Q magazine October 1992
(Transcript thanks to Natalie Lyons)
Roger Waters: Oh to be 16 again!
Amused To Death is Roger Waters third solo album. It follows a period of difficult legal negotiations with the current members of Pink Floyd, and it sounds more like a Pink Floyd album than anything he has done alone before. It is the brother of The Wall, perhaps even the distant cousin of Dark Side Of The Moon, which should delight fans of those albums. Then again, there will be nothing here to dissuade those who think of Waters music-making as terminally adolescent.
In the absence of a band, Waters rigs up some striking studio partnerships: Don Henley joins him on vocals for Watching TV, the National Philharmonic Orchestra leaps in for Too Much Rope, and Rita Coolidge pops up during the title track. Jeff Beck, meanwhile, is all over the show, lending a tight solo to Three Wishes and a deft piece of string-torturing on Its A Miracle. And yes, the tracks all flow into one another. At one point, Waters sings Lloyd Webbers awful stuff runs for years and years. Some may regard this as a bit rich, coming from the man who almost single-handedly fashioned the concept album, and still fancies making one in 1992.
Amused To Death is dedicated to Private William Hubbard, a Royal Fusilier who died in World War 1. It opens with The Ballad Of Bill Hubbard, a lush bed of synthesizers and sound effects over which come some slyly bent guitar notes, courtesy of Beck. Meanwhile, a fusilier recalls Hubbards death in the trenches. Then some chimps squeal and were off into the menacing thump of What God Wants, which sets the tone and pace of much that will follow.
Lyrically the album is a catalogue of sixth-form cliches the futility of war, the mindlessness of television, the ubiquity of American fast food. Staley Kubricks 2001 makes a guest appearance (The monkey sat on a pile of stones / And stared at the broken bones in his hand); you thought that movie was fantastic when you were 17, and Waters apparently still does. And when the title track resolves into gentler, major tones for pretty much the first time, Waters continues in his themes as if he hasnt noticed The little ones sit by their TV screens / No thoughts to think.
The record is, needless to say, beautifully recorded, lavish in the depth and richness of its sound. Occasionally the music falls away to nothing but a moody synth across which come snatches of talk, of televisions playing as if in other rooms, or of children playing and shouting. This confirms Amused To Deaths status as a late example of what used to be called a headphones album, music designed for consumption as a solitary pleasure, most likely in the dark. Waterss singing voice seems to have this in mind it is the quiet croak of someone with their eyes closed.
Still, the album has at least one redeeming functional application. Theres a handy home stereo hint written among the sleevenotes: If the dog barking at the beginning of the record doesnt sound like hes in the yard next door, then your speakers are out of phase. Quite.
2/5 Review by Giles Smith.