Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Opening oneself to changing perspectives.

Opening oneself to changing perspectives.

Roger Waters, in his career as a solo artist, has not always been easy to love as a songwriter. Aw, who am I kidding? It's almost a chore to be a fan of his. In Pink Floyd, he dragged the rest of the band kicking and screaming into darker recesses of his psyche, but at least the presence of a few other guys served to soften the acidic cynicism.

I am one of those folks in the minority that absolutely loves The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking. I think it has to do with the fact that I "got" the concept from the get-go, and I was exposed to it at a time when my own inner narrative often blocked out the realities of the world around me. Let's call it my period of intense navel-gazing, also known as "being the average teenager."

Then came Radio K.A.O.S. I loved into the glossiness of the disc (it was the '80s and heavily processed noise was still sort of novel tom me, cut me some slack) but didn't really like the choppiness of the "storyline." Sure, reading xeroxed copies of Brain Damage helped me pick apart the code, and the release of that mini-video displaying key songs theatrically gave me something the bite into, but the disc was best experienced by me as ear candy. At the time. Of all his solo discs, this one has aged most poorly. I would recommend hunting down the bootlegged version of the disc, Project K.A.O.S., and substitute that for the actual released version as far as critiquing Waters' solo output. It includes a couple vinyl b-sides (that I actually still own) -- that were actually superior to most of what appeared on the album -- alongside some outtakes to construct a far more satisfying listening experience.

And then I waited years. And years. Ans years and years and years for a follow-up. Finally, in my sophomore year of college, Amused To Death came out.

I've gotta admit, this one landed on my ears like a lead zeppelin. I did not dig it. I thought it was slow, and plodding, and O-L-D. I hit that painful wall of believing that someone I once admired had lost it and was washed up. I sold the CD for cigarette money a few weeks later.

Now it's over a decade later and I found myself actually giving Amused To Death another listen shortly after reading that Pink Floyd biography a while ago. And you know what? It's aged well. It's still a dark monolithic listening experience, and it's still not what I consider Waters' strongest work, but it really does sound much better now. I don't know if it's because I'm older and more patient, or if the slower pace and subtle chord selection just resonates more clearly now, or if maybe I just didn't have the tools or the desire to enjoy the disc the first time around. I suspect all of that came into play one way or another. Whatever the reason, I've found that I'm enjoying an album I once really disliked.

There's an important lesson here, and it's one I've always tried to keep in the back of my head. One should always be willing to give something a second chance. Our tastes change, our perspectives shift and refocus, and sounds / people / events that once were sour may become sweet with age and a different viewpoint.

It's funny, because I think it's particularly pertinent to use Roger Waters to illustrate this lesson. Waters is a man famous for his acidic views of humanity and his cynical opinion of our future, yet age has allowed him to pen the occasional melody that reaches out for the hope he now carries that man will come to his senses, and that our future is not steeped in certain disaster. The bitterness still hangs at the back of Waters' throat, but there is a sweetness in his delivery that wouldn't be present if the man still practiced the immutable mindset and unmovable opinions of an angry adolescent.

No opinion should ever be final. To adopt such an attitude is to cheat oneself out of any possibility of future growth.

MP3: Roger Waters "4.50 AM (Go Fishing)"
MP3: Roger Waters "The Tide Is Turning"
MP3: Roger Waters "The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range"

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