The last of the three major Pink Floyd albums to be expanded and reissued is their 1979 double-album opus The Wall. If you haven't heard of this album already, then...well, you're probably lying. I'm willing to bet that, when I type "WE DON'T NEED NO EDUCATION", literally all of you now have "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2" stuck in your head. It's probably genetic at this point.
What I'm saying is, we've all already been here. We've all already had the experience of listening to this absolutely wonderful album, and at this point, we've pretty much all gotten used to it. Sure, it's still excellent music, but it doesn't carry the same intrinsic emotive power it once did. It's aged, and aged well, but aged nonetheless. Given that, you probably aren't terribly excited about this reissue. I'll readily admit, I actually wasn't, either. The previous two large reissues (The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here) were literally diametrically opposed in terms of quality. The former was incredibly lacklustre and a terrible letdown, whereas the latter was impressively mature and augmented the listening experience greatly. So my expectations for this one were pretty much "fuck if I know".
And, after listening to it many times over, I'm still not sure entirely what I think about it. I guess I'll start with the positive and see if I can write myself into an opinion. The bonus material on this album consists of one disc of early studio outtakes and demos from the recording of the album. Normally, yes, I am vehemently opposed to demos being used as bonus material--it still feels like a cheap way to cash in on crap you have laying around the studio, as the demos are often just lower quality versions of the songs you just heard. But the demos contained here are actually incredibly enlightening, something I rarely have the chance to say. The demos consist of three different programmes, each an excerpt of the album at various points in its creation. To say The Wall is a complex album is an understatement, but these early demos actually reveal some great insights into Roger Waters' writing process for the album. You can hear clearly how the songs have grown and been cleaned up from their earliest versions, how the tracklisting has been played with and altered over and over, how songs have been cut, added, augmented, shortened... This collection actually strikes me as a fascinating and even important document into the creation of one of the most well-known albums in existence.
Take, for example, the original sound collage introduction titled "Vera Lynn". It has absolutely nothing aside from the name in common with the finished piece "Vera", and yet it gives us an insight into how important the comparison was for Waters while writing the album. He puts it right up front, even using clips of her own voice, to drive home his point. The beginning of the album had a long way to go before it rested on the incredibly soft, acoustic reprise of "Outside the Wall".
"Another Brick in the Wall" also seemed to undergo many different changes and revisions; the original riff turned out to be much different than the finished version, focusing more heavily on the acoustic guitar (in fact, I actually prefer it). The famous second part started life as a soft, short, transitional piece without any real meat to it, and the third and final part was actually much more developed. In addition, "The Thin Ice" apparently originally featured a pretty soulful guitar solo, and "Young Lust" featured an incredibly different, much quicker vocal part.
And, of course, some didn't seem to change at all. "Goodbye Blue Sky" is almost exactly the same as it appears on the final album, and "Don't Leave Me Now" seems to have undergone only the most cosmetic changes. There are also a few songs that got nixed along the way. The smooth rocker "Teacher, Teacher" seemed to get its lyrical content folded into "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2", and the bluesy rag "Sexual Revolution" seems to have been (rightfully) excised entirely. Only the demo for "Mother" stands out as truly appalling. Could Waters not have bothered to program a drum machine to play in something other than 4/4? It's really not that hard. He managed it for the rest of the track just fine!
So what's the downside? In short, the individual programmes are incomplete pictures. They're cohesive, yes, but nonetheless cut-up chunks of larger programmes of demos that appear in full on the seven-disc (holy crap) 'immersion' edition of the album. So, on the one hand, this collection does give us some excellent material. On the other hand, the picture it paints is incomplete. Now I don't want to seem like I'm committing the perfect solution fallacy here; I am in no way implying that having incomplete selections of demos, even in lieu of full ones, is a bad thing. What I do wish to point out, however, is that the people most likely to enjoy these demos are the die-hard fans that will want to over-analyze and pour over the programmes in full, and they're the folks that are most likely to be irked by the omissions.
So, what does this mean for you? Well, if you're a big fan of Pink Floyd already, you'll appreciate what this album has to offer. The truly die-hard fans may want to consider springing for the 'immersion' edition, but almost all fans will be content with the 'experience' edition. Casual or new fans of the band might not find this new material as interesting, though there's certainly nothing bad with it. You may want to consider just buying the album on its own at this point, just in case (for some godforsaken reason) you don't enjoy the album enough to appreciate the extras.
8.0 / 10
'Oh great,' you're probably thinking, 'another critic on the Internet with her head up her own ass talking about this fucking Pink Floyd album again. How droll.' Let me assuage ...
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