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An album that has hit me at a very vulnerable moment in my life, made all the better by my unabashed love for Pink Floyd and their sound.
The best way to enjoy this album to the fullest, is with just a little bit of context about the state of Pink Floyd's members, musical goals, and reception to public stardom at the time of creation. During the tour for their last album, "Animals" (which may end up in a review as well), the head singer/bassist, Roger Waters, became disillusioned with the fans whom only wished to hear the hits and classics from their masterclass work, "Dark Side of the Moon," and not the songs from "Animals," with their biting social commentary and long instrumental setpieces. At one point, he even spit at fans reaching up at him from right below the stage. He felt, at times, that a "wall" was necessary, both literally and figuratively, between the band and the audience. This growing, irking tension, combined with the previous head singer Syd Barrett's decent into madness and drug abuse, became the inspiration for a story about a young rock star named Pink, and his attempt to build a mental wall to protect himself after suffering years of emotional trauma, at the hands of his school teacher, mother, wife, and many others.
In the first five songs, we receive an intro to the album as a whole and a glance into the oppressive school system Pink lived through. The music is loud, inspiring, but with hints of sadness mixed into the whining guitars of "The Thin Ice," and the funky beats of "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2." In addition, "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" works as a spine-chilling lead-in to the aformentioned hit single, running in with a roaring screech from Waters and the guitar, played by David Gilmour (who would eventually take over as lead of the band after Waters' departure).
At this point, the album enters its second act. Pink is presumably a young artist, singing about his fears to his mother, who is overbearingly protective of Pink, to a fault that scars him emotionally. The song is personal, sung by Waters and played on acoustic guitar, and serves as an early view into Pink's pysche that he would eventually hide from the outside world. Following this, we hear the lamentations of Pink over losing his father in World War II, mixed in with heavy foreboding synths representing the rolling thunder of pain he feels in his heart over his dad's absence. This leads into "Empty Spaces" and then "Young Lust" (which is easily my least favorite song on the record, right after "Vera" off disc two). Pink learns of his wife's infedility, and decides to avenge his feelings by taking intimate relations with a roadie. However, as the final four songs of disc one show, Pink is a broken, unstable man, suffering a psychotic breakdown in the melancholy "One of My Turns," and a total shutdown of all emotion in "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3" and "Goodbye Cruel World."
Disc two begins with "Hey You," a call for Pink to snap out of his funk, and come back to reality (and is also the only song not included on the feature film "Pink Floyd - The Wall," which takes this story to the big screen). This leads to a few songs that are better represented by the visuals and storytelling found in the movie, but still stand as beautiful short pieces in their own right. "Nobody Home" is an often overlooked hit, highlighted by Richard Wright's eloquent keyboard strokes. Next, a song considered by many to be Pink Floyd's greatest ever - "Comfortably Numb" (and one of the few songs on the album not written entirely by Waters). Rogers soulful singing, and Gilmour's iconic guitar solo, create a feeling of loss and biting depression that speaks to anyone who has wondered what it'd be like to not have to feel - and never again experience heartbreak.
The album experiencesa jarring turn at this point - Pink is forced into his next show by his manager, barely standing due to the drugs froced into him to make him performance ready. He begins to hallucinate - believing himself to be some fascist dictator, becoming the very villain that killed his father. The hallucinations begin in "The Show Must Go On," and continues into "In the Flesh," where we see a callback to the intro to the album. Imagining himself ordering a band of Nazi-esque thugs in "Run Like Hell" and "Waiting for the Worms," Pink finally has enough, and demands everyone to "Stop." He is put on trial by his subconcious, where an orchestral score rings out amongst his mental visualizations of his wife and mother begging him to come out from behind his wall, and live again. The record ends on that note, makinga statement that such an emotional structure can certainly protect oneself in the short term, but eventually causes harm to loved ones. It's better to face these problems, with the help of trusted individuals who will love and care for you.
As previously stated, this album rings true for me at an admittedly depressing time in my life, but I know as well as anyone that everything gets better, just as Waters is trying to elucidate to the listener.
"I cant explain, you would not understand. / This is not how I am. / I have become comfortably numb."
Junior studying Computer Science and Math at Saint Louis University (SLU)
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