I deliberately listened to The Wall the album, before watching The Wall the movie. I really wanted to experience it as an album first. And maybe it would be different if I didn’t know the movie existed, but to me, it sounds obvious that the album is just one part of something much bigger.
Usually when I write about an album, I’ll go into detail about a few key tracks that I think represent what’s good, what’s bad or what best encapsulates the album as a whole, but The Wall isn’t really about individual songs, or radio ready singles (even though you’ll still here a couple of these songs today on high rotation on classic rock radio stations).
It’s a story. And I don’t just mean it’s the story of the movie. It comes from a time when even if there wasn’t a tie in motion picture, a lot of bands saw their albums as a single entity, with the individual tracks working together and building on each other to create something bigger and more impressive than the sum of its parts.
I really wish I could think of a less wanky way to say this, but The Wall takes the listener on a journey. Even without paying attention to the lyrics, just the feel of the songs, the mood and energy is like a story with a distinct beginning, middle and end. It might take you to some weird places and you’ll finish somewhere nothing like where you started, but it feels like a very real, very organic process got you there.
I know I haven’t really delved into any specific details about The Wall. First of all, as far as good and bad goes, it’s pretty much a universally accepted fact that The Wall is an undisputed piece of musical genius. And for me, it never came down to good or bad.
I don’t think The Wall has a single song I’ll listen to individually again just for the fun of it. But it has made me appreciate those classic rock radio standards l’ve heard dozens of times before. Within the context of the bigger picture, songs like Hey You, Comfortably Numb, Run Like Hell and of course, the various versions of Another Brick in the Wall, all have a totally fresh, new sound that I’ve never noticed before.
It’s dense, it’s intricate, it’s so precise that it really is amazing any band, even a band as accomplished as Pink Floyd, was able to pull off something as ambitious as The Wall.