Surprise, it’s still relevant
Pink Floyd’s world-famous double album The Wall is celebrating its 40th birthday this year after becoming one of the United States’ best-selling albums of all time. The double album illustrates a progression of a rockstar’s life and ultimate isolation; it is considered the London-based band’s most ambitious project, as well as one of the most intricate albums of all time. Reoccuring themes of rebelling students and being cautious of the government not only paint a picture of 1979, but of 2019 as well.
Released in 1979, the 26-track album was written almost entirely by the group’s bassist, Roger Waters.
Even though the album is portraying an individual’s entire journey into isolation and their fight to reconnect with the world, there is no flat note to be found, and critics who claim that it is difficult to understand what the group is talking about were not listening well enough.
The transitions between each song are mostly without pause, with one song flawlessly connecting into the next. The lyrics, “Isn’t this where…” from the last track swiftly bleed back into the first track, starting with the lyrics, “…we came in?” The complex instrumentals and cunning lyrics continue to be impressive, even after being buried in your parents’ record collection for going-on 40 years.
From the rock ballad “Comfortably Numb” to the theatrical composition “The Trial,” the album does not miss a beat when it comes to style. The Wall’s signature track “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2” encompasses everything the world loved about music in the late 1970s, and more. Choruses sung by school children (music producer Nick Griffiths simply walked into the nearest elementary school and asked the music teacher if the students were able to sing at the studio) and an electric guitar partnered with a disco beat snowballed into an “anti-authoritarian” anthem, as well as the band’s only number one single.
The looming flaw is the overwhelming morbidity of the album as a whole, which very much distracts from the fact that the individual experiencing this story does indeed find a resolution to his isolated state. Searching for the light at the end of the tunnel as the album comes to a close is nearly impossible with hints of alienation, destruction, loveless relationships and meaninglessness of life rushing from all different directions.
After aging four decades, the relevance of the album is surprising. One underlying theme is the character’s relationship with women, which only shows up in a few tracks.
The heartfelt track, “Mother,” serves as one of the more emotional works, presenting the rockstar’s relationship with his mother as a child.
Another is “Young Lust,” which represents the focal character’s attempt to fill an emotional void with sex during his young adult years.
Then there is “Don’t Leave Me Now,” a song about pleading for a woman to stay after her husband’s abuse, with the singer stating how he desires to mold her into a person he wants her to be. Lyrics pleading her to stay so he can have someone to beat “on a Saturday night” while continuing to ask her, “How can you treat me this way?” present women as the vile image of not only being a man’s doormat, but also his personal punching bag.
Domestic violence is still very much present in 2019, and the fight for the rights of all people continue to be a global struggle. The first step towards awareness was two years after The Wall’s release in 1981 with a “Day of Unity” held in October. Since then, the Day of Unity has grown into the month of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month. With technology and social media existing during a time in which all forms of abuse are unacceptable, an individual of any status with a history of abuse can be held accountable. Although steps have been taken to bring awareness to domestic abuse, one of the only differences between being a listener in 1979 and being a listener today is the sick feeling you get after realizing that people are still being treated like objects 40 years later.
On top of the timeless technicalities of the music, lyrics asking if the singer should “build the wall” spoke volumes then and continues to do so now.
In the world of Trump and overwhelming talk of the simultaneously dreaded and desired wall, the album’s overall message of being present in the world remains applicable, proving just as well that life truly does imitate art. Most recently, musician Joy Villa arrived to this past Grammy Awards ceremony in a dress made to appear like The Wall album cover, but instead reading “Build The Wall,” with barbed wire decorated around her shoulders. This was all occurring while politician Beto O’Rourke fought against President Trump’s alleged claims about the wall’s benefits at a rally in El Paso, Texas.
Between constant fights for unification and the recently concluded government shutdown, the country is at war with itself in the same way The Wall’s troubled rock singer was at war with his own mind. The questions posed are just as relevant: what will happen if we build the wall?
Gigi Grady is a first-year Journalism major and contributing writer who’s looking for their next music obsession in their parents’ record collection. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org