Roger Waters constructed The Wall, a narcissistic, double-album rock opera about an emotionally crippled rock star who spits on an audience member daring to cheer during an acoustic song. Given its origins, it's little wonder that The Wall paints such an unsympathetic portrait of the rock star, cleverly named "Pink," who blames everyone -- ...
Roger Waters constructed The Wall, a narcissistic, double-album rock opera about an emotionally crippled rock star who spits on an audience member daring to cheer during an acoustic song. Given its origins, it's little wonder that The Wall paints such an unsympathetic portrait of the rock star, cleverly named "Pink," who blames everyone -- particularly women -- for his neuroses. Such lyrical and thematic shortcomings may have been forgivable if the album had a killer batch of songs, but Waters took his operatic inclinations to heart, constructing the album as a series of fragments that are held together by larger numbers like "Comfortably Numb" and "Hey You." Generally, the fully developed songs are among the finest of Pink Floyd's later work, but The Wall is primarily a triumph of production: its seamless surface, blending melodic fragments and sound effects, makes the musical shortcomings and questionable lyrics easy to ignore. But if The Wall is examined in depth, it falls apart, since it doesn't offer enough great songs to support its ambition, and its self-serving message and shiny production seem like relics of the late-'70s Me Generation. EMI's Experience Edition of The Wall offers a new remaster of the original album and adds a third disc of a "Work in Progress," a selection of 27 demos also featured on the much larger Immersion Edition reissue of the album. Apart from an opening "Prelude (Vera Lynn)," all the solo Roger Waters demos have been left behind -- they're as an effective enticement for investing in the Immersion Edition as all the extra visual and printed material -- leaving this as a bunch of relatively rough full-band run-throughs, divided into three separate Programmes tracing the evolution of the album. The first Programme, running 13 tracks, is quite subdued and slow, a clear outgrowth from the moody malevolence of Animals. "Another Brick in the Wall" has its melody but not its riff, a signal of how this earliest draft downplayed muscle and melodrama, elements that creep into the picture during Programme 2 with the addition of "In the Flesh?" and David Gilmour's pulsating eighth notes on "Another Brick in the Wall." All these elements begin to coalesce on Programme 3, as the production gets further definition via spoken word, effects, and fuller arrangements, along with the addition of "Comfortably Numb," here presented under its early version, "The Doctor." Along the way, abandoned songs are aired and it's evident that their themes were folded into other songs -- "Teacher, Teacher" went into "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt 2," "Sexual Revolution" covered the same ground as "Young Lust," "Backs to the Wall" went into "In the Flesh" -- and there are other slight differences to be heard, usually in the form of lyrics. Nothing here quite seems like a radical departure from the finished album -- nothing is embryonic, where only the barest outline can be detected; Waters had a sturdy structure for the songs at the very beginning -- but hearing this evolution in microcosm is fascinating: few albums are ever as lavishly and carefully produced as The Wall, and by going through this "Work in Progress," it becomes clear just how much labor Floyd and producer Bob Ezrin exerted on the finished album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi