The falling out of Pink Floyd and Roger Waters started after the immensely popular album “The Wall” came out. Until this point, the band members of Pink Floyd had gotten along just fine. Roger was becoming more greedy and vicious by the moment, and his band mates did not like it. The falling out intensified as Pink Floyd released “The Final Cut” in 1983. Only Roger was satisfied with it, while the other members of the band, at this period in time, it was David Gilmour and Nick Mason, thought that it was not very good. At this point in time, David and Roger were quarreling so badly, they were rarely seen in the studio together. As a result, Roger left the band to pursue a solo career. First he released “The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking” in 1984, a witty but misunderstood rock opera of a man going through his mid life crisis. In 1987, Waters released his experimental techno album, “Radio KAOS”. With both “The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking”, and “Radio KAOS”, Roger missed some ideas and structure, and therefore each album didn’t do that well. But, as they say, the third time is a charm, and this is very true for Roger Waters’ third solo album, “Amused To Death”. It makes up for the lack of creativity and structure both “The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking” and “Radio KAOS” did not have, and it shows a creative side and sound that we have never heard from Roger Waters before.
If you walk into a cd and go over to the Pink Floyd section, you’ll see the regular suspects. “Animals”, “Dark Side Of The Moon”, “Wish You Were Here”, “The Wall”, “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn”, and “A Saucerful Of Secrets” will most likely be there. But what about Roger Waters or David Gilmour solo stuff? You go over to the Roger Waters section, and see if there is anything worth while there. You see “Amused To Death”, but think, What the hell is on the cover of this here cd? Well, indeed it is an odd cover, but it has to do with the story of the album. The story, oddly enough, is about a monkey randomly flipping through television stations, so on the cover of “Amused To Death” is a TV screen and a monkey, which is that furry looking thing. Even though the main idea of “Amused To Death” is a monkey flipping through channels on the tube, “Amused To Death” goes into the typical Roger Waters ideas, political and social themes. It also goes into the idea of religion, with the powerful three part What God Wants. “Amused To Death” explores many themes, some typical for Waters, and some new ones as well.
For instance, the typical Waters theme of war comes up in the first song The Ballad Of Bill Hubbard. Alf Razzell tells a haunting account from World War II when he came across one of his cadets, Bill Hubbard, in no mans land, and had to leave Bill stranded. The two parts of Late Night Home also holds the theme of war, this time, from a soldier’s perspective. Waters presents the point that the solider does not think of the destruction he creates. While war is a theme Waters has familiarized with us, Waters enters a new theme, the media, and how it affects our life. This is strongly pointed out early in the album, with the two part Perfect Sense. It shows the grim truth about today’s world that the media persuades us to do things that goes against human nature. The main and most important lyrics in Perfect Sense is “Can’t you see, it all makes perfect sense? Expressed in dollars and cents, pounds schillings and pents?” /It’s trying to say that if you value money, things make perfect sense, but if you value things in love and loyalty, than things do not make sense. The Bravery of Being Out Of Range has the same sort of theme that Perfect Sense has, as it deals with the media. Another theme Roger touches on is religion, with What God Wants Parts One, Two, and Three.
Even though “Amused To Death” has many themes that each song touches on, this review is not intended to focus on the themes of “Amused To Death”. The musicianship on “Amused To Death” is exceptional. It has an all star cast of musicians, including Jeff Beck on guitar, Don Henley on vocals for the song Watching TV, P.P. Arnold on vocals, and John Bundrick on keyboards, just to name a few. RHCP bass player Flea recorded part of the album, but it wasn’t used on the actual album. The guitar part plays a significant role with the instrumentation on “Amused To Death”. Jeff Beck opens up the album with a solid guitar line, one that sounds and mimics a Pink Floyd guitar line. Even though it takes a while to come in, there is a nice guitar line on the song Too Much Rope. Beck also does a nice job on Three Wishes and It’s A Miracle, contributing to both with a guitar solo. The vocals add a lot to “Amused To Death”, also. P.P. Arnold has a nice solo on Perfect Sense, Part 1, and Don Henley backs Roger on Watching TV. But the thing that makes “Amused To Death” very interesting doesn’t have to do with musicianship or instrumentation, but the recordings of voices in the background that dominates the album. Almost every song has recordings of voices, and each commentary plays a major part of the storyline on each song. For instance, the story line on The Ballad of Bill Hubbard comes from the person who is speaking in the background. The musicianship and instrumentation on “Amused To Death” scores big, being the heavy influence over most of the album.
Another thing about “Amused To Death” is Roger’s songwriting. There isn’t one bad line of lyrics on “Amused To Death”, as all of the songs have strong but straight forward lyrics. Some songs have powerful lyrics, like What God Wants, Part 1. “The kid in the corner looked at the priest and fingered his pale blue Japanese guitar. The priest said God wants goodness God wants light God wants mayhem God wants a clean fight.” Other songs though, don’t have heart warming lyrics. For instance, It’s A Miracle. Along with a cold tune, it has cold lyrics. “Miraculous you call it babe, you ain't seen nothing yet they've got Pepsi in the Andes, McDonalds in Tibet, Yosemite's been turned into, a golf course for the Japs, the Dead Sea is alive with rap, between the Tigris and Euphrates, there's a leisure centre now, they've got all kinds of sports ,they've got Bermuda shorts they had sex in Pennsylvania , a Brazilian grew a tree, a doctor in Manhattan, saved a dying man for free, it's a miracle.” Anybody who enjoys Waters’ lyrics will be very pleased with the lyrics on “Amused To Death.”
So, is “Amused To Death” a hit or a miss for Roger Waters? Even though the whole idea behind the album is odd, each song’s theme is clever and serves each song well. The musicianship is second to none. Most of the songs have very good lyrics, as well as good instrumentation to back up the lyrics. And of course, has Roger finally lost his luster? Not at all. His song writing skill has not died at all, and while obtaining his usual solemn mood, can add fun into a song here and there. “Amused To Death” makes up for the misjudged “Pros and Cons” as well as “Radio KAOS”, and, at the same time, puts another solid concept album under his belt.
What God Wants, Part 1
Perfect Sense, Parts 1 and 2
Amused To Death