Review Summary: Is there anybody out there?
“Yes, The Wall. Isn’t that about the Berlin Wall"”
As many times as I’ve been asked that ignorant question, it still doesn’t cease to annoy me. Even if Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” had anything to do with the Berlin Wall, the concept would not be so clear-cut and obvious. In actuality, “The Wall” is a massive and complex concept album, spanning two discs and containing the fictional story of character Pink Floyd. While Roger Waters and David Gilmour seemed to share the songwriting duties on “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here,” and several others, Waters had begun to take control of the band by “Animals.” “The Wall” is almost entirely Water’s brainchild, alluding to both personal experiences and the haunting realization of the story’s possibility. Throughout the record, Pink becomes increasingly isolated from society due to a distressed childhood and an inability to cope with fame. Pink’s isolation is essentially what is piling the bricks around him, and constructing this colossal and impenetrable wall. This record in its entirety is a destructive and powerful journey, concluding with a tragic climax.
Pink Floyd has never been afraid to be ambitious and disparate from their classic rock peers; recording what was ground-breaking and timeless music. Even prior to being a well-known and acclaimed band, Pink Floyd developed the grandiose 23-minute masterpiece Echoes
on breakthrough album “Meddle,” but had been writing obscure and interesting music even before Echoes
. One can argue that each of the band’s studio albums are entirely different, maybe holding some similarities in the sound of the music, but pertaining to dissimilar ideas and themes. “The Wall” is certainly no different in that regard, separating itself from the other records of Pink Floyd’s prime. Like the majority of concept albums, “The Wall” as a whole is an incredibly ambitious effort, and one that could have gone horribly wrong. Fortunately though for Waters and company, it didn’t.
Pink Floyd (the character) is a catastrophic figure to say the least. Throughout the record, Pink displays flashes of anger, self-pity, and extreme isolation. The music and songwriting depict the story with great precision, often just as bizarre as Pink’s behavior. The band’s 1982 film of “The Wall” is a tremendous representation as well, and really accentuates the peculiar nature of the story. With both the film and the album, it is easy to pity Pink, who is virtually attempting to rid himself of his horrific life by building this psychological wall. The album offers a series of flashbacks and current behavior, linking Pink’s previous struggles with the predicaments of his adult life. Following the roaring sound of the bombers at the culmination of thunderous opener In the Flesh
, the listener enters the life of young Pink Floyd, with Gilmour’s comforting vocals representing a lullaby sung by Pink’s mother. “The sky may look blue,” Gilmour sings, alluding to the purity of the color blue, in which is a reoccurring theme. The song is quite simple and beautiful, but takes a turn for the worst, when Gilmour’s foreboding leads come crashing in, and the track fast forwards back to Pink’s present day life. In the movie, Pink attempts to purify himself by floating in the pool of blue water, in which is completely transformed to red as his open wounds pollute the water. The symbol of water is also portrayed here, representing unconsciousness. The Thin Ice
does not appear to be a significant track when the concept is not completely understood, but in actuality is one of the most important songs of the album. Another Brick in the Wall Part 1
is where the listener discovers that Floyd’s father has been killed in World War II, and marks the point at which Pink begins to develop this psychological wall. Pink is now left with his mother, whose strict and protective nature creates further frustration for him. “Mama’s gonna wait up until you get in. She won’t let you fly, but she might let you sing,” is what Gilmour indicates on Mother
, as if her love is overbearing. This is consistent with the record’s themes, for Gilmour proceeds to say “Of course mama’s gonna help build the wall.”
Tracks such as Goodbye Blue Sky
are tremendous adaptations to the story, in both a lyrical and musical sense. The track is constantly shifting from beautiful to haunting harmonies, but is consistently foreboding in its nature. This is the point at which Pink is entering the adult world, and leaving behind the “blue sky.” Pink is not only becoming an adult, but is losing the purity that the “blue sky” had presented to him. As Floyd assimilates into the adult world, his isolation becomes even more apparent and the listener is presented with his first instances of anger with One of My Turns
, and sexual appetites with Young Lust
. Now an acclaimed and famous rock star, Pink displays signs of serious detachment with his groupie all over him. Unable to take it anymore, Pink explodes in a burst of violent rage, breaking everything in the room as the groupie helplessly tries to avoid him. Waters’ vocals prove to be perfect here, for he captures both the calm isolation and the fury with great virtuosity. In the tracks proceeding, Pink continues to build this wall, even lashing out in Another Brick in the Wall Part 3
, “I don’t need no arms around me. I don’t need no drugs to calm me.” Goodbye Cruel World
is what rounds out the first disc, and is essentially Pink’s mental death.
While the “blue sky” was a major theme in the first disc, “worms” play a similar role in the second disc. With both Hey You
and Waiting for the Worms
containing this reference, “worms” pertain to mental decay. “No matter how he tried he could not break free. And the worms they enter his brain.” As indicated in Goodbye Cruel World
, Pink is no longer conscious, and these worms are eating away at what is figuratively a dead person. Waiting for the Worms
has a title that suggests Pink is waiting for this decay to take place, and by this time he has become an inhumane and ruthless cult leader. This leader that Pink becomes is a reference to Hitler and the holocaust, for he is so isolated that he has developed into a genocidal psychopath. Waiting for the Worms
is actually the third track representing Hitler and the holocaust, for In the Flesh (reprise)
is his rally for support and Run Like Hell
representing the gathering of the Jews for the final solution.
Disc two is irreparably darker than its predecessor, and quite possibly contains the band’s greatest song. Comfortably Numb
is a masterpiece of a track; a height at which has not been reached by almost any other band. Along with the spectacular musical work developed on the track, the lyrics are outrageously sad, alluding to broken dreams. “The child is grown, the dream is gone.” If that isn’t enough, Gilmour constructed the greatest guitar solo of all-time, with the perfect combination of passion and technicality. The track’s second solo is a screaming ball of emotion that does not lose its effect even after hundreds of repeated listens. It is almost disappointing with Comfortably Numb
placed in the middle of the final disc, for surpassing the effect is impossible. With that said however, the album’s climax takes place during The Trial
, in which is the album’s most bizarre track. The mental wall at this point is absolutely massive, and Pink is taking himself to trial for all that has happened. Throughout The Trial
, Floyd is harassed by every witness, from “the schoolmaster” to his wife. What proceeds is the judge horrifyingly screaming, “In all my years of judging I have never heard before, of someone more deserving of the full penalty of law.” The judge commands for the wall to be torn down, and Pink is forced to reflect on his downward spiral as the bricks collapse. Outside the Wall
is actually the album’s peaceful close, for Pink has come to the realization of his extreme trouble and the track is optimistic. “All alone or in twos,” says Waters, “The ones who really love you, walk up and down outside the wall.”
Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” is a tremendous amount to take in, even after many listens. The concept is brilliant, but somewhat overblown and predictable from a concept album. “The Wall” seems to receive a great deal of acclaim because
it is a concept record, and the stories of isolation and depression has long since been replicated. “The Wall” was however, a ground-breaking release for its time and has influenced budding concept writers. “The Wall” may have been a stronger release had more focus been placed on the music. While great, the music doesn’t measure up to “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Animals,” or “Wish You Were Here.” Water’s does display his tremendous talent for songwriting, but unfortunately his pretentious ego and disputes with band members is what lead to the downfall for Pink Floyd. The following release, “The Final Cut” is essentially a Roger Water’s solo album in which the contributions of the other members were minimal. “The Wall” while flawed, is still an incredible completion of the band’s prime, and presents a very intriguing story.
The Thin Ice
One of My Turns
Run Like Hell