Album Review: Amused to Death

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Roger Waters’ recent musical ventures have all taken fans on something of a nostalgia trip. Following tours of The Dark Side of the Moon (2006), The Wall (2010-13) and now this, a reissue of his 1992 solo album, you’d be forgiven for accusing the ex-Floyd frontman of milking former glories…

A ‘new’ solo album has been jokingly in the works for some time now. Forgetting 2005’s opera, Ca Ira, Amused to Death is Waters’ most recent batch of original material – and it’s over 20 years old. However, it’s something he’s always been immensely proud of, and rightly so. In January of last year he appeared on BBC Hardtalk and cited this, his third solo record, as being on a par with Dark Side and The Wall and of greater artistic merit than Floyd mammoths Wish You Were Here and Animals. Some may cry “narcissist” from behind their computer screens, but he’s not wrong.

Originally emerging in the dawn of the 1990s when rock music was entering a glum and confused grungy wilderness, Amused to Death trickled by largely unnoticed by fans and the mainstream media. It is fitting then to see this grossly underrated gem being given the deluxe treatment it deserves at a time when Waters is riding high on the back of a stint in the limelight thanks to his sensational tour of The Wall.

True, these are all old works, but they are each gargantuan musical statements and Waters has certainly put an admired degree of effort into bringing out the best in them for fans, particularly those from younger generations, to enjoy.

The updated artwork by Sean Evans.

The updated artwork by Sean Evans.

Longtime Roger Waters and Pink Floyd collaborator and co-producer, James Guthrie, gets back behind the desk to serve up high-definition Blu-ray audio 5.1 and stereo mixes that throw in a host of musical segments and features that failed to make the original release. From small extra sound effects to more noticeable additions such as a complete duel guitar solo on ‘The Bravery of Being Out of Range’, there’s plenty for fans to listen out for. Trainspotters who are familiar with the live versions of some of these songs from 2000’s In The Flesh Live will notice that certain additions found on those cuts are included here.

If you’re a fan of Waters’ work you’ll already know the genius that lies within this record. The general feel of the album is that everything he has striven to accomplish as an artist throughout his career has come together in 73 glorious minutes. The concept works, the lyrics are sharp and poetic and the music itself is inspired, experimental and at times incredibly moving.

A ‘portrait of a distracted society’, the album’s message is as relevant, if not more so, today than it was back in ’92. A monkey flicks through TV stations and is baffled by the mix of bidding channels, soap operas, religious propaganda and savage war-torn landscapes. Alien anthropologists land on Earth after our extinction and conclude that we indeed amused ourselves to death.

One of the album’s highlights is the inclusion of guitar virtuoso, Jeff Beck. His melodic and unique style of soloing has never sounded better here with the biting tone of his strat and wild tremolo trickery complimenting Waters’ angst perfectly on tunes such as the crunching ‘What God Wants, Part 1’ (see video below.) Beck is also behind the album’s finest moment. The climax of ‘It’s a Miracle’ broods and builds, drums crash and pianos swirl before giving way to layers of spine-tingling choral harmonies that provide a platform for a brief but spellbinding guitar lead. Beck appears to botch a note but its imperfection only adds to the human beauty of the moment, heightening the intense emotive senses of desperation and pain.

Artwork from the original 1992 release.

Artwork from the original 1992 release.

There’s not a bad song on this album and it has forever deserved a surround-sound mix. With the original stereo recording being so good, there was always the danger that any tampering could damage what didn’t need fixing in the first place. That’s fortunately not the case here and the additional audio gives fans another reason to buy again.

As for the package itself, an essay in the booklet would have been a nice touch. Waters also released a series of promotional videos prior to this reissue and it would have made sense to put them on the Blu-ray disc along with the accompanying music videos and original EPK. None of that is here, which is a shame, but don’t let that put you off.

Simply: buy this album.

 

10 Masterpiece

Roger Waters reaches a peak in his artistic career with this breathtaking concept album. The new high-definition Blue-ray 5.1 and stereo mixes are a must for fans and music lovers alike.

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