Saturday, April 23, 2011

Absolute Rubbish, Laddie

No I haven't reverted to adolescence, but those who know me personally have seen my profile picture on Facebook change to the image of "Big Mother's All-Seeing Eye" for the time being. Just a quick vector design in Illustrator taken from images projected on the 36-foot high wall of the 2010-2011 Roger Water the Wall Live tour.

The Wall's lowest common denominator appeal is an anthem of adolescent rebellion, and in its timelessness will continue to be so for generations to come. Having seen The Wall in my teenage years and with very little understanding of the deeper underlying themes, the film spoke more to the subconscious intellect and emotional brain first. In so doing it creates an impression that refuses to be shaken from the viewer's memory for just about anyone who sees and hears it, of any race, creed or culture.

The film is anti-fascist in every vein but it's depiction of Nazi-style imagery have left more superficial critics accusing it of the opposite. I won't go into that here, as there is plenty of literature on the matter due to a recent ADL jab taken at the tour's depiction of the Star of David in the Goodbye Blue Sky backdrop. Like all esoteric masterpieces that reach beyond the intellect to impart its message, it remains out of the grasp of face-value judgment. The Wall simply is not what it seems at first glance. Other aspects of the film grow only more apparent with time and age in the life of an individual. What touches me today is the themes of alienation, the relationship between the sexes, the crime of showing feelings as put on trial by the literal "asshole" judge near the end of the film, and the horrific mask of conformity that exists to hide those feelings from the authoritarian figures in our life; those who prey on our humanity, despite the fact that they share that humanity with us.

Photo Credit: Pink Floyd's The Wall Motion Picture
The Wall is a timeless masterpiece written when Waters was 36 years old. I couldn't have been more than five years of age myself when I had first heard the Pink Floyd sound. It happened to be over the radio with Another Brick in the Wall Part II. But it wasn't until I was in my teenage years that I saw the film. Utilizing elements of horror to drive home it's myriad of complex insights, the film was an assault on the subconscious. Who can forget the endearing remarks of the saturnine teacher exclaiming "If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?!" And of course, the marching hammers, the illustration of feminine domination in the Empty Spaces cutscene, and the rise of civilization and its enforcers engendered of this phenomenon. Since then, the legendary Roger Waters has influenced my musical and philosophical palate more so than any artist I've encountered. His work is painstaking musical craft of a profound depth; increasingly rare in the age of manufactured artists and templated, formulaic compositions bought and sold with a clear expiration date. The Wall, as time has proven, has no expiration date. It is immortal both musically and to the extent of it's deep thematic exploration into the psychology of fascism.

Recently Bob Wilson, one of our resident rock and rollers at BFG, described The Wall to me as "art rock" and it seems an appropriate enough categorization. The Wall, however, set a standard that has never been met, nor even remotely followed in music to this day in the category of art rock or otherwise. And why should it be followed? The format of The Wall is appropriate for what it is and what it has to say. Though it tackles many a common theme in rock music past and present, those themes have never been explored as uniquely, nor with the depth to which Waters has gone with his 1979 masterpiece. With many of the walls having come down in the Western world already (sadly to be replaced with less apparent ones raised by our own complacency and slothfulness), the catalyst for such anti-authoritarian passion is non-existent today. Perhaps that will change as conditions in the Western world sour. But anyone who has observed Roger Waters knows that his passion is far from reactionary; it is his cynical nature, and what he creates is from his own essence. It is why The Wall belongs to Mr. Waters, why this performance has been so remarkably genuine, and why it's been a time capsule full of the vigor of a generation of activism long put to bed. Each note in the live performance is more accurate to the film than any live rendition of The Wall in the past, due largely in part to the reverence of Water's extremely talented support band.

A shot of the 36-Foot wall as taken from my iPhone.
Despite the decline of music as a craft, the field of motion graphic design has made huge advances. In that context, technology has only enhanced the presentation of a show and an album that are over 30 years old, to truly bring out the inspirational power of The Wall for those who have the sensitivity to appreciate it. If you're an artist of any sort, you'd have to see this show merely for it's technical excellence. But it rings true in a different way for those of us born and brought up amongst the middle-class, Protestant expectation of an old regime, as it explores the crime of uninhibited self-expression. The regime was as much a part of the creative explosion of British rock and roll as was the music itself, indeed the two coexisted for a time like night and day but the balance is quite upset, in my opinion, and what we have today is mediocrity in the arts due to a lack of structure. The story of the wall today in the Western world is closer to the story of the Pixar film Wall-E.

Regardless, there are several microcosms in my own daily life in which the sentiments of The Wall find their home, as there are for so many others in the world living in conditions where their feelings cannot be expressed, where "she won't let you fly, but she might let you sing." The tour comes at a time where a return to a father/mother figure is sought by many of us in a time of war and economic uncertainty; where control and freedom from control become central topics as a declining superpower takes stock in its military might, where traditional authoritarian conflicts remain in the Mid-East. More of Roger Water's reasons for touring now can be found on the official site here.

"Money get back / I'm all right, Jack / Keep your hands off my stack / New car / Caviar / Four star daydream / Think I'll buy me a football team." Absolute rubbish, laddie.

Get on with yer work.