Most helpful critical review
A sub-editor, a sub-editor, my kingdom for a sub-editor...
on June 21, 2000
Here Roger Waters displays his usual genius, which flawed by his usual failings in the sub-editing stage. The product (if I may be so bold as to commoditise an R. Waters record) is in part essential, in part thoroughly disposable. Which is ironic, given that that's what Waters spends over an hour railing against.
Should you have recently purchased a flash hi-fi then this is the record for you. The production is exquisite, recorded with Q-sound (the sleeve advises you to check your speakers are in phase by listening to the dog barking at the start of the record. It should sound like it's coming from the yard next door. I listened and thought, that's odd, I can't hear a dog on the record, only the one in the yard next d... heyyyyy!)
Unfortunately, there are a couple of total clangers in the line up. The worst offender is "the Bravery of Being out of Range" - an up-tempo rocker which, I suspect, was intended as a radio single. Bad idea. Firstly, Waters is generally bad at up-tempo rockers. Secondly, the lyrics are dreadful. They labour a simple (and fairly uninteresting) point, which is made with utmost clarity in the title of the song itself: The bravery of being out of range. OK, fine, got it. Let's move on.
This failure to know when enough's enough is Waters' Achilles heel. It's one thing to clearly state your point; quite another to insult your listeners' intelligence by laying it on so thick they'd need an anaesthetic to miss it. Waters' contempt for his own fans is legendary, and this record makes it pretty clear it hasn't eased up. You can't help wishing David Gilmour had been floating around, just to say, "how about sticking in this chord progression" or "Roger, that's rubbish".
Happily what remains is Water's grand scheme and his knack for a truly venomous turn of phrase. Seemingly the idea for Amused to Death has been floating round since Dark Side of the Moon, and it shows in its thematic richness. Here all of Waters' hobby horses are gathered in one stable, and there are some marvelous moments: the duet with Don Henley on "Yellow Rose", Roger's view of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "awful stuff" in "It's a Miracle", and his dismissal of a world "out in the valley, warm and clean, the little ones sit by the TV screen/No thoughts to think/No tears to cry/all sucked dry". Youch! That's us he's talking about, Ma!
Had 15 minutes been shaved off the running time this might be a great record, as good as anything Waters - or Pink Floyd - ever did. It wasn't, and Waters might as well be describing his own record when he sings - in another omissible song - "preacher or poet, who was it wrote/give any one species too much rope/and they'll [er,...] "fluff" it up". Whoops!