole (from all I've read about Pink Floyd), and as much as I love David Gilmour's work, I don't like his' (I'm not a fan of The Wall or The Final Cut, it's too much theatricality and less music)

This is fair enough, insomniac15, but this:

However, I haven't listened yet to any of his solo albums, because they all seem to be Wall clones (almost everything he writes is about war - at least what I've heard so far ).

Couldn't be farther from the truth. Only The Final Cut and The Wall are really about war. His other solo works deal with a more diverse set of issues; this one, for instance, is about polygamy, whereas Radio K.A.O.S. is some bizarre concept about a boy who can hear radio waves in his head (I never really got it, but the music's great), and Amused To Death is more of a social commentary on the state of society's general disillusionment and complacence.

Musically, it will always be tough to get into a Waters work - but then again, no one really goes to Waters for intricate musical pieces anyway ;)

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
September 12th 2011


3503 Comments


Well I guess I should check his solo work, should I start with this album ?

Oh and his Dark Side Of The Moon and Wall tours didn't help my opinion on him (I know the fans want it but he should just let go, it's Pink Floyd's work, not entirely his', he's just milking the albums)

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
September 12th 2011


6344 Comments


Superb review, pos.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
September 12th 2011


24098 Comments


woah this review is massive, but I will read it because:

a) Roger Waters m/
b) Irving Tan Zhi Mian m/

but one thing I gotta say from reading the first paragraph:

As one quarter of Pink Floyd


while technically correct I think we can all agree that he was probably more like 50% of what made
Pink Floyd so awesome.

Digging: Mitski - bury me at makeout creek



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