Monday, July 2, 2012

Praise for Older Brothers, Roger Waters in concert, Syd Barrett

It's always interesting to return to works of art that so captivated one in their youthful, impressionable years.

When I was 18, I discovered Pink Floyd's The Wall, both the concept album and, shortly afterward, the film. This was in thanks mainly to my close friend at the time. His older brother had left a pile of vinyl records behind when he moved out. Older brothers be praised. I also made several other worthy discoveries this way. These were not mere albums, but infusions into my pop music mediocrity of high school in the late 1980's and early 1990's. My discoveries included Kiss' Destroyer, The Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms, The Police's Synchronicity, Men at Work's Business as Usual and Sheik Yerbouti by Frank Zappa, to name a few.

As for Pink Floyd's The Wall, to my younger self, the idea of a character enduring a complete emotional breakdown was very appealing. This is the whole concept of The Wall.  However, now that I am not 18 (let's go with youngish instead), and know of Syd Barrett's history with Pink Floyd, the appeal has lessened signifcantly for me. For the uninformed, Barrett was a founder of Pink Floyd who dabbled way too much with LSD. He was also a paranoid schizophrenic, a condition exacerabated by his overuse of acid.

The Telegraph has an enlightening 2006 obituary about Syd Barrett here:
You can also find an amazing British documentary on youtube if you search for Syd Barrett.

Another Pink Floyd founder, Roger Waters, was once quoted in an interview as saying that a lot of The Wall film was about Barrett - in particular, the scene where the protagonist shaves his head, face, and eyebrows and organizes the entire minutiae of his life in obsessively-compulsive order. Obviously, Waters liked to ponder Barrett's schizophrenia through Pink Floyd's music. The band has also readily admitted that Wish You Were Here was a  tribute to Barrett. They also emulated his psychadelic lyrical style in Dark Side of the Moon

That said, The Wall is still a brilliant concept album. I remember camping in a provincial park with my close friend and another of his brothers and their wife. His wife remarked that she thought my best friend and I liked The Wall because of lyrics of "We don't need no education" and that this anti-academic theme appealed to us. Actually, it was the whole bloody album that knocked us back.

I guess the difference is that when you are older, The Wall is a little more discomforting if you are familiar with the source material. Admittedly, the idea of a character being deconstructed was one of my peccadilloes, particular Frank Miller's "Born Again" story arc in the Daredevil comic book, and the Superman exiled-in-space narrative that appeared in the late 1980's and crossed over into all the monthly Supeman titles.

I say all this because  my friend and I saw Roger Waters in concert on Mon, June 23. Waters re-uses the album concept, including much animation from the film and plentfiul anti-war imagery, such as photos of casualties of war - and not merely soldiers.

My close friend was actually very uncomfortable with Water's anti-everything stance (anti-war, anti-authority, anti-bomb-making, anit-government, anti-people-who-have-more-than-12-items-in-the-express-aisle-at-the-supermarket - this last one was my addition, neither my friend's, nor Waters' - etc.). To me, this seems a logical leftist progression for Waters. However, I could undersand such misigivings. It ain't entirely the same concept as the original album and movie. Whether Waters has modified his whole performance to suit current times or whether he is against so many things (although his ibomb, and ilearn gimmick, in which he flashes the itunes logo along with such slogans on a giant screen, was very clever) or is simply making a very, very good living off the anti-everything posturing is another question.

The Ottawa Citizen also has a more mainstream review of said concert, that is gushing to say the least.

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