Monday, 31 October 2016
Pink Floyd: Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part Two 1980-1989
"Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall - Live"
(EMI, Recorded 1980-1981, Released April 2000)
(Yelled at full pelt): "Pathetic! THis is for all the weak people in the audience! Is there anyone here whose weak? Let's all have a clap! Come On I cant hear you! Get your hands together! Have a good time! *murderous scream*"
There's something to be said about hearing what might well be the single most human album delivered in concert with all the raw energy, emotion and mistakes of your typical live album. It's not that the studio album of 'The Wall' was detached - far from it with all those Roger Waters screams all over the place - but it did too often sound like exactly what it was, which was a bunch of session musicians trying to fit their parts around those recorded by the band all on different days. This live document of two shows at Earl's Court in August 1980 and June 1981 (one of the few arenas big enough to stage the full gig and two of only four the Floyd ever performed of their greatest theatrical work) lacks the visuals that made the shows so memorable, but it is a particularly strong live album in terms of feeling like you were really there. You can feel that the guitar solo played by David Gilmour on 'Comfortably Numb' is straddled on top of a gigantic wall somehow, just as you can tell that Roger as 'Pink' is getting more and more isolated in tinier and tinier bricks across the middle of the piece. Perhaps the most surprising thing is how well the Floyd are working together here despite all the dramas of the past few years. 'Run Like Hell' particularly is played with real venom and sparring between Roger and Dave, a million miles away from the rather pathetic live versions both men will go on to make in the 1980s and 1990s. The world weary 'Hey You' is a delight, Roger's mournful bass meeting David's hopeful guitar and Rick's timid, tentative synth head on, a maelstrom of just-about-keeping-it-together that collapses triumphantly under the crushing weight of depression. 'The Show Must Go On' gets an extra verse cut from the album but in the lyrics booklet ('I didn't mean to let them take away my soul, am I too old, is it too late?' Gilmour sighs in front of a gorgeous spoof Beach Boys choir led by honorary member Bruce Johnstone just like the record). Roger sings 'Nobody Home' with such power and directness you half wonder whether Syd has just walked into his line of sight in the front row. The band jams on the two songs exclusive to this set - 'What Shall We Do Now?' which got replaced with the inferior 'Empty Spaces' and the time-filling 'The Last few Bricks', a clever cycle of past themes repeated until the stage-hands got the last few bricks in place - prove that the Floyd could still rock and still rock hard. Only 'Comfortably Numb' sorta collapses, but only after the band have already reached so many peaks across the seven minutes that they're exhausted by the time of the climax, while a happier 'skiffle' version of 'Outside The Wall' works better for the audience in the arena than it does for us. You can understand why Roger is giving his all and he's never been better with his wicked gleeful manic laughter and a second half where he gets a little too carried away 'discovering' that he's become a right-wing Nazi, but the others' commitment is staggering too given how much they seemed to hate this album. Gilmour's guitar grunt is gorgeous, Nick's drums inspired and Rick - whose working on this tour on a wage, for goodness sake, having just been kicked out of the band - is a little star all night, his keyboards twinkling away with all the inner loss that the more abrasive Roger won't admit to.
What you won't find on this album are the usual things you look for on a live LP. There's precious little talking to the audience (the first words spoken don't appear until after the 'Another Brick' round of songs near the end of the first side when Roger finally bids 'Good Evening and Wilkommen') and the best mainly consists of some delightful Waters ranting, spoofing what should be happening at a rock concert (the start of 'Run Like Hell' has him madly screaming at an audience that they're not having enough of a good time, screaming 'enjoy yourselves!' with murderous intent). The interruptions by the emcee, who builds up tension in a 1950s style before being drowned out by the band in the first half and spoofs himself by speaking ...very...slowly in the second doesn't quite work either (the audience clearly think it's a mistake when it first happens). If you didn't understand the original album and came looking at this one for answers, I'm not sure you'd grasp the concept any better either, with Waters taking almost all the parts and the plot still getting very lost somewhere around the middle. Oddly enough Roger was about the only one who really didn't like this album and complained bitterly in the press when he was outvoted 4-1 against releasing it (manager Steve O'Rourke being the extra vote). His complaint that the show was meant to be seen as well and heard and that the packaging was awful are both good points (although Storm Thorgerson's use of the 'surrogate band' masks on the cover is fittingly eerie), but misses the bigger picture. We have his son Harry to think for this album, as he flipped over a test pressing and told his dad he'd never sounded so good, with this a chance for young fans like him to get closer to experiencing the live show they weren't born for! Actually the packaging too is ridiculous, bumping the price of this double album set to something nearer a four disc box set by virtue of a load of photographs taken from a distance and shots of the band so far away they look like ants. No matter, though - it's the music that's what's important here and it's never sounded so good. Is there anybody out there? Man, I'm never going to leave...
Nick Mason "Fictitious Sports"
Can't Get My Motor To Start/I Was Wrong/Siam/Hot River//Boo To You Too/Do Ya?/Wervin'/I'm A Mineralist
"When you're tryin' something new you're bound to have people boo-ing you!"
This is the best album jazz singer/writer Carla Bley ever made. Which is all well and good if you like Carla Bley's albums - not many people do to be frank (though it's less painful than most modern jazz to listen to) and certainly it bears almost nothing to do with Pink Floyd. Nick's contribution basically consists of playing drums and offering a few ideas on a co-production rather than anything astonishingly creative while you can still tell it's him playing (Nick has a very distinctive sound after all), naming this album after the drummer is a bit like crediting 'Dark Side Of The Moon' to 'The Nick Mason Band' or ignoring Syd Barrett and plumping for 'Piper At The Gates Of Mason'. Only worse because at least Nick got a few band co-credits on those records - on this album he doesn't even get that. Clearly there's a bit of commercial shenanigans going on here, with Nick trying to help an old friend out (he mentioned later he was looking for something to do when old friend Carla sent a demo tape and he decided they might as well struggle together than separately) and you can see that this idea might have worked: Bley made sure all her fans knew this album was out under a different name and Floyd fans got an unexpected entry into a new musical landscape, not necessarily hated by everyone (although some of the comments online do make it seem that way sometimes). Even so, it has to be said that in the early 1980s when the Floyd were already alienating most of their fanbase and a new career seemed to be on the cards for everybody, this sudden switch of gears probably wasn't a wise move. Parts of this record suddenly make 'Several Species of Small Furry Animals...' sound completely normal.
There are, however, a few reasons not to dismiss this record entirely out of hand. Soft Machine's Robert Wyatt appears on backing vocals on many of the tracks and should really have got a co-credit: the two bands had a long and involved shared history after various tours and guest spots together (including Wyatt taking the Waters part on David Gilmour's 'Remember That Night' gig version of 'Comfortably Numb', but this is the longest two members of the two bands work together. There's a case to be made that Nick's drumming is better than it's been in years, as he's really challenged by the semi-improvised nature of the band, who often shove in a squealing sax motif at just the point when you think the songs are finally going to do something 'normal' (though Dave and Roger thrived under the new professionalism and attention of the mid-70s period, Nick's and Rick's talents got overlooked - it's nice to hear that Mason could do still keep on his toes). The track 'Boo To You', an automatic knee-jerk to audiences who'll dismiss this out of hand and getting the insults in first, is hilarious (and very Roger Waters as it happens). The most 'normal' song here, 'Hot River', is often cited as a Floyd pastiche too. To be honest it's more of a rock and roll pastiche - anything with a tune or words would be the most Floydian moment on this album you suspect - but Nick at least took it as a joke ('It has all my favourite clichés of the past fourteen years' he joked, quoting the vocal, guitarwork and production reminding him of various Floyd albums). Overall, though, this album is closer to the feel of 'More' and 'Obscured By Clouds' than an actual 'album' - it's a free-flowing record that plays to its own rules and is out to surprise you throughout, usually in a bad way but sometimes for good. In the world of Pink Floyd solo albums 'Fictitious Sports' doesn't quite get the wooden spoon then, but it's not quite medal status either. Perhaps the most disappointing thing is the cover, which as blocks of boring colour with a few squiggles to make out a basketball and tennis court must rate as the least imaginative Hipgnosis design ever (to be fair, they didn't have much to go on from the music).
"A Collection Of Great Dance Songs"
(Harvest/EMI, November 1981)
One Of These Days/Money (Re-Recording)/Sheep//Shine On You Crazy Diamond(Parts 1,2,3,5 and 7)/Wish You Were Here/Another Brick In The Wall Part Two
"Once of these days I'm going to cut your songs into little pieces, re-record some others and sell them off in some cheap and tacky cover at vast expense!"
Back in 1971 Pink Floyd heard that EMI wanted to release a retrospective and stepped in to make sure that 'Relics' was made care, full of fan favourites and rarities that offered a bit of everything. Ten years later however, with a new breed of fan rushing in after 'The Wall', nobody cares anymore. Certainly Not Roger Waters, who dumps the whole thing on Gilmour's shoulders and looks the other way. Certainly not EMI, who come across a sticking point over the licensing rights for 'Dark Side Of The Moon' (courtesy of the Floyd being licensed out to a different record company in the States - although the Floyd were on EMI their whole lives in Britain, they were swapped between two or three record labels in the States, though oddly 'Meddle' was also on EMI, hence the album version of 'One Of These Days' at the start) and ask the band to re-record one of their classics as quickly as possible. And most certainly not Hipgnosis who, contracted to come up with a cover image, come up with one of their worst ideas yet - a dancing couple held in place by ropes outside a barn (Gilmour wasn't entirely joking when he said the cover was 'so awful I assumed we'd get it cheap'). Tacky looking and tacky sounding, this record more than ever reminds of the original line cut from 'Dogs' back in 1975 'Gotta keep people buying this shit!'
Of course, the curse of being a collector is that you kinda need to buy it anyway if only to see how badly some old friends have been wounded in the process. 'Money' is as good a re-make as Gilmour and Dick Parry can make it, re-cycling the rhythm track and the sound effects of the original whilst giving just a different enough performance not to get sued (Gilmour's voice has deepened anyway with the years and he gives a much rawer growl this time around). 'Sheep' and 'Wish You Were Here' get little trims to take away some of the sound effects that were used to segue into these tracks on the original albums. 'Another Brick' features the unique ear-catching 'loop' of the drum beat at the beginning as per the single version - but is otherwise the same as the album, complete with Roger's demented teacher shrieks at the end. 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' fares best out of all the six songs, cut down from twenty off minutes to ten and effectively losing the end of 'part one' and the start of 'part two' with some deft editing that sticks the two vocal parts together. The edit is rather deftly done, actually and better than critics always say, going straight from 'Come on you painter you prisoner and shine' to 'Nobody knows where you are how near or far...' Unfortunately though by also cutting out virtually the whole ending and keeping most of the lengthy opening, the song feels very top-heavy, ending on a unique fade of Gilmour's guitar chords while everything else dies away (so you don't get the synth and bass jam session at all). Even so, it's a rather poor affair, with Pink Floyd effectively laughing at the stupidty of them having to release a compilation, giving it a stupid title, cover and track listing and expecting us all to buy it like good little sheep anyway. Wrong idea, wrong packaging, wrong band.
One Of These Days/Arnold Layne/Fearless/Brain Damage/Eclipse//Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun/See Emily Play/Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict/Free Four/Embryo
" ratiug ym kcab gnirb ratiug ym kcab gnirb ratiug ym kcab gnirb ratiug ym kcab gnirb ...and the wind cried Mary!"
There are quite a few Floyd compilations out there, but most of them tend to stick with the obvious. The American-only post-Wall cash in 'The Works', though is worth mentioning because it's bonkers: I'm not sure anyone in their right mind would ever have considered putting ranting-Scotsman-meets-sound-effects 'Several Small Species' on a best-of where it sounds even more out of place segueing in not from the fly with the rolled up newspaper sounds of 'Grantchester Meadows' but the sunny pop of 'See Emily Play'. The 'new' segue between 'Fearless' and 'Brain Damage' works rather well, though, with the Liverpool football club crowd now egging the narrator on to 'insanity'. Equally few other Floyd compilations have room to adopt some of the more overlooked Floyd classics like 'Free Four' or 'Fearless'. The inclusion of two rare Syd Barrett singles, only previously made available on album on 'Relics', is also a bonus and frankly makes this set a whole lot more enjoyable than the 'official' best of 'A Collection Of Great Dance Songs' released in a few years' time. However the real reason you'll want to own this is because it sports the only 'official' release of Pink Floyd's greatest unreleased song 'Embryo', a similar but more playful and much much shorter version of 'Echoes' recorded during the 'Ummagumma' sessions but left unfinished, even though it was a stronger composition than anything that actually made the studio album half. Pink Floyd were horrified and tried to have the compilation pulled, without success given that they were no longer on the Columbia label in the States, though they've successfully blocked any re-release of the album in the CD era (though that hasn't stopped bootleggers making their own from vinyl copies). Back in the day this album was also worth buying for the quadrophonic mixes of 'Brain Damage' and 'Eclipse', curiously the only songs from 'Dark Side Of The Moon' here despite it being by far the best-selling album the Floyd released on their American label, though this has since been re-released on the Dark Side 'Immersion' box set. A shame about the rather ugly cover though, with the band name and album title written in grey block capital letters supposedly being but up by a builder and about as un-Floyd and commercial as you can get (still beats the 'Dance Songs' dancers with holes in, though).
David Gilmour "About Face"
(EMI, March 1984)
Until We Sleep/Murder/Love On The Air/Blue Light/Out Of The Blue//All Lovers Are Deranged/You Know I'm Right/Cruise/Let's Get Metaphysical/Near The End
"I don't want this anger that's burning in me!"
'About Face' has gone down in Floyd history as the 'one where Gilmour gets angry'. Recorded in a pique of pure Gilmourness in the wake of 'The Final Cut's pure Watersness, this is the record with the front cover that looks as if it's caught David unprepared mid-argument, his nostrils flaring, his lips pursed, his eyebrows half-raising into a frown while her jerks back his thumb as if to say 'don't blame me - blame him!' at an imaginary Waters whose ghost hangs heavy across this album. It's a record full of songs named 'Murder' and 'All Lovers Are Deranged' and a pointed 'You Know I'm Right' and has a reputation for being a bit, well...noisy. The Bob Ezrin producer's credit doesn't bode well for this being a quiet melodic album either given both 'The Wall' and 'Momentary Lapse'. Given that the songs that worked least well on the Gilmour-led Floyd albums were full of similar bombast and aggression ('The Dogs Of War' 'What Do You Want From Me?') I wasn't exactly looking forward to this record and put it off until I both couldn't find any more other Floyd records worth buying and at a cheap enough price to allow my conscience to rest easy that it was worth it for a 'collection completer'.
I should have discovered this album earlier. Though there are moments of high-tempo rock and more than a little frustration coming over in the lyrics, people have got this album all wrong. This is a sweet little record, one that's humble and small but is so tired of not being heard that it occasionally has to grow from a mouse into a monster to make it's points, before apologising and getting hung about it. The songs tend to be Gilmour at his most sympathetic, struggling to work out other people's motives and trying to make peace with things that bother him - even if he struggles at times, as in the case of a murderer interviewed on the news or, of course, Roger (though 'You Know I'm Right' is about the most low key 'how dare you' song you'll ever hear). The only two songs that really go for the jugular, fascinatingly, are the products of David's all-too-brief working relationship with The Who's Pete Townshend. Both men were at a loose end, their bands having seemingly fallen apart between them and at the end of difficult periods in their respective love lives. Interestingly Townshend and Gilmour together seem to equal a mixture that's more like both their respective 'Rogers' (Daltrey and Waters) - angry, sarcastic and bitter (the pair met when 'The Final Cut' over-ran and had to be finished off at Townshend's Eel Pie Studios. he probably got on well with Dave as both shared houseboat studios and a passion for guitars, though oddly Pete doesn't seem to have got on well with Roger, one of the few writers who could go toe to toe with him in terms of big ideas and concepts; a third Gilmour/Townshend song 'White City Fighting' will end up as the title track of Pete's album in 1985). 'All Lovers Are Deranged' is a spiteful vengeful anti-love songs that tells us that there's no such things as love and we're all suffering some wicked delusion which we need to snap out from right now. 'Love On The Air' is calmer, but still harks back to the inner turmoil both men suffered in the 1970s, part 'Wish You Were Here' ice detachedness, part 'Who By Numbers' depression. Elsewhere Gilmour - in between having Roger and Polly Samson as his main creative partner - writes seven lyrics himself, more than any other project he'd ever been involved in. Perhaps that's why 'About Face' feels more personal, with the stakes higher and the confessions more plentiful.
Left to his own devices, Gilmour seems more keen on returning to the pastoral tranquillity that marked out his first Floyd songs and will be especially felt on his next two solo records (delayed for twenty and thirty years respectively). Most of these songs are pretty - prettier than on 'David Gilmour' - and thoughtful, as concerned with life and people as any lyric from 'Animals' or 'The Wall' but without the irony or bitter excuses of Waters' work. The trouble with this album is, David also wants to play out the frustrations of the past few years so many of these songs get big epic productions and steaming fat guitar solos, which in themselves are as great as ever but over-topple this fragile, brittle collection of songs. With Roger still quiet over the idea of the Floyd making another album (before his proposed court case brings out the fighter in Gilmour) Dave clearly worries that this is the start of a new lifetime of making records like this, rather than a one-off the way his debut had been, so also throws in every last mid-80s gimmick he can think of. Sometimes that backfires as it does on every 1980s album that's written from the heart: everything's kept at a distance, with thudding booming repetitive drums the antithesis of soul-searching. But at times it works - well, more than it will on 'Momentary Lapse' anyway - with the new direction bringing out a new side to Gilmour. Though cobbled together from two separate abandoned versions and edited into something new and also long hated by fans 'Blue Light' is a great song, Gilmour stamping his mark over 'his' parts of 'Run Like Hell' with a chopping guitar part that fits oddly well in period sounds the way the original is one of only a handful of disco songs that make sense. The sudden switch of gears from low key singer songwriter pop to tormented 1980s heavy metaller on 'Murder' is also a delight, as if Gilmour is so incensed at the suffering that he tries out some of his own. 'Until We Sleep' is also a 1980s song in every way, with doomy effect-laden vocals, booming drums, a shimmering digital backing track and a sense of not much happening, but because it sports a decent slow-burning tune and is so different to what Gilmour usually gives us it works - sort of. You wouldn't want another album of this stuff, but 'About Face' is better than both the time period and reputation suggests.
Still, though, the album's true inner beauty shines most on the thoughtful ballads. 'Out Of The Blue' is one of Gilmour's loveliest, purest songs and sounds more like Rick's usual style - a melancholy song about suffering being put right played on a piano, with an orchestral part that beats any on 'The Final Cut'. 'You Know I'm Right' is more of a plea than an argument, Gilmour trying so hard to be the face of reason while admitting that he's so moved to anger he can barely keep his emotions in check. 'Cruise' is Gilmour's one and only solo political comment, a pretty ballad that sounds on first hearing like a love song but turns out to be a love song from Britain to America when studied, a 'thankyou' note for being burdened with a set of nuclear missiles for spare change while Britain massages the bigger power's ego. And best of all closer 'Near The End' is glorious and features a trick Gilmour will return to again: the record a metaphor for his career. Will we, the fans, turn it over and start again? Or have Pink Floyd gone through too many changes, leaving their supporters behind? Will he lose our affections and support as well as Roger's? Not content with that, Gilmour turns it into a song about death wondering what he'd be left with if he died tomorrow - what his life was all for. It's an astonishing song so Gilmour in so many ways, touching on the miscommunication themes of 'Division Bell' and the fear of the unknown of 'Rattle That Lock' and 'The Endless River' with a self-realisation of what's happening to him that borders on Barrett levels. All that lot leaves only the rather anonymous instrumental 'Let's Get Metaphysical' in the 'you really don't want to hear that' box - the other nine songs though are all valid and varied entries into Gilmour's canon. Though his other three solo albums all contain individual songs up to this record's level, this is easily Gilmour's most rounded work and one of the best Floyd solo albums out there, up with 'The Madcap Laughs' 'Wet Dream' and 'Amused To Death', great company indeed.
'Until We Sleep' almost comes with Roger's 'Wall' cry 'Are there any paranoids in the audience - anyone here who worries about things?!' The single most 80s pop song any of the Floyd released, it ought to be awful but instead it works rather well, with Gilmour a lone vocodered voice in an uncaring unfeeling soul-less world that seems to have gone mad. Only Gilmour's stinging guitar brings any warmth. 'Play and blow your cares away' Gilmour sings at one point, but not as if he means it - instead this song is a plea for calmness and stability in a world so shaken to the core he half-fears the stars won't be in the sky next time he wakes up.
'Murder' starts off as a pretty ballad, a faster 'Wish You Were Here'. People find solidarity after a tragedy, none of them quite comprehending it 'with eyes that just stare'. Gilmour is more interested in the murderer though, ashamed that someone though this was 'the only way of making his mark', even comparing himself to the murderer as his anger rises up and spills forth in an electric ending that's as emotional as we've ever heard the most reserved member in this most reserved of bands. Gilmour revealed later that he had John Lennon's assassin Mark Chapman in mind when he wrote it (a shame, actually, that he wasn't still collaborating with Waters, who'd surely have blamed Lennon's death on a Government conspiracy and mass hypnotism: Gilmour's pure feeling would have worked well in tandem), although the lyrics are vague enough to be about anyone. Goodness knows there are enough similar cases out there sadly, as Gilmour knows all too well. A gloriously unhinged guitar break at the end is the icing on the cake, Gilmour spitting feathers at the stupidity and aggression in the world.
'Love On The Air' sounds more like Townshend's work than Gilmour's, with its metaphorical lyric about love beaming out like a radio wave (is this where Roger got his inspiration for 'Radio KAOS' from?) and twinkling synths more like his 'Let My Love Open The Door' single three years earlier. The chord changes are very Gilmour though, reaching out a hand in the darkness and trying to take the sting out of the song's tale with soothing reflection while the pure lyrics pleading to be left alone sound like common ground for both men. 'No one will hurt me again - no one will cause me to cry' sighs Gilmour, more in hope than certainty, wondering why he's getting no reply for all the messages for 'love' that he's 'transmitting'. By the time the song comes round again the final time round it's grown in size and sounds like it's found a resolution of sorts.
'Blue Light' was reportedly hard work to get right. First recorded as a sort of manic extended funky jam to have words added on top, Gilmour realised it wasn't working and tightened the song up in the editing suite. ASs a result the compressed riff turned out remarkably like 'Run Like Hell' (which can, surely, only be a good thing), while over the top he added heavy percussion emphasising the off-beats and a busy horn section that's more like jazz. The result is an intriguing hybrid, what the Floyd would sound like if they ever made a Mariachi marching band version of a Santana covers album. The lyrics, long dismissed by most reviewers as pop nonsense, are actually quite revealing for Gilmour, who never did write many lyrics. Another song of longing for the perfect woman, he passes on looks and riches in favour of someone who can bring comfort and support to him. He imagines a 'blue light' around them - symbolic of both prostitutes but also 'help' - it's the colour of police car, ambulance and fire engine sirens. Gilmour is, as it happens, only another couple of years away from meeting Polly, the love of his life.
'Out The Blue' continues the colourful theme with one of the loveliest ballads in the Gilmour canon. The guitarist pours out his heart to us as he gets on his high horse about the future of his and our children. Everyone, he says, deserves to 'live in the light, be safe from the storm', but knows that the world doesn't play ball, with too many innocent victims 'their blood spilled like wine'. Gilmour is tired of pretending that the 'thunder' of oppression he feels in the air all around him will just go away, but equally he feels powerless to stop it. Interestingly, this song shares a certain feeling and melody to 'Paranoid Eyes', while recycling the orchestra and sudden surging synths of that album and the 'we fall' echoed voice of 'Hey You' from 'The Wall'. Nowhere does this track feel like a 'Gilmour' song, though that's rather fitting for a song about being taken out of your comfort zone. A delight.
Over on side two 'All Lovers Are Deranged'. Written by Pete and Dave feeling more than a little sorry for themselves, it's a snarling stomping rocker about how love makes us do the stupid things and should be listed as a mental aberration. In time lovers both moan about rules they themselves created, 'disembodied souls' that 'fall in fits and starts' and are always moving away from each other and that love is born out of an intoxicating fire that is always going to burn itself out in time. 'You never really fall in love unless you're seventeen!' Gilmour sneers Roger-style as he admits that all future love affairs are coated with the realisation that things will never be perfect. The best song on the album for those who like the noisy stomping side of Gilmour's work, his playing on this song is incredible, ending with a 'crunch' of which even Townshend would have been proud.
'You Know I'm Right' is a clever song from someone bright enough to know that the other side is as stubborn as he is, but equally determined not to give way. 'That's absurd!' Gilmour splutters, wondering about the cause 'is it you or me? Why do we always have to disagree?' Gilmour takes the higher ground by stating that he always tries to at least understand the 'other side's point of view and would never 'turn his back' as his enemy has done, but that doesn't help him win the argument. Though you could make the case for this being a late-period song about the divorce with Ginger, it 'fits' the on-going battle with Roger better, with 'recriminations all around' not just between the pair. Typically, Gilmour uses his song as both reflection of the stalemate, with a main riff stuck in a groove unmoving, and a solution, with a happier chorus that he has to pluck out of the air and sing in falsetto. The song ends where it began, with a truce of sorts, both sides thinking that they've 'won'. A highly revealing track.
'Cruise' sounds like an ordinary period pop song, a little Dire Straits in the finger-picking style and organ accompaniment. But lyrically this may well be the best song on the album, Gilmour sarcastically praising those who brought nuclear missiles to Britain to 'save ius from things we just don't understand', innocently believing that owning the bigger weapons will keep us safe, rather than simply make us the next target when a superpower makes one even bigger. 'You've really taken me in' sings Gilmour, bluffing - his innocent narrator simply referring to being an immigrant in a new land of hope. 'Close friends should never fall out' he sings rather pointedly -in fact Roger would surely have appreciated this song, so close to his own style and jam-packed with 'Wall' style organ parts.
Only 'Let's Get Metaphysical' palls and even this is a more substantial instrumental than any from Gilmour's first album. Most of the track features piano and sleepy strings until Gilmour's slightly over-loud guitar comes in to disrupt the hypnotic spell. It sounds like a great opening for a song that never comes, building up to a climax two-thirds of the way through before ebbing and flowing away again.
'Near The End' though is a great closer. Gilmour is referring to the record at first when he asks the listener if they like it enough to 'turn over and start all over again', adding that he hopes we've felt a 'stirring in our heart'. But the rest of the song is more long-term: Gilmour knows a big change and a major break is coming, he can feel it all around him and it saddens him. All these years he thought the Floyd (for the song is surely about them, perhaps with Gilmour's first marriage in there too) were building to something - and it's not happened, with Gilmour once 'convinced we were getting older and wiser' now alarmed to find 'we were just getting old'. A gorgeously creepy main melody leads neatly to a sweeter chorus, willing for there to be something there to hold on to when he wakes though he knows it's slipping away. Gilmour then imagines himself on his deathbed, when 'what once was bright is growing dim', trying to be proud of what he's achieved but a little afraid, too, that he's got it wrong - that all this time he's been deceiving himself. A terrific little song, full of very Floydian touches (such as being woefully dark and depressing, and yet somehow slightly uplifting too thanks to Gilmour's music forever at least trying to reach up to the sun) and much under-rated.
What a tragedy that there's no song that even attempts to dare to be this good on 'Momentary Lapse' and that very few tracks on that album will live up to the standards of this. With its Roger-like gloom and drama it's 'About Face' that's the better 'fair forgery' of the Floyd song, the absence of Nick and Rick not withstanding and this record might well be the most overlooked album in the Floyd canon of them all (along perhaps with 'Wet Dream' and 'Amused To Death). Selling a mere 500,000 copies - compared to the millions of the Floyd's last run of records and even Gilmour's own, sadly few people ever got to hear this album the first time around and even less seemed to understand and like it. Surely, then, it's time for an about face of their own: this is a worthy Floyd record, the deepest and most resonant to date in the Gilmour collection, marred only by a 1980s production framework it uses better than most albums anyway.
Richard Wright in Zee "Identity"
(Harvest, April 1984)
Confusion/Voices/Private Person/Strange Rhythm//Cuts Like A Diamond/By Touching/How Do You Do It?/Seems We Were Dreaming
Cassette and CD bonus track: Eyes Of A Gypsy
"Although you have to play you find parity by listening to the voices inside you"
Rick must have looked over at what was happening on 'The Final Cut' and felt relieved not to be a part of the Floyd anymore. However, by the same token, Dave and Nick must have looked over to see how far and desperate Rick had fallen - joining up with ex-Fashion synth player Dave Harris for a ridiculously of its time album - as a warning for what might have happened if they left the Floyd. It's often been said that the biggest problem with 'Identity' is that it doesn't have one, being a faceless crib of every other period synth album around. The only other album like it in the Floyd canon is Nick's 'Profiles' and at least that collection of jingles had the decency to be short (for the most part) and memorable (at least while the song was playing. 'Identity' just sounds like a typical 1980s pop album with Harris' croaky gruff vocals and already dated sounding pop sensibilities drowning our Rick's softer, more melancholic side. You'd be hard to pressed to know that this album had any link with the 1970s Floyd sound - after all, his name no longer a commercial draw, EMI didn't exactly flag up Rick's past and instead marketed this as a new act. repeated listenings does reveal a few touches of the old Rick here and there though on the better tracks.
'Voices' for example features a 'Marooned' style keyboard opening, electronically treated vocals (actually by Harris but sounding more like Rick) and the overpowering sense of melancholy and paranoia in the lyrics. The long drifting 'Crazy Diamond' style opening to, erm, 'Cuts Like A Diamond' (was this deliberate?) which does what Rick used to do effortlessly on 70s technology now updated for, gulp, 80s synths and pan pipes (though it's a more suitable backing and a far better song than anything on 'Momentary Lapse'). The Dire Straits-style finale 'Seems We Were Dreaming' which as far as I can tell is the only one with Rick's vocals which sounds like an outtake from 'Wet Dream' (although all the voices on this album are so electronically-treated and the two vocalists relatively similar, so it's hard to tell), with lyrics about the thin line between reality and fantasy. The rest of the album, sadly, sounds more like Fashion than anything by Pink Floyd and if you've never heard of them then that's probably for good reason - they were as much a part of their decade as The Spice Girls were in the 1990s and are hard to take now even for the most bandana-wearing, shoulder-padded, smash-eating 80s retro yuppies out there. Still, a record long dismissed as one of the worst ever in the Floyd canon isn't actually that bad, merely misguided, and deserves half a sympathy point at least for being so relentlessly of its time - something of an oddity and quite a brave idea for an ex-member of a band who were always so consciously removed from time. There's very little Rick here though in truth and its own creator dismissed it as 'an experiment that should never have been released' years later, while the lack of anything memorable doesn't exactly make this 'Ee-Zee' listening for fans (we're here all week folks...)
Nick Mason/Rick Fenn "Profiles"
(Harvest, October 1985)
Malta/Lie For A Lie/Rhoda/Profiles Parts 1 and 2/Israel//And The Address/Mumbo Jumbo/Zip Code/Black Ice/At The End Of The Day/Profiles Part 3
"A game's a game I hear you say, enough emotion in a day, we'll never live enough to play I hear you say"
Like Gilmour, Nick spent the few years after 'The Final Cut' assuming his day job was all but over and he'd have to find a night one. Unlike his colleague, though, Nick wasn't a natural candidate for a solo album - he'd never written a full song (sound effect collages yes, songs no) and was a better speaker than a singer, while despite the star billing his previous album had effectively just featured him playing the drums in a jazz band. Mason always had a love of films, however, and as setting up your own film company was a very mid-80s thing for a musician to do (this is the era of George Harrison's Handmade Films and several others) he decided to have a go at that instead. The project never really got off the ground, though Nick did make a rarely documentary about himself (''Life Could Be A Dream', which is indeed what it seems until you realise that there's no mentions of the other Floyd members and that the rest of his life at the time was more like a nightmare). Along the way he met a likeminded soul in Rick Fenn (a fellow AAA artists by virtue of his three year stint in 10cc between 1978-1981 and at a similar loose end after the loss of his band) who proposed that instead of making films outright they could provide the soundtracks to them instead. Nick was game so 'Bamboo Films' came into being, a production company with high hopes of scoring the biggest film soundtracks but instead only ever really got going on a few other low budget documentaries and advertising jingles. Most Floyd critics scratch their head over the whole enterprise, figure that Nick just wanted a new Porsche for his growing music collection and put it down to having too much time on his hands. However I've always felt there was more to it than this: the Floyd had only just dug themselves out of a very deep financial pit with 'The Wall' (Roger teasing the others with bankruptcy by with-holding the tapes for a time) and were already approaching another one as across 1985 Roger decided to seek his way out of the band via a costly legal battle. Though 'Profiles' sold little and probably cost more to make than it made (that's a nice glossy cover it uses after all, a very Hipgnosis design of shadows blowing a megaphone, very-much-there-but-not-there, that's very Floyd despite not being by them at all but Paul McCartney's old designer Clive Arrowsmith) it also sounds as if Nick could have made an alternative career for himself at this point, happy just to be making music and a little money with friends rather than millions with the warring Floyds.
'Profiles' is a sort of hodge podge of the best of these, a 'Relics' style combination of bizarre oddities, rarities, antiques and curios that includes something old ('At The End Of The Day' is one of the more substantial moments from 'Life Could Be A Dream'), something new ('Lie For A Lie', an actual song mainly by Fenn and given to a guesting David Gilmour to sing) and something borrowed ('Mumbo Jumbo' is so like everything else around in the mid 1980s it hurts). However there's nothing here that's 'blue', which if you've come to these albums in order is something of a shock: 'Profiles' may well be the chirpiest album in the Floyd canon, with no gloomy Roger Waters lyrics, no Rick Wright melancholy keyboards, no morose David Gilmour solos ('Lie For A Lie' is a happygolucky kind of a song) and not even a Carla Blay jazz lick in sight. Perhaps because of its status as a collection of ear-catching jingles, 'Profiles' doesn't have any reason to be anything but jolly, which makes it a more appealing solo album than some in the Pink Floyd universe straight away. The handling of period technology, too, sounds much better in Mason and his pal's hands than it ever seemed to on the later Pink Floyd, with these chirpy synths used the way chirpy synths should be, not as ponderous atmospherics as so often happened on 'Momentary Lapse'.
The downside to all this is that 'Profiles' is also the most shallow of Floyd albums. Most of the songs are instrumentals and unlike, say, 'The Great Gig In The Sky' there's no real hook or meaning behind them. I've played this record a few times over the years and despite the immediate-catchyness of the jingles I can't remember how any of them goes now that the album's finished. Though most are undeniably pretty (barring a noisy ten minute title track, though the shorter 'Profiles 3' is rather lovely with its pinging guitars and shuffled percussion), they're also pretty pointless unless mid 1980s jingles are your thing (and if they are then I'd see a doctor about that quick). Mason again gets precious little to so, although you feel that he was at least in the room when these songs were getting bashed into shape, unlike 'Fictitious Sports' - and Rick Fenn, a highly under-rated talent, is probably a more capable partner of shouldering a whole album than Carla Bley had been. There are, thank goodness, two songs that make the whole record seem a little more substantial and both are up to the standard of most Floyd solo releases, if not the band albums - there's certainly enough skills displayed here to make you wish Mason and Fenn had written a whole album like this. As it turns out Rick wrote 'Lie For A Lie' (a poppy song about matching like for like and playing games in relationships, which is very like his 10cc reggae style) almost by accident, the pair deciding to write 'Israel' (an oddly aggressive protest song with a great synth hook) as a way of 'balancing' the two sides of the record with a song each. Both feature guest stars from the men's past: Denny Peyronel turns 'Israel' from a serious song with a message to say about crumbling civilisations into a cartoon, while Gilmour excels on 'Lie For A Lie', a welcome chance to actually sound happy without the baggage of the last few years of Floyd). Both are well worth hearing and so is the whole album in a funny sort of way, if only to hear what a 'happy' Floyd album sounds like - just beware that in Floyd terms this is a snack rather than the usual banquet.
Roger Waters/Various Artists "When The Wind Blows" (Original Soundtrack)
(Virgin, October 1986)
When The Wind Blows (David Bowie)/Facts and Figures (Hugh Cornwall)/The Brazilian (Genesis)/What Have They Done? (Squeeze)/The Shuffle (Paul Hardcastle)/The Russian Missile/Towers Of Faith/Hilda's Dream/The American Bomber/The Andersen Shelter/The British Submarine/The Attack/The Fallout/Hilda's Hair/Folded Flags
"The sea of battle rages round the ancient tombs, while mother nature licks her wounds"
Roger's first act, post-Floyd, was to revive the old band passion for matching visuals and audio with the first film soundtrack since 1972's 'Obscured By Clouds' (with the obvious exception of the band's own 'Wall' film). By Roger's recent standards this was an easy project and Waters seems to have enjoyed not having the pressure of having to write a full-on concept album or a work that had to live up to the Floyd name/ Unfortunately it's also the start of a fleeting love of 1980s technology that will mar the next few Waters projects and on which the old Floyd hallmarks of silence, thought and depth are sacrificed for booming linn drums and noisy synthesisers. Roger was an obvious choice to provide the music for Raymond Briggs' deeply frightening cartoon, which is to the 1980s what 'Dark Side Of The Moon' was to the 1970s: a collection of a generation's doubts and fears about how the world was turning out and what might be in store in the future. A harrowing cartoon about nuclear annihilation as seen through the eyes of an innocent elderly couple, who trust their Government to do the best thing and believe in their ridiculous 'warning' booklet about what to do in the event of a nuclear attack to the letter, it's deliberately made to be as shocking as it can be. Briggs, a writer of children's books including 'The Snowman' and 'Fungus The Bogeyman', is never a stranger to tackling big themes for young audiences (the first is about death, the second prejudice via scary monsters) and so is a natural sparring partner for Roger. However Briggs excels himself here with his masterwork which appears to all intents to be for a family audience but is instead the most grisly cartoon ever made, a world away from the usual fare (most reviewers compared it to Disney, though it only works for contemporary Disney stuck in the mire of 'My Little Technicolour Mermaid' - 'Pinocchio' and 'Bambi' especially are also two highly grisly cartoons about death and betrayal).
Sadly, though, Waters doesn't quite raise his game enough with the soundtrack album. Admittedly like most soundtrack albums Roger is limited with how much mood and meaning he can pack into an album that's effectively a group of instrumentals and a title and closing song. However the likes of 'More' and 'Obscured By Clouds' had proved how well Roger and co could cope with drawing up feeling through nothing except music - here the melodies get a little left behind in a sea of period technology. In some ways it works - better than on the sequel 'Radio KAOS' anyway - by virtue of making out that what's really responsible for the cold war is a feeling of disconnection and emotional coldness that was always heading towards the digital sound of the 1980s so short on love. However heard across a whole album, it's awfully wearing on the ears - and given that the film is already wearing on the eyes, deliberately so, it's a shame that it isn't just a little bit softer.
As a sign of just how mired i the mid-1980s this project is, though, Roger comes out of the film sounding much better than his contemporaries. The film's theme song - provided by David Bowie - is hideous, lacking any of the film's directness or subtlety and falling into loud-mouthed cliché, while Hugh Cornwall's 'Facts and Figures' and Genesis' The Brazilian' are pretty gormless too, more about making noise than making music. Only Squeeze's retro 'What Have They Done?' feels as if it belongs on this album. That leaves Roger with a mere twenty-five minutes to make his mark via a collection of pieces that range from a few seconds to seven minutes. The best of these are 'Towers Of Faith', a first reunion with 'Great Gig' singer Clare Torry, which is less moving than back in 1973 but better than Torry's contributions to 'Kaos'. A combination of biblical tales of destruction and modern greed and avarice, it's a song that peaks too soon but features Roger's wrath at its most scathing and features the best line of the album: 'The Pope rode up in his armoured vehicle...and said something I did not understand. Well, it was in Polish...' 'Hilda's Dream' features some pretty acoustic guitar 'n' synth noodling not too far removed from 'Unknown Song', the outtake from 'Zabriskie Point' but a little slower. 'The Andersen Shelter' is a pretty orchestral piece that uses the clever technique of fading the film dialogue under the music so you can just hear it - in the film of course the music does the same for the speech. 'The Attack' is a scary synth battle that few fans would be hard pressed to recognise as Waters' work. although you can hear shades of 'On The Run' and 'Welcome To The machine' in the digital world's relentless anarchy and oppression. 'The Fall Out' is all new though, a snaking eerie landscape where very little exists except an echoing murmur of what once was. 'Hilda' Hair' is an unexpected burst of jazz, the poorly OAP hallucinating that she's back in her first plume of youth, with those familiar synths knocking on the door trying to get in. The soundtrack album then concludes with the epic 'Folding Flags', a sequel of sorts to 'Brain Damage' with the same mixture of depression and singalong hope. A re-telling of 'Rock A Bye Baby' that damns the world powers who caused the destruction ('You can prove all you want but your people will still be dead'), it's a worthy finale full of pathos and hope until a godawful sax solo turns up and takes over the second half of the song. Just my luck - a nuclear bomb's gone off and yet all the saxophones seem to have survived...
Overall, then, 'When The Wind Blows' is a minor item in the Waters canon, but a worthy album nonetheless. If you can see past the generic pop provided by other people at the start, the ten second nuggets of sound effects (not counted as actual songs in our review) and the fact that Roger is adapting his sound to another creator's vision then there's much to enjoy here, with two strong songs and a few bits of inventive experimentation making this a worthier Waters album than 'Kaos' to come. At the time it was quite a brave and uncompromising soundtrack for what must surely be one of the bleakest films ever produced. Then post-Berlin Wall - an event marked by Waters himself in three years' time - it seemed like an intriguing time capsule from a time when the events of the film looked not only possible but probable, one day eventually. Heard again nowadays in a slightly scarier and more evil world it seems ever more prescient. In the words of another Waters song it's 'a warning to anyone still in command of our future - to take care'.
Roger Waters "Radio K.A.O.S"
(Harvest, June 1987)
Radio Waves/Who Needs Information?/Me Or Him/The Powers That Be/Sunset Strip/Home/Four Minutes/The Tide Is Turning (After Live Aid)
"Give me some confirmation there's a way out of here!"
Roger had seemed so confident when he left the Floyd for dead in the mid-1980s that everyone assumed he had a grand masterplan up his sleeve, a solo album concept that was sure to blow anything the rest of the band could do out of the, err, Waters. But actually this is the time when Roger began to falter. The stakes were higher than they had been for 'The Body' or 'Pros and Cons' - this time Roger really was launching a solo career and wanted people to come along with him for the ride. Figuring that he needed to make something greatly commercial, he put his trust into period synths and sounds for an album that given Roger's usual speed at making albums sounded dated before it even reached the shops. Many fans have commented that if only Roger could get round to re-mixing this record and stripping the excesses back (in the same manner as John Lennon's 'Double Fantasy' a few years ago) there might be a great LP in here somewhere. However, I doubt it because worse than the sound of this album is the substance, Roger's usually spot-on ideas about how much of a story his fans can take seemingly deserting him.
The plot revolves around a simple-minded paraplegic named Billy, who grows up in an impoverished family hit by the coal miner's strike. Billy a computer whizz, starts a false computer simulated nuclear attack that brings the world's superpowers to question whether they really would push the big red button, while Billy confesses to a local radio that actually it was him what did it. Goodness knows that plot alone is complicated enough for a 40 minute album, but hidden in there somewhere is Billy's twin brother Benny whose also a coal miner and has lost his job and is unable to feed his family. Annoyed by a condescending Thatcher TV broadcast about how miners should be 'looking harder' for other work he stages a protest, which goes horribly wrong when a bridge is damaged so badly a car flies off it killing the people inside. Molly, their mum, is distraught when both brothers are questioned and although Billy is left off he's sent to America to live in America (at least, if you count the album's B-sides as 'canon') Billy, of course, doesn't know this yet but picks all this up through 'radio waves', although that sense of every bit of information intertwined that Roger sings about sounds more like what will become the internet in another decade or so. That's a lot for any album to pack in and to do so you really need to understand the characters if you can't always understand the plot. The trouble is, Roger's other characters tend to be defined by what happen to them across a plot - Pink, for example, is a nothing and no-one character at the start of 'The Wall' but by the end you at least have some sympathies for him, even if you think he does go on moaning just a bit. Billy, though, is under-written with no similar songs told from his point of view, merely songs about him and trying to short-circuit our empathy with his disabilities never quite comes off either because there's no background to it (if Billy had been injured in a war, or had an operation cancelled because Margaret Thatcher the Milk Snatcher took his dad's job away then this record would make more sense, but it feels like something's missing from the storyline somehow, eve with the three period B-sides that are also linked to the plot taken into account. Billy's synthetic voice too is impossibly hard to hear, though to be honest the broad American radio DJ Jim Ladd isn't a lot clearer and his attempts at humour sound woefully forced and out of place.
You can forgive a lot about a concept album if the songs are good enough, but again Roger's usual knack of writing big concepts in with small human details seems to have deserted him. Most of these songs are mere pop songs and rather bland ones at that, more memorable for the repetitive beats than the words or melodies. There are, at least, a small handful of songs that stick out across the mire, usually the ones that use the production values the least: 'Who Needs Information?' is the one song here with a heart to match it's rhetoric, 'Me Or Him' adds some Japanese style instrumentation and haiku-style lyrics although none of this seems to have anything to do with the plot, 'The Powers That Be' is a sweet ballad with Roger's usual humanism in play at last and the album's most famous moment, the finale 'The Tide Is Turning', at least sports a decent tune and some long belated hope. However even these songs lack Roger's usual wordplay and sound pretty dispassionate too, with Roger taking a back seat to ill-fitting guest stars such as Paul Carrack and even old Floyd session singer Clare Torry, who struggles with 'Home', a song a million miles less expressive than 'Great Gig' despite this being one of the few songs to actually feature words. There is, in fact, a lot of interesting ideas thrown into this mix - it just needs developing across a wider space and with more interesting songs to keep our attention. Many fans will back Roger when he says that his passing love for the new period technology got in the way of the ideas - the bank of synths was, after all, an obvious means of replacing a whole missing band on Roger's first 'real' solo album. But even if you'd taken the technology away this would still be a messy and hard-to-follow album, with that usual Waters insight and poetic-ness reduced to a few sound-bites and characters who are never more than shadows.
'Radio Waves' is noisy pop that seems to spend an awful lot of the song repeating the title mindlessly, like a spruced up big budget commercial, which is a brave and dangerous move for an album with so much plot to convey. Roger seems to be discussing the idea of the social media early here, though, with the FM channels full of a world of people who all have opinions to express. The lyrics though are crude and unworthy: 'Magic Billy is in his wheelchair is picking all thisstuff up in the air...' Weirdly, and post-modernly, the song ends with the DJ announcement of a song named 'Radio Waves' that makes several reference to the plot.
Suddenly we're introduced to Billy's brother Benny on a tale of the two dispossessed brothers walking down town and wondering who buys all the stuff they see on sale and feeling jealous ('How do you make a have out of a have not?') 'Who Needs Information?' is one of the least memorable tracks in terms of song, but it's probably the best lyric on the album as Roger's 'Final Cut' style sneer sticks up for the anti-Thatcher protest voices that the society of the time was simply dismissing without thought. Heard here, in a well-we've got-nothing-to-lose-have-we? demonstration , the Brothers' anti-austerity protest sounds like the most natural thing in the world, although in truth it fits the 2010 London riots better than any event that happened at the time (until the Poll Tax riots that led to her downfall in 1990 there were surprisingly little grass-roots marches against Thatcher in Britain). For now, Billy's sense of 'Radio Waves' passing to him from other people is claustrophobic: 'Who needs information' he sighs 'When you're living in constant fear?'
'Me Or Him' is Radio Kaos' problem in a nutshell - what starts as a sweet ballad about Benny worrying about his brother turns into a much bigger song trying to cover the whole of human evolution inside four minutes as well, with this the album song that most points the way towards 'Amused To Death'. Figuring that life was better off before someone invented the wheel, Benny sighs (the brothers do a lot of sighing across this album) that life now a dog-eat-dog world where he sees to spend most of it competing for a 'parking spot'. Benny physically uses a radio so he can talk to 'ordinary people' again, but all he can hear is the scene of the protest/'accident replaying in his head. A period news clip then has sound-bites of an interview with a right-wing paper asking whether the Russians would dare to be so bold if Ronald Reagan were president (Clue: oh yes they would!)
'The Powers That Be' is the most needlessly noisy and 'modern' (in as much as any 1980s album now sounds modern) song on the album, with Paul Carrack's grunting shout a pale compensation for the loss of David Gilmour. A typical Roger Waters 'list' song, full of all the pressures of modern life one after another, with only a 'you better run out home' chorus to tie them all together, it's hard to know what this song is saying: stay home and don't protest? Or that this life is scarier than you know and full of forces you don't understand, with loss of human lives 'attrition'? The song ends with Billy bidding goodnight to the DJ with a dog barking mysteriously in the background.
It turns out that the dog belongs to Billy's uncle David and he's now been moved out to Sunset Strip, though good luck working that out just from the lyrics! 'Sunset Strip' has Billy feeling as if he's just entered a different world to the bleak futureless monochrome Britain he's left behind - this American way of life is garish and full of twinkling artificial lights. Billy feels 'alien and strange, outta range', but he enjoys the nature around him and the beach where life is quiet enough for him to 'tune in' with the Welsh valleys of home. Here the only thing people seem to talk about on the air is what sort of fish they don't like (!) The DJ interrupts with a shout of 'shut up and play the next record!' The listeners at home quite agree...
'Home' is one of the more intriguing tracks. Though the song starts as a geography lesson with another of Roger's 'lists', Waters does quite a bit of fortune telling here, asking us if we're prepared to believe that other cultures hate us so much that we're willing to give up so many of our freedoms (the way we did post 9/11). Giving the power of us and them to the powers that be turns us all into 'second class citizens', longing for the old days of cowboys shooting out in duels rather than the uneven battles between those with power and those without it. Billy feels 'a lion within him that roars' as he picks up on all the frustration around the world. Alas the song is soon ruined by the mother of all Roger lists as he describes just about every human being on the planet like a musical game of guess who ('Could be a foreigner, could be a Turk, could be a cyclist out looking for work...') and some hideous linn drums that make what should be a moving song lifeless and distant.
'Four Minutes' is where the plot really kicks in, with Billy deciding that what the world secretly wants is an end to their misery. Roger's clearly been watching the period film 'War Games' here as he has Billy's keen brain infiltrate the nuclear missiles of America and Russia and somehow makes them look as if both isees are in imminent danger. Billy's bluff works, with both sides aborting just in time (though it's unclear whether the missiles really would have blown or whether Billy just made them look that way). Typically, though, the DJ thinks he's joking and rings off before realising Billy meant it and trying to get him to ring back. Billy, though, is too busy singing one of the most plot-driven songs on the album, a song about never taking second best. Trying to make the human race remember 'every time you vowed never to step back on the plane' and every time we felt the lion roar before giving up and resting on our laurels, Billy urges us all to remember this moment and that we have power over our aggressors. Alas the song itself is rather less easy to remember. This song seems to have been left over from both 'The Wall' and 'The Final Cut' - while it might not have settled well on the former, it would have made a better ending on the latter than 'Two Suns In The Sunset', at least had it been recorded with that album's orchestral feel rather than the 1980s pop.
That was, apparently, the original ending, which would have made 'Kaos' even bleaker than 'The Final Cut'. However in the middle of writing the album Roger was sat at home watching his old pal Bob Geldof's 'Live Aid' concert happening all over the world and feeling that there might be a future for the human race after all. With the most memorable melody on the album, 'The Tide Is Turning (After Live Aid)' works well in context as an 'Outside The Wall' style soothing balm, although it's a much 'purer' song than that, without any hint of Roger's usual cynicism. It's maybe a little too sickly, actual, with the threat of a 'charity single' hanging over it all, while the rhymes of 'children burning' and 'yearning' for the title are a bit of a stretch. A good song even so, though and the only comfortable ending this work could have had: nothing's really changed, with Benny still in prison and Billy half a world away, and yet everything's changed.
Overall, then, 'Radio KAOS' suffers from Roger simply thinking of too much. He's always loved pushing his audience as hard as he can, through a series of hard-thinking works, but this one is perhaps the heaviest going for fans in terms of plot with no equivalent of 'Another Brick In The Wall' or 'Comfortably Numb' to keep us going. It is easily the weakest of Roger's solo albums and in truth is a less 'fair forgery' of a Pink Floyd album than 'A Momentary Lapse Of Reason', with Roger trying even harder than Dave to sound like Pink Floyd without knowing how to do that without the others there. Still, though, if these two albums are the lowest between them across the whole book, it's not really that low a standard: 'Kaos' especially suffers from too much thought rather than too little.