After seeing that Mr Marc was going to be reviewing The Wall, I decided that I would look at the often over looked apex to that milestone of an album. This was originally conceived to be a soundtrack the movie version of The Wall, but Roger Waters decided to change this how through to political concept album, fuelled by the Falklands War and what Waters conceived to be the betrayal of his father. Waters thought he was making a statement against Thatcherism and other issues, Gilmour later admitted he was being lazy but was of the opinion that if the tracks on here were not good enough for The Wall, how come they were good enough to be released afterwards? This lead to a little bit of conflict with David Gilmour, so this is the only Pink Floyd album where Roger Waters wrote every track and song on almost every track as well apart from the album's only single "Not Now Joe". This was the last album that Roger Waters played on with Pink Floyd as he would leave afterwards, so how has the album faired in the years since it was released, has it aged well compared to its difficult birth, or is it the unwanted childhood friend who you avoid in the street?
This album has been described as a Wall hangover, Roger Waters' best solo album, shite and other more colourful description. What you have here is many big grand statements which ooze with betrayal, anger, frustration, political rage and the sense of a person who is lost. Even though it is Pink Floyd and the band played on this, there is no getting away from it that this is Waters album, his statement, his passion and his vision of what the band had to be at the beginning of the eighties. To describe the political landscape in England at the time, Waters has compared Thatcher and co to Napoleon and other doctors; especially in the song "The Fletcher Memorial Home", which was my first introduction to Pink Floyd in my youth. As a starting point, this is the strangest point I could have picked. It is a retrospective and wounded record. The fractions of the band were on show as the fact there was no real contributions from anyone else but Waters, keyboard Richard Wright was not on the album at all, David Gilmour and Nick Mason wanted nothing to Waters by all accounts. This is not a happy record, Waters hates it, and Gilmour thinks it is a waste of space, Mason has no really words to speak of and it is generally glossed over by the band apart from being shown as their breaking point.
So you might be expecting me to give this a pasting. No, no I am not going to do that. I love it; I find this to be quite possibly one of the best break-up albums for a band that I have ever heard. From the start of "The Post War Dream" where Waters basically asks Thatcher why she was breaking up the country and smashing up costly industry you can tell this is not a happy day album. Following on with "Your Possible Pasts" the mood does not improve. In fact it just gets darker, more haunted and just the sense of everything going wrong makes this one of my all time favourite eighties albums. I have never came away from it with being amazed that this is an extra, a piece of nothing, an add on to the history of Pink Floyd. I have sometimes found them just a bit too over rated. I am one of the small amount of people in the world who finds that 'The Dark Side of The Moon' insists on itself (copyright to Family Guy for that quote). I have always preferred 'Wish You Were Here' but this is a close second.
As an album this is like the runt of a litter of pedigree Blood Hounds, it has the classic underdog feel going on. It is the fact that it might not be as highly regarded as the other works that makes this album work for me. I love the version of "Where The Tigers Broke Free" which was kept off The Wall for being too personal (it dealt with the death of Waters dad in World War I) and was actually not included on the album until the 2004 re-issue. I love "The Gunner's Dream" with its hopes and fears and a fantastic sax solo. The stand out track is the only one that David Gilmour sang on called "Not Now Joe" which is the only track which has is trying to not sound mournful, it is the sound of someone trying to change the mood and in someways it stands out like a sore thumb. A beautiful and brash sore thumb, but like the album itself, because it is slightly jarring to the rest of the Pink Floyd back catalogue, it works on here.
I find the fact it is almost ran like a dictatorship and that the background struggles have made this album a strange and wonder piece of art; it has an almost shattered feeling like it is throwing in the towel, this gives it something that most other Pink Floyd albums are missing for me. It is a damaged album, you cannot get over that. Something was about to give on it, and it turned out it was the driving force of this work. When this album came out, it was not supported with a tour, Roger Waters thought that Pink Floyd was a spent force and left, the rest of the band had other thoughts and there was a messy divorce which ended in the rest of the band having the Pink Floyd name, and Waters got 'The Wall'. I feel that one of them should have fought for this (Waters if you want to know). It is unloved by its creator, but for me it is an underrated gem which has some of the best ever solos placed to record, one of the darkest albums ever written and one of the most haunting band break up albums that was ever produced. Tread lightly dear reader, tread lightly.
9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost.....
You can purchase one of the many versions available from Amazon here
You can visit the band's website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Here is the video to Not Now Joe