Pink Floyd, The Wall

The decline of the classic lineup started here, along with Roger Waters' terminal ego-driven navel-gazing. It's very difficult to gin up much sympathy for a self-absorbed rocker's unilaterally imposed barrier between him and the world, even if his daddy did die in the war, but minus the wacko fascist flourish the album asks you to treat it as an unalloyed tragedy and it just isn't. Plus, a few shining exceptions like "Comfortably Numb" and maybe "Young Lust" aside, the hulkish pretense of the whole thing means no song stands well on its own (as a single "Another Brick in the Wall Part II" gave schoolkids a great stick to beat their teachers with, but absent its context it's hardly sophisticated criticism). What gets the album past this is its sheer theatricality, one of the few records — let alone double albums — to really meet the concept of "concept," with peerless production values and some genuinely satisfying catharsis. But the rage is too unfocused to be meaningful ("One of My Turns" indeed) no matter how acute, and while your humble jerk critic and every subsequent angsty generation will listen to it for awhile non-stop, eventually you'll grow out of it just like Pink did and I did and Waters didn't. Come for the self-inflicted psychological wounds, stay for the art. The movie (because it was inevitable there'd be one) adds some Final Cut-like linking songs that work well and an excellent extended "Empty Spaces" in the form of "What Shall We Do Now?", though Bob Geldof doesn't really hit Waters' vocal range and the omission of "Hey You" is glaring. Overall the movie version is an improvement, but issuing "When The Tigers Broke Free" as a single had the same issues "ABITW Part II" did, and the soundtrack has yet to appear in its entirety on any re-release even though it's obviously ripe for it. (Content: violent imagery, S-bomb in "Nobody Home" and "The Trial.")