AllMusic Review: The Wall was Roger Waters’ crowning accomplishment in Pink Floyd. It documented the rise and fall of a rock star (named Pink Floyd), based on Waters’ own experiences and the tendencies he’d observed in people around him. By then, the bassist had firm control of the group’s direction, working mostly alongside David Gilmour and bringing in producer Bob Ezrin as an outside collaborator. Drummer Nick Mason was barely involved, while keyboardist Rick Wright seemed to be completely out of the picture. Still, The Wall was a mighty, sprawling affair, featuring 26 songs with vocals: nearly as many as all previous Floyd albums combined. The story revolves around the fictional Pink Floyd’s isolation behind a psychological wall. The wall grows as various parts of his life spin out of control, and he grows incapable of dealing with his neuroses. The album opens by welcoming the unwitting listener to Floyd’s show (“In the Flesh?”), then turns back to childhood memories of his father’s death in World War II (“Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1”), his mother’s over protectiveness (“Mother”), and his fascination with and fear of sex (“Young Lust”). By the time “Goodbye Cruel World” closes the first disc, the wall is built and Pink is trapped in the midst of a mental breakdown. On disc two, the gentle acoustic phrasings of “Is There Anybody Out There?” and the lilting orchestrations of “Nobody Home” reinforce Floyd’s feeling of isolation. When his record company uses drugs to coax him to perform (“Comfortably Numb”), his onstage persona is transformed into a homophobic, race-baiting fascist (“In the Flesh”). In “The Trial,” he mentally prosecutes himself, and the wall comes tumbling down. This ambitious concept album was an across-the-board smash, topping the Billboard album chart for 15 weeks in 1980. The single “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2” was the country’s best-seller for four weeks. The Wall spawned an elaborate stage show (so elaborate, in fact, that the band was able to bring it to only a few cities) and a full-length film. It also marked the last time Waters and Gilmour would work together as equal partners. — Rovi Staff
AllMusic Review: Rust Never Sleeps, its aphoristic title drawn from an intended advertising slogan, was an album of new songs, some of them recorded on Neil Young’s 1978 concert tour. His strongest collection since Tonight’s the Night, its obvious antecedent was Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, and, as Dylan did, Young divided his record into acoustic and electric sides while filling his songs with wildly imaginative imagery. The leadoff track, “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” (repeated in an electric version at album’s end as “Hey Hey, My My [Into the Black]” with slightly altered lyrics), is the most concise and knowing description of the entertainment industry ever written; it was followed by “Thrasher,” which describes Young’s parallel artistic quest in an extended metaphor that also reflected the album’s overall theme — the inevitability of deterioration and the challenge of overcoming it. Young then spent the rest of the album demonstrating that his chief weapons against rusting were his imagination and his daring, creating an archetypal album that encapsulated his many styles on a single disc with great songs — in particular the remarkable “Powderfinger” — unlike any he had written before. — William Ruhlmann
AllMusic Review: Michael Jackson had recorded solo prior to the release of Off the Wall in 1979, but this was his breakthrough, the album that established him as an artist of astonishing talent and a bright star in his own right. This was a visionary album, a record that found a way to break disco wide open into a new world where the beat was undeniable, but not the primary focus — it was part of a colorful tapestry of lush ballads and strings, smooth soul and pop, soft rock, and alluring funk. Its roots hearken back to the Jacksons’ huge mid-’70s hit “Dancing Machine,” but this is an enormously fresh record, one that remains vibrant and giddily exciting years after its release. This is certainly due to Jackson’s emergence as a blindingly gifted vocalist, equally skilled with overwrought ballads as “She’s Out of My Life” as driving dancefloor shakers as “Working Day and Night” and “Get on the Floor,” where his asides are as gripping as his delivery on the verses. It’s also due to the brilliant songwriting, an intoxicating blend of strong melodies, rhythmic hooks, and indelible construction. Most of all, its success is due to the sound constructed by Jackson and producer Quincy Jones, a dazzling array of disco beats, funk guitars, clean mainstream pop, and unashamed (and therefore affecting) schmaltz that is utterly thrilling in its utter joy. This is highly professional, highly crafted music, and its details are evident, but the overall effect is nothing but pure pleasure. Jackson and Jones expanded this approach on the blockbuster Thriller, often with equally stunning results, but they never bettered it. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The album’s title track took inspiration from terrorist figures of the time, particularly Ulrike Meinhof of the Baader-Meinhof group. “Guilt” was informed by the Catholic upbringing of the singer and her composer Barry Reynolds. “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan”, originally performed by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, is a melancholy tale of middle class housewife’s disillusionment; Faithfull’s version became something of an anthem and was used on the soundtracks to the films Montenegro (1981) and Thelma & Louise (1991). “What’s the Hurry?” was described by Faithfull as reflecting the everyday desperation of the habitual drug user. Her cover of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” was recorded as a tribute to her own heroes such as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, and Lennon himself.
The last track, the six-and-a-half-minute “Why’d Ya Do It?”, is a caustic, graphic rant of a woman reacting to her lover’s infidelity. The lyrics began with the man’s point of view, relating the bitter tirade of his cheated-on lover. It was set to a grinding tune inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s recording of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”. Poet and writer Heathcote Williams had originally conceived the lyrics as a piece for Tina Turner to record, but Faithfull succeeded in convincing him that Turner would never record such a number. Its plethora of four-letter words and explicit references to oral sex caused controversy and led to a ban in Australia. Local pressings omitted the track and instead included a ‘bonus’ 7″ single of the extended version of “Broken English” . The ban did not extend to import copies, and the song was also played unedited on the Government-funded Double Jay radio station and Brisbane community broadcaster 4ZZZ. It wasn’t until 1988 when Island re-released the album in Australia that “Why D’Ya Do It” was finally included.
AllMusic Review: It even looks like something classic, beyond its time or place of origin even as it was a clear product of both — one of Peter Saville’s earliest and best designs, a transcription of a signal showing a star going nova, on a black embossed sleeve. If that were all Unknown Pleasures was, it wouldn’t be discussed so much, but the ten songs inside, quite simply, are stone-cold landmarks, the whole album a monument to passion, energy, and cathartic despair. The quantum leap from the earliest thrashy singles to Unknown Pleasures can be heard through every note, with Martin Hannett’s deservedly famous production — emphasizing space in the most revelatory way since the dawn of dub — as much a hallmark as the music itself. Songs fade in behind furtive noises of motion and activity, glass breaks with the force and clarity of doom, and minimal keyboard lines add to an air of looming disaster — something, somehow, seems to wait or lurk beyond the edge of hearing. But even though this is Hannett’s album as much as anyone’s, the songs and performances are the true key. Bernard Sumner redefined heavy metal sludge as chilling feedback fear and explosive energy, Peter Hook’s instantly recognizable bass work was at once warm and forbidding, and Stephen Morris’ drumming smacked through the speakers above all else. Ian Curtis synthesizes and purifies every last impulse, his voice shot through with the desire first and foremost to connect, only connect — as “Candidate” plaintively states, “I tried to get to you/You treat me like this.” Pick any song: the nervous death dance of “She’s Lost Control”; the harrowing call for release “New Dawn Fades,” all four members in perfect sync; the romance in hell of “Shadowplay”; “Insight” and its nervous drive toward some sort of apocalypse. All visceral, all emotional, all theatrical, all perfect — one of the best albums ever. — Ned Raggett
Some contemporary critics dismissed Japan as Roxy Music imitators. “Although [Japan] may seem full-steam ahead, seamlessly ‘European’ to you,” NME’s Ian Penman wrote, “it all seems slyly Roxy Stranded to us ancients. Ferry’s smoky closure accentuated and crowded into one watery fiction.” The album nonetheless received positive reviews from other critics such as Melody Maker’s Steve Gett and Sounds editor Geoff Barton, garnering the band some of their first real support from the British music press.
In his retrospective review of the album, AllMusic critic Keith Farley wrote: “Quiet Life is the album that transformed Japan from past-tense glam rockers into futuristic synth popsters, though they’d been leaning in that direction for a while. It’s also a solid proto-New Romantic synthesizer record”. Trouser Press viewed the selection of John Punter to produce the album as “significant, as the band’s sights had shifted from gutter-glam to elegant decadence.” Writing for The Quietus, Joseph Burnett called Quiet Life “an album that pushed the elegant, improbably-coiffed Sylvian into the limelight, aided and abetted by some of the band’s best songs,” and found that it “deserves to be placed alongside Travelogue, Mix-Up and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark as one of the key early British synth-based pop/rock albums”
AllMusic Review: The most popular of all the Gary Numan albums is undeniably 1979’s The Pleasure Principle. The reasons are simple — there is not a single weak moment on the disc, it contains his sole U.S. (number one worldwide) hit, “Cars,” and new drummer Cedric Sharpley adds a whole new dimension with his powerful percussion work. The Pleasure Principle is also one of the first Gary Numan albums to feature true ensemble playing, especially heard within the airtight, killer groove of “Metal” (one of Numan’s all-time best tracks). Starting things off with the atmospheric instrumental “Airlane,” the quality of the songs gets stronger and stronger as the album progresses — “Films,” “M.E.,” “Observer,” “Conversation,” the aforementioned “Cars,” and the U.K. Top Ten hit “Complex” all show Numan in top form. If you had to own just one Gary Numan album, The Pleasure Principle would be it. — Greg Prato
AllMusic Review: Entertainment! is one of those records where germs of influence can be traced through many genres and countless bands, both favorably and unfavorably. From groups whose awareness of genealogy spreads wide enough to openly acknowledge Gang of Four’s influence (Fugazi, Rage Against the Machine), to those not in touch with their ancestry enough to realize it (rap-metal, some indie rock) — all have appropriated elements of their forefathers’ trailblazing contribution. Its vaguely funky rhythmic twitch, its pungent, pointillistic guitar stoccados, and its spoken/shouted vocals have all been picked up by many. Lyrically, the album was apart from many of the day, and it still is. The band rants at revisionist history in “Not Great Men” (“No weak men in the books at home”), self-serving media and politicians in “I Found That Essence Rare” (“The last thing they’ll ever do?/Act in your interest”), and sexual politics in “Damaged Goods” (“You said you’re cheap but you’re too much”). Though the brilliance of the record thrives on the faster material — especially the febrile first side — a true highlight amongst highlights is the closing “Anthrax,” full of barely controlled feedback squalls and moans. It’s nearly psychedelic, something post-punk and new wave were never known for. With a slight death rattle and plodding bass rumble, Jon King equates love with disease and admits to feeling “like a beetle on its back.” In the background, Andy Gill speaks in monotone of why Gang of Four doesn’t do love songs. Subversive records of any ilk don’t get any stronger, influential, or exciting than this. — Andy Kellman
AllMusic Review: More than any other Fleetwood Mac album, Tusk is born of a particular time and place — it could only have been created in the aftermath of Rumours, which shattered sales records, which in turn gave the group a blank check for its next album. But if they were falling apart during the making of Rumours, they were officially broken and shattered during the making of Tusk, and that disconnect between bandmembers resulted in a sprawling, incoherent, and utterly brilliant 20-track double album. At the time of its release, it was a flop, never reaching the top of the charts and never spawning a true hit single, despite two well-received Top Ten hits. Coming after the monumental Rumours, this was a huge disappointment, but the truth of the matter is that Fleetwood Mac couldn’t top that success no matter how hard they tried, so it was better for them to indulge themselves and come up with something as unique as Tusk. Lindsey Buckingham directed both Fleetwood Mac and Rumours, but he dominates here, composing nearly half the album, and giving Christine McVie’s and Stevie Nicks’ songs an ethereal, floating quality that turns them into welcome respites from the seriously twisted immersions into Buckingham’s id. This is the ultimate cocaine album — it’s mellow for long stretches, and then bursts wide open in manic, frantic explosions, such as the mounting tension on “The Ledge” or the rampaging “That’s Enough for Me,” or the marching band-driven paranoia of the title track, all of which are relieved by smooth, reflective work from all three songwriters. While McVie and Nicks contribute some excellent songs, Buckingham owns this record with his nervous energy and obsessive production, winding up with a fussily detailed yet wildly messy record unlike any other. This is mainstream madness, crazier than Buckingham’s idol Brian Wilson and weirder than any number of cult classics. Of course, that’s why it bombed upon its original release, but Tusk is a bracing, weirdly affecting work that may not be as universal or immediate as Rumours, but is every bit as classic. As a piece of pop art, it’s peerless. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine
AllMusic Review: After releasing and touring the intense This Year’s Model, Elvis Costello quickly returned to the studio with the Attractions to record his third album, Armed Forces. In contrast to the stripped-down pop and rock of his first two albums, Armed Forces boasted a detailed and textured pop production, but it was hardly lavish. However, the more spacious arrangements — complete with ringing pianos, echoing reverb, layered guitars, and harmonies — accent Costello’s melodies, making the record more accessible than his first two albums. Perversely, while the sound of Costello’s music was becoming more open and welcoming, his songs became more insular and paranoid, even though he cloaked his emotions well. Many of the songs on Armed Forces use politics as a metaphor for personal relationships, particularly fascism, which explains its working title, Emotional Fascism. Occasionally, the lyrics are forced, but the music never is — the album demonstrates the depth of Costello’s compositional talents and how he can move from the hook-laden pop of “Accidents Will Happen” to the paranoid “Goon Squad” with ease. Some of the songs, like the light reggae of “Two Little Hitlers” and the impassioned “Party Girl,” build on his strengths, while others like the layered “Oliver’s Army” take Costello into new territories. It’s a dense but accessible pop record and ranks as his third masterpiece in a row. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine