The GB Album Club 023 - The Wall by Pink Floyd

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unclejam23

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#1  Edited By unclejam23

Duders! Welcome to the 23rd edition of the Unofficial Giant Bomb Album Club! Last week, we took a brief break from the classic rock with Transient by Gaelle, a little known House/R&B gem of an album if I do say so myself. This week, we're exploring the seeds of our unhappiness rooted in our childhood anguish and closing ourselves off from the world around us as we slowly realize we're trapped in a neverending cycle of emotional chaos with The Wall by Pink Floyd! This album was picked by our good buddy @shindig, and you can listen with the links below:

Spotify

Apple Music

Youtube

The Unofficial Giant Bomb Album Club! We made a pool of albums and we pick one each week at random to listen to and discuss. This time, we have a theme: Albums You Always Meant To Listen To But Didn't. Is there an album you always meant to listen to but didn't? Word! Come to our Discord and submit it! Give yourself an excuse to finally listen to that album! Open yourself up to the new! Rage against the dying of the light by talking about music with a bunch of strangers on a video game website! Do it or the psychological demons tearing away at your subconscious, the ones you keep at bay by communicating with your fellow human beings, will fuck your shit up! And it's fun.

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unclejam23

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A quick note on the subject of Roger Waters being a gaping asshole: Roger Waters is a gaping asshole, and it's a real shame that the legacy of Pink Floyd's music will have to forever contend with one of its founding members being thoroughly pumped full of dictator jizz. (For those of you who don't know what I'm referring to, just Google his name.) Anyway:

I have very mixed feelings on The Wall.

Musically, in a vacuum, it's astounding. Some of the guitar work reaches levels of grandiosity and magnitude that not only inspire awe, but work perfectly to serve as an ironic juxtaposition to the later content of the album. On top of that, the more downbeat moments are executed perfectly, there's an incredible variance of sounds and tempos that lend to the feeling of a narrative that's unfolding in front of us, and in a general sense, there are moments of general transcendence.

However, in comparison to other Pink Floyd albums and some of their contemporaries, I personally don't find it as affective. Musically, to me, it doesn't have the cosmic melancholy of Dark Side of the Moon or the emotionality of Wish You Were Here or the experimentation of their pre Dark Side work or (relatively speaking) Animals. Of the major Pink Floyd releases, it's, to me, their most conventional. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that they've stripped back what I personally like about their sound the most.

Lyrically, I like a lot of the ideas it's going for. The traumas of war and abusive child rearing manifesting themselves in someone's adult life. The isolation of fame and the toxic relationship between artists and fans. The cyclical nature of mental illness.

However, I also think certain ideas are undercooked. Mainly, the whole "rockstar as fascist" hallucination sequence. I get what it's trying to do. Not only is it demonstrating the destructive power celebrities can wield, but it's creating a parallel between Pink's father dying in the war and what Pink has allowed himself to become thanks to his isolation. However, I'm not sure that justifies the use of slurs. I don't believe they're racists or anything like that. (Well, Waters might reveal himself to be one at any moment. A Kanye like turn from him wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.) But the idea of using slurs to make a point against racism always struck me as an intellectually dishonest rationalization of fundamentally unempathetic expression. You took the effects of your ideas into account, but not those you're supposedly trying to defend. In other words, it's slurs for the sake of a point worth making being made poorly.

On top of that, there are moments when the writing around the pitfalls of fame comes off more as indulgent self-flagellation than anything I can empathize with. But The Wall also contains some of Pink Floyd's most profound lyrics. Sometimes these moments practically come next to each other. It's very odd.

All in all, I still think The Wall is worthy of all the praise it's gotten and continues to get. It's also my least favorite of the big Pink Floyd albums. Is that a controversial stance? I hope not. Also I think "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2" is kinda corny. I'm sorry, I just kinda hate kid choirs.

Favorite Songs: "Goodbye Blue Sky," "Hey You," "Comfortably Numb"

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SethMode

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I just read these threads, don't participate, and obviously I was curious if Waters would be mentioned. Wasn't expecting the phrase "thoroughly pumped full of dictator cum" to be read while I enjoy my morning coffee. Points to you.

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@unclejam23: I agree with most of these points, although I would classify The Wall as my third-favorite Pink Floyd album (behind Animals and Wish You Were Here). The messiness of its themes actually sell me on it more because trauma is such a critical element, and trauma is never clean. I’m also a sucker for dead dad albums, since mine died when I was relatively young, so that probably affects my perception of the album as a whole. Also, the first “In The Flesh?” (the one without the slurs) is one of my favorite songs of theirs over any album.

With all that said, it’s weird that The Final Cut is by far my least favorite Floyd album (without having listened to the one they put out in 2014). That’s basically a Roger Waters solo album about his dead dad, with a token Gilmour appearance near the end.

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unclejam23

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@sethmode:I aim to please.

@allthedinos: I can see that. If I thought the messiness was intentional, I'd be there with you but I don't. Then again, a confusing circular argument could be made about the difference between intentional messiness and unintentional messiness and whether or not they're just as effective and blah blah blah. And I can definitely see this album connecting with anyone with a dead father or a strained parental relationship or both. And slur-less "In The Flesh?" does indeed rule.

I'm a Dark Side man, but probably because that's the one I was exposed to first when my dad played it for me and my brother in the car. Also fun story I told in the discord (which I will now copy and paste because I am lazy): The first time I ever heard the term "sellout" was my dad referring to The Wall as Pink Floyd's "sellout album." He was a hippy in his youth (he's in his early/mid-70s), and he and his friends used to get high and listen to Ummagumma and all their weirder earlier shit, and he thought The Wall was too commercial lol.

I need to go back to The Final Cut before giving my thoughts on it. It's been years. I expect I'll be with you because I'm more of a Gilmour guy in just about every respect.

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Shindig

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#6  Edited By Shindig

Okay, that's finally off my Pink Floyd bucket list. Over the years I've heard some of The Wall but hearing the whole album connects a lot of the dots. Like others, I'm not sure about the rockstar fascist angle. Fascists have a belief system. Rockstars are replaceable and most of them don't believe in things. At least not in that way.

It's a largely fantastic album but absolutely messy in it's approach. I'll leave intent up to debate but the idea they began this album after being annoyed by disinterested fans kinda fits. It also sounds like the kind of thing a band of that stature would get unnecessarily miffed about.

It's not beating Dark Side of the Moon or Wish You Were Here, but a solid third on my list of Floyd albums. The Waters influence makes this, to be honest. If it was Gilmour's soothing voice all over the place, it'd be a different thing. Even if he tried to snarl it up, I wouldn't believe Dave.

What a good, once in a lifetime thing this is. Also one of the few double-albums I can deal with the whole way through. London Calling is the only other one.

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blackadder88

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The wall is the last good Pink Floyd album. The whole point of the wall was against stadium arena rock .. after the Final Cut album Roger Waters left, and then David Gilmour

killed Pink Floyd by turn into stadium rock commercial crap .

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redwing42

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Isn't this where we came in?

First off, I'd like to express my condolences to anyone that grew up in England in the first half of the 20th Century. It sounds like it was a real bad time.

I enjoy Pink Floyd in all their guises, regardless of whom the driving force is, be it Syd Barrett, Waters, or Gilmour. I wouldn't say I'm a superfan or anything, but I've listened to every album in its entirety at least once. The Wall kind of sits squarely in the middle for me. Some very high highs and some fairly poor lows as well. First, the good stuff:

The transitions on this album are truly excellent. I know it is meant to be one continuous piece, so extra focus is placed on those transitions, but still... Goodbye Blue Sky/Empty Spaces/Young Lust is a masterclass, Happiest Days of our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall pt. 2 is one of the most famous examples in rock, and though it isn't a true transition on the album, The Show Must Go On/In the Flesh/Run Like Hell is also very good. Speaking of In the Flesh... Here is my defense for the song. I like the naughty version. It is such an over the top cartoon/video game villain moment that it is hard for me not to laugh at it. And the music itself is so fantastic, between the guitar riff that lives in my soul and the minor league Beach Boys doing backup vocals.

On the other side, the album ends poorly, with The Trial especially being a chore to get through. For the story itself, the final tracks are important, but I'm honestly fine stopping after Run Like Hell. The first two sides are stronger than the rest overall, and as much as the album revolves around its theme, I personally think I enjoy it more as a collection of stand alone scenes/singles than one large connected piece.

Overall, I think there are some easy comparisons to Tommy by The Who, but I feel like even though I think I lean towards liking a few of the songs from The Wall better, Tommy feels like a better coherent story and version of the theme album/rock opera format. If we are trying to judge its place in the rock canon (which will be more of a topic for me next week), I think it is an important album and worthwhile, and marks an ending point for Pink Floyd, of sorts. That said, there are definitely better and more influential Pink Floyd albums to choose from than this one.