The Wall, by Pink Floyd
Suggested by Neil Hodgkinson
To me, Pink Floyd’s The Wall is embedded in my preteen memories.
I first encountered this album at age eleven, on a week-long school trip to France. A new classmate, Jon, loved Pink Floyd. While in France, he bought himself a video of the Bob Geldolf film Pink Floyd – The Wall. It cost him sixty pounds, pretty much all of his spending money. He was fine with the cost, and the fact that it was likely unplayable on a UK video recorder, as the movie was unreleased in the UK and as rare as unicorn teeth.
They released it in the UK two weeks after we got home.
Intrigued by his devotion to the band, I requested he bootleg a copy of the album for me. I became obsessed with it, for a while. I’d listen to it in bed every evening and when I woke every morning, letting its overwhelming sense of ennui wash over me and turn my thoughts to grey. I memorised every word, which was easy as so much of its bleak and repressive content was obviously written as a descriptor of my life. I even tried learning the harmonica, as I’d an idea that listening to The Wall before school then sitting in my form room on the oversized windowsill, playing my depressing blues harp as the winter rain buffeted the glass, would make me interesting and cool. For the record, I did that exactly once, and no one gave a toss.
Eventually, I put down the tape, as Heavy Metal demanded I stopped being so damn soft. And that was pretty much that. This project’s listen was my first in nigh-on thirty-five years.
The first thing that surprises me is just how much of this album I can still recite, word for word, as it ploughs its un-merry furrow. It got me bone deep, back in Bebington in the early Eighties, and the strength of its grip and the depth of its claws are a testament to Pink Floyd’s enduring appeal. The passage of time has been particularly kind to its sound, which remains fresh even now. And the signature songs, like Another Brick in the Wall and my standout Comfortably Numb? Still as incendiary and acerbic as the day of release.
I’ve heard a few Pink Floyd albums during this project. The peerless Dark Side of the Moon, the serviceable Wish You Were Here, and now their Concept Opus, The Wall. One of the claims often laid at the band’s trottered feet is that they can be rather indulgent, as can a lot of the original Prog sound. It’s safe to say that The Wall is the band’s most narcissistic work to date, spanning eighty-plus minutes of intense navel-gazing and introspection. As a preteen with a complicated home life and an as-yet undiscovered flair for the over-dramatic, I lapped it up like a thirsty hedgehog. As a comfortable forty-something, its moroseness is rather stultifying.
Of course, I can’t deny that the album fulfils its brief in spectacular fashion, as it’s a charged and affecting work. But I can’t offer it more than a creditable 7/10. Individually, there are fine morsels to be had, but taking on the whole cake will lead to suicidal thoughts.