The 1970s ends with one of its most explicitly anti-establishment hits – Roger Waters’ direct frontal attack on the school system. Education is thought control, the flower of youthful creativity ruthlessly crushed by frustrated men grinding kids through their sausage machine. If we don’t watch out this will end up in a fascist state where we’re all ruled by robot hammers. Grinding conformity is represented by the dark pulse of a disco bassline, which wells into the unfettered individuality of a big old Dave Gilmour guitar solo – hurrah!
“Another Brick” may be as subtle as one, but the massed choir of kids singing “We don’t need no thought control” has a creepy power, with the music’s ponderousness actually helping the song build its sour, thick atmosphere, guitars skritching uneasily around the lumbering bottom end. I have an apostate’s dislike of 70s-onwards Pink Floyd – for six months or so at 14 I thought they were profound and hugely important, on one occasion shunning a party in order to listen carefully through The Wall and extract still deeper meanings from it. My distaste for them ever since has been amplified by embarrassment – though I do honestly think they’re rubbish, Waters’ immense bitterness and misanthropy colouring and curdling their work beyond my ability to enjoy it.
But this is a rare and partial exception – Waters’ championing of the individual may not have extended to the contributions of his bandmates, but thanks to them (and the kids) “Another Brick” does a job. The one it set out to do? I don’t know – when you mix individualism and misanthropy you can easily end up with nihilism, and there’s a cackling viciousness to the kids’ voices to remind us that life without teacher might end up scarier than Waters imagines.