Roger Waters is a sad old fart.

I believe the influence of Roger Waters on western culture is widely underestimated. Not that it is neglected or forgotten, but it is in my opinion way deeper and more significant than it is usually accounted for.

It’s been important for me, as I grew up in total adoration of Pink Floyd, having like many others the first glance of what psychedelia was listening to their 70s albums in my headphones, in those 90s which sounded so alien and cold (just because of my ignorance, I know), that world made real by those mellow synths, dreamy guitars and intense lyrics, all beautifully recorded, was somewhere to go to when the teens blues struck the hardest; writing this post feels almost painful.

Their 70s albums are amazing masterpieces; but the album everybody remembers from Pink Floyd is “The Wall”
In an improbable reconstruction of how that album came to be, it was sometime in the late 70s, they were in the studio; Richard Wright, notoriously the “worst” of the band when it came to drugs, laid in front of Roger Waters a line of the purest coke a billionaire musician could find from one end of the other of Alan Parson’s mixer.
In the precise moment Waters snorted it, the 80s begun.
That line of coke dragged him out of the wild acid trip he and the rest of the band had serendipituously been on for the previous decade; in a lapse of reason, which unlike GIlmour’s later one proved to be all but momentary, he saw all the horror, the oppression; sharp and self confident like only Roger Waters after a massive line of coke could ever be, he told the whole story, as dark and desperate as it could be, distractingly throwing in the mix a load of anger towards his mother and some bad girlfriends, something for which the feminists still blame him.

I don’t know whose work I’m really stealing with this meme, I saw it years ago and it gave me one of the biggest laughs ever

From being the leading member of a band which was somehow getting lost in the shadow of itself, he went on to a solo career of amazing concept albums; one better than the other, collaborating with the best musicans of the times, making the 2 albums Pink Floyd made without him nice, but artistically almost forgettable (yeah, I’m not counting “the endless river” but who would?)

His charisma didn’t even remotely seem to fade for decades; while the rest of his previous band already looked old and rusty in the 90s; in his concerts at the time his voice was still full of meaning and presence, and the recordings from those shows are still impressive to hear.

On the side of his amazing, unmatched music career, he’s also been one hell of an activist, always vocally speaking his mind about the things he didn’t like in the world, and sending important and powerful messages through his lyrics; with sarcasm more often than not, sometimes not so gracefully, but always with that intensity which apparently never left him from that night in the studio.

So, why if I have this idea of Roger Waters, is this post titled like it is?

There’s 2 reasons.

One is his last album; I’m listening to it again as I write, and I really can’t understand; why?
Why of all, can’t Roger Waters just gracefully wait for the worms?
I’d have to repeat myself saying I consider him to be one of the most important artistic and cultural figures of last century, but this album really has in my humble opinion no reason to exist. Some probably insignificant italian artist claimed Roger Waters had stolen his copyrighted concept for the album cover; the idea of erased words from a text doesn’t seem that original or copyrightable to me, nonetheless the man won his lawsuit, and Waters album couldn’t be sold in Italy with that cover.
The one who should be calling him out for plagiarism though is his own past self; the whole album musicwise sounds so much like a series of stale self references and nothing more; there isn’t anything remotely original, the only positive note being that at least it didn’t get crushed against a limiter as too many good things, but this is, to use Marilyn Manson’s words, a copy of an imitation; something that sounds like a Roger Waters album in the way “A momentary lapse of reason” or “the division bell” sounded like a Pink Floyd one: formally a lot, substantially not at all.
The real worst part imho is with the lyrics; they’re mostly the words of an old man who is rightfully afraid of time slipping through his fingers, and really for the champion he has been all his life, I’d have rather spared myself the experience of this broken and scared Roger Waters.

But much worse than his last album, on which apparently I and the critics have a very different opinion is this:

As many others I consider Trump to be one of the most despicable human beings in existance, but I really don’t see the point of this. First because of the pigs, whose life is already miserable enough without being compared to Donald Trump, and secondly, to put it mildly, because it is a silly childish insult, and because I honestly expect way better from fucking Roger Waters.
I expected the man who wrote “The Wall” and “amused to death” among many others to understand how Trump is just a marionette in a theater, and not to let himself be swayed into seeing him as the root of problem.

Looking back at the album and its lyrics, there’s so much to talk about in the world of today, cryptocurrencies, the new threat of a nuclear war, the rise of fascism in the  US and Europe and on the other hand the violent madness the left has become in the after-Hillary, overpopulation, global warming; quite a pack of issues the man who wrote “the wall” should understand better than others, things on which we could have used his enlightened understanding of everything to better cope with; but Roger Waters is human and frail like everyone else, and his best analysis of the world today is “Trump is a pig, and my joints hurt”

If he had been god, he’d have done a better job, I’m sure about it
We, as humanity should have done a better job, because being stuck waiting for Roger Waters to show us the way isn’t an adult thing to do.
But Roger Waters too could have done a better job at being himself lately.

is La Isla Bonita actually a mescaline anthem?

I believe the lyrics almost state it clearly:


“como puede ser verdad?” -How could this be true? This expression of disbilief could be associated with a multitude of surprising events, but the first line sung in english clears the doubt: “last night I dreamt of san pedro”
The lines following do nothing but reinforce the idea that this is actually a psychedelic drug song.

“Just like I’d never gone, I knew the song” Clearly refers to an experience of Deja-vu, and the sense of homecoming, commonly associated with self discovery experiences.
“A young girl with eyes like the desert” is a quite an unusual visual association but I won’t get picky here, or we’d really have to question what the Platters meant when they sung that “only you can make the darkness bright”,  which we all surely agree is a clear reference to Ayahuasca
It all seems like yesterday, not far away” Again, an unusual connection between time and space, as if yesterday was somewhere and not sometime.

The remaining lyrics aren’t too obvious about it, but there is a clear sense of love and unity with nature and everything; it is also clear that the song is an autobiographical tale, temporally dissociated, she is experiencing and remembering while singing; of a typical love drug story, in which she and a partner experienced love and unity with nature in full scale color.

Now, on the other side, a way more often esoterically referenced artist seems to have been hit by the same meteor from the collective unconscious:

The music similarity is well known; but I want to believe in the madman’s innocence, what might be seen as an obvious case of plagiarism is in my opinion a clear sign of the unity of the universe, and the connection between this series of intervals and mescaline.

Because “unlockable doors” in the first line are without a doubt Aldous Huxley’s Doors of perception, and therefore, the whole track is a desperate cry of heaven denied; which anyone with a bit of taste who has been forced to live through the 90s can surely relate to

Is this all just a coincidence?
Como puede ser verdad?
I fatti mi cosano.

ndr.
Further research is required, but we speculate that there must be at least one track from Battiato that sounds exactly like la Isla bonita if played in reverse.

mannerism in a box and the curse of genres.

There is almost no questioning the idea that music is, or should be art; somehow beyond its simpler entertainment value; and unfortunately, just like visual art, performing art and other forms, it does at time get beyond the understanding of the spectator, or listener in this case.

Just like with other forms of art, critics, journalists, or even more questionable know-it-alls have spent a huge amount of time and words trying to classify EVERYTHING, so that people can do without listening and thinking for themselves, taking a liking to the box rather than to whatever’s in it.
You can’t make a track, an album or anything else without it falling into one box or another, or well, you can, but hoping that will reach a significant number of ears if you’re not already a big name with a big crowd of followers get even slimmer if you don’t put it into a box.
People with a liking for that box will listen to it, and probably like it even if it is a boring compilation of ultra-compressed genre oriented samples with really no energy of its own.

More interestingly, or worriyngly, music has had an important cultural role in the last decades; people culturally identify with music, the various human sub cultures have their music of choice, and often also a strong hatred of anything different from it, especially if it is different but not-so-different.
In the ’90s I used to play keyboards in a symphonic power metal band, and in those years it seemed the rift between power metal and black metal was incredibly deep; wouldn’t say they hated each other, but they were usually talking shit one about the other, considering the other genre dull, boring, repetitive or worse, while to the ears of any non-metalhead, the difference was at times barely noticeable.
In the modern electronic scene, you see the same thing or worse; the various sub-genres of EDM are so similar, yet so distant. It seems like it is a fashionable statement  to say “I fucking hate dubstep”, with no understanding that the definition of the genre itself doesn’t have such sharp borders; yes, there are of course the dreaded subgenres, and someone would even claim there is something like a post-dubstep, and some other people with a similar love for beatslicers, lasers and dinosaurs would call their own music glitch, probably just to feel cool enough to say “yeah, I fucking hate dubstep, I only make glitch”.

Some people listen, for some people music is art, energy, emotion, but they’re unfortunately a small minority, for so many people music is a piece of their cultural identity; less than a year ago, I met a darkpsy fan, who claimed he had an open mentality, and could really listen to anything; I had him listen to some of my music, which I introduced as some sort of techno; he didn’t like it, he had lots of complaints about my superficial sound design, obvious transitions, lack of emotion and he went to quite some lengths to make his harsh critique. Just a couple of days later, I had him listen to the very same track, which, for purely experimental purposes I introduced as “Zenonesque”… guess what, he liked it, he thought it was original and interesting, much better than the one I had him listen 2 days before.
The problem is that somehow, when some new sounds reach the ears of a listener today, he or she isn’t usually that focused on listening, if they don’t know it, the big question bouncing around their head is “should I like it?” “is it culturally acceptable for me to like it?”

The acronym EDM, which I believe was born originally to be a sort of a macro container “electronic dance music” embracing every sort of danceable beats made with electronic means, from Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder to big names of today, passing through Chicago, Detroit, Berlin, Goa, Milan, Melbourne and countless other countries and styles, ended up horribly failing; just doing some internet research you’ll find different and conflicting definitions, and in some EDM groups you might find people, or even DJs say things such as “fuck EDM. Some might say they don’t like the macro container, because they like the idea of segregated boxes with their own trademark characteristics, but I believe many more really don’t understand what they’re writing.

It seems history keeps repeating itself; what was originated as progressive rock,  an attempt to blend the instruments and sounds of rock with other ideas and things, ended up becoming a container for music made by people wanting to show off their technique in furious fast scales, unexpected changes, odd tempo signatures and the like, becoming a series of boring copies of itself; and the word “progressive” went so overused that today means absolutely nothing.

Even worse was the downfall of fusion, looking at the same artists; Chick Corea for example made wonderful and colorful things in the 70s with Return to Forever, and at the end of the decade an album which I consider his masterpiece, “my spanish heart”, just to gift us in the 80s with a picture of himself in a tracksuit with red trainers and a keytar… oh, and albums which were basically collections of technical exercises.

 

chick

(no, I won’t make any music example of “chick corea elektric band”, I felt guilty enough of buying a CD at full price almost 2 decades ago, I’m not giving that one youtube hit more…. besides, have you seen the fucking picture?)

The same happened to the word “crossover” being born as a non-container for contaminated music, and quickly becoming a genre with a well defined set of allowed contaminations, becoming sort of a genre of its own, or splitting into rap-metal, Nu-metal, post rock and more fantasy names.

There is something good about classifying music in genres; if you, and reasonably so have your own preferences, and want to look for something not so much unlike something you like, these labels really help you out; art directors and labels have an easier time making sense of what they do, but somehow, it terribly shrinks the creative space for musicians, who apparently seem stuck between being session men, playing in cover bands or begging attention from labels,  producers, who struggle to make tracks that make sense in a box, and dismiss good ideas just because they sound a bit different, and DJs too as some interesting transitions end up being sort of forbidden for fear of upsetting the crowd.

How should it be then?
Well, I have no idea, genres are a desperate attempt to describe with words things meant to be listened directly, which is sort of calling for a Babel of misunderstandings and inappropriate definitions; but I think there is something every single person, listener, musician, dj, art director or producer can do: LISTENING TO THE FUCKING MUSIC.

we can’t change the way others perceive music, but we can enrich our own experience by keeping our mind open; some might say nothing new ever happens, but it does; contamination, new technologies, or just simple good ideas happen from time to time; the only way you’re going to find your new favourite thing is being a music omnivore.