The Promise of a Brave New World

Some of my friends and I share music with one another while we work. We’re supposed to review/rate what gets shared with us, and share those reviews with the group, but that doesn’t always happen.

With the Grammy’s coming up, we thought we’d go with one of the past nominees for album of the year:

Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979)

Here is a monster of classic rock. This is the album I’d listen to while I shoveled snow off my parents’ driveway. Not because of any messages in the songs, it just took me more than an hour to clear the driveway and sidewalks (my parents have a big driveway).

Sure I only discovered this album 30 years after it came out, but that’s still long enough that I’m not sure which songs are actually well-known and which are my favorites and I think deserve to be well-known. Obviously, like last week’s Queen album, the biggest songs off this double album are usually played on the radio as a medley. And, like Queen, one is great and the other is good, but benefits from it’s partner’s greatness. In this case, I think The Happiest Days of Our Lives is absolutely fantastic – one of the best songs on the album. Another Brick in the Wall gets better with each Part, but I don’t really like the kids singing in Part II. It’s creepy, which may have been their point. I think the angrier (albeit less anthemic) Part III is better. Nobody Home isn’t amazing, but I do think it is underrated.

I have never been a face-melting guitar solo shredder. I’ve been inspired by David Gilmour’s solos in Mother, Hey You (which also has some nice callbacks to Another Brick in the Wall) and Comfortably Numb, which are pretty sparse.

I love the guitar work and sound on Goodbye Blue Sky, especially on the parts without lyrics and the “chorus”. The middle parts, where the majority of words are, has some odd synths or something, which is compounded by an odd chord progression. Is There Anybody Out There? also has great guitar in the latter half of the song, although I don’t care for the first half. Don’t Leave Me Now is a lowlight for me. Until they start the end section, the music is weird, the vocals don’t seem to fit, and there’s some creepy heavy breathing going on. That might work well for an atmospheric element for a soundtrack, but not so much as just an album normal people listen to. The melody in Bring the Boys Back Home fits the chords better, but the style does not. I’ve also never really cared for The Trial. Since the album is a concept album, it’s like they felt they needed to add in a track that wrapped up the story. It just feels a bit heavy handed.

There two are two music lessons that stood out to me listening to this album:

  1. Don’t let the concept of the album get in the way of the out-of-context listening of the album.
  2. You can get complicated without getting messy, but greatness can be simple too.

Sure, there are some tracks that are better than others (and a lot that fall in the middle), but I think this album is better than the sum of it’s parts. 3.42/5

Here’s what my friends had to say:

“I’ve never been a huge fan of this work, TBH. I love Floyd’s ability to have complexity and sophistication in the music yet still clear melodies and messages that induce emotion much better than a lot of prog rock bands. However, this one seems so dark to me, compared to dark side of the moon. This is the point where Bill Waters started taking more and more control of the band, so this isn’t as collaborative as their earlier work. It honestly comes off to me as a little bit like teenage angst: “my mom, my teachers, everybody, they were like a wall between me and happiness.”

So that said though, Comfortably Numb is a gorgeous song. One I love to turn up loud and just bathe in the sound. Goodbye Blue Sky is pretty cool, and I really like the sound of Mother, though its probably the most guilty of my aforementioned complaint. Hey You is intense and very good at conveying the emotion, but its dark enough that I don’t listen much to it. Run Like Hell is cool. I really like Pink Floyd and I really like many of the songs here, but overall, while I respect the accomplishment and depth of this its definitely not my favorite of theirs.” 4.0/5 – Spencer

“I’ve always given Pink Floyd a hard time. But after this and Dark Side of the Moon, I think it is because radio tracks just don’t do the music justice.

The Wall is clearly meant to be listened to as a whole. The tracks flow seamlessly from track to track, bringing in recurring themes and telling a solid narrative along the way. It is really a shame that my exposure (and most of my generation) is limited to the single plays, because it just doesn’t do the whole justice here…which I think isn’t true of most music albums because most albums are just a collection of curated music. In many ways, all the tracks for each side of the album of the Wall are one continuous song for me.

So yeah, my opinion of Pink Floyd has been improving, and I think I need to listen to more of their albums as a whole.

P.S. Interesting the meaning you found there. They said the “plot” of the album was a man dealing with a failed marriage/relationship and relaxing all the things in his life that held him back…Then finding a way to break through and find happiness again. I actually felt that in the songs myself, but maybe that’s because of the relationship my wife and I have had over the years…” 4/5 – Tim

James Taylor – Sweet Baby James (1970)

I’m playing guitar with a guy who is very James Taylor influenced and we haven’t had any of his music yet, so here we go.

I’m also going to challenge myself to write something James Taylor-y. If I come up with anything I like, and ever get around to recording a demo of it, I’ll share it with you.

From my friends:

“This album was perfection. I really can’t find anything wrong with it. From the vocals, to the music, to the arrangement, to the order of the tracks, perfection. But outside of technical skill, the songs are just written smartly with intelligent lyrics and poetry. I just can’t say enough good things about this album.” 5/5 – Tim

“Good strong album. I was surprised at the closing track with the horns, but it fit ok. I really enjoyed his rendition of Oh Susanna. Different enough, but still the classic tune. Nice and chill as expected.” 4.0/5 – Spencer

If you have any thoughts about either of these albums (from a songwriter’s perspective, a music enjoyer’s, or some other point of view), feel free to share your comments in the aptly named section below.

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3 thoughts on “The Promise of a Brave New World

  1. Pingback: We Were Rocking Out | An American Audio-logue

  2. Pingback: Don’t Let Them Applaude | An American Audio-logue

  3. Pingback: The Feeling that a Feeling is Over | An American Audio-logue

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