Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Roger Waters - "The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking" (LP Review)

My friend Terry and I belong to a very exclusive club: we believe "The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking" is an amazing LP. Most people just see the neurotic excess of Roger Waters without the balancing influence of David Gilmour. I see that as well, but I also see this LP as a successful completion of the ideas introduced in "The Wall" and "The Final Cut" (example: in the movie "The Wall", Pink is reciting the lyrics to "Moment of Clarity" in the scene in the bathroom stall). This LP is arguably better since the the stream of consciousness / lucid dreaming format better suits Water's story telling.

Released in 1984, TPACOHH is Roger Water's first solo LP (not counting 1970's "Music From the Body" as a proper solo LP) and was released near the end of his membership in Pink Floyd. Joining Waters on this LP are a host of excellent musicians, including David Sanborn and Eric Clapton. Much like the previous two Pink Floyd LPs, this one is best enjoyed with the volume way up and/or with headphones since various special effects (e.g., the sound of the Lamborghini in the 2nd track) and subtle plot cues are provided in the background (e.g., "and mother wants you!"). The LP only featured one single that received even tiniest bit of airplay (track 10, "The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking"). Also like the previous two Pink Floyd LPs, the songs out of context won't necessarily make a lot of sense. By itself, the single is about people you meet hitch hiking. But that's not really what the song (or LP) is about...

Waters has a summary on his web site, but I'll attempt an even shorter version. A husband is lying in bed late at night and has a dream about leaving his wife for a hitch hiker he picks up and after a brief encounter the hitch hiker is gone. He moves to Wyoming and lives off the grid with his wife who ultimately leaves him for another man. Despondent, he becomes a hitch hiker himself and has a cathartic journey as he makes his way back to civilization. He finally wakes up and has a "moment of clarity" and realizes he's happy despite his dream state mid-life crisis.

To emphasize the dream sequence, the tracks are actually titled 4:30 AM (Apparently They Were Travelling Abroad), 4:33 AM (Running Shoes), 4:37 AM (Arabs with Knives and West German Skies), etc. The times correspond to the length of the song, and the parenthetical titles give an indication as to general theme. Its hard to pick favorite songs from this LP, but if forced to do so I would choose "Running Shoes" ("Fixed on the front of her Fassbinder face / Was the kind of a smile / That only a rather dull child could have drawn / While attempting a graveyard in the moonlight"), "Sexual Revolution" ("I woke in a fever / The bedclothes were all soaked in sweat / She said `You've been having a nightmare /And it's not over yet'") and "Go Fishing" ("F*** it then / Take the kids back to town / Maybe I'll see you around").

If you haven't heard this LP (or haven't listened to it in some time), I encourage you to give it a try. Ultimately, this was the last important LP by Roger Waters. "Radio K.A.O.S" was a decent LP with a few good songs, but it does not begin to approach TPACOHH. Ditto the Water-less Pink Floyd LP "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" released a few years later. "The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking" is the last great LP from any member of Pink Floyd.

Standout songs: All. Ok, that's a cop out (and some songs are linked to above), but you really should listen to the whole thing: grooveshark, and Rhapsody.

Full LP on Youtube.

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final rating: 10/10.

P.S. YouTube user "gravesing" has released animated movie versions of the first four songs: 4:30 AM, 4:33 AM, 4:37 AM, 4:39 AM. They are simultaneously pretty cool and slightly disturbing. Hopefully other installments are forthcoming. 2010-11-29 edit: 4:41 AM, 4:47 AM.


  1. Couldn't agree more. I discovered this album two months ago and it still gets better with every listen. An absolute masterpiece.

  2. ok, that's 3 people and counting! ;-)

    I should probably review Radio KAOS sometime, but it is not nearly as good. Weaker concept, no Clapton or Sanborn, etc.

    thanks for your comment.

  3. Not sure how or why you ignored Amused To Death. An absolute masterpiece.

  4. DE: I have to admit that I bought "Amused to Death" when it came out, but for reasons I can't quite determine I've *never* listened to it. No rational explanation, but that's how it is.

    thanks for posting.

  5. This album is an absolute masterpiece. The music, the lyrics, and the guts it takes for a man to disclose the darkest, most genuine male feelings. Most men do not let themselves realize what they feel, and he just showed to entire world what is the darkest shade of being a man, and what drives us to act in the most weird way as we try to suppress and fight our suffering. An interesting thing I find is that I have never knew a single female that would be able to listen to this album and understand it. Have you?

  6. Parsifal: I think the sum total of all people that like this LP are listed in this comments page, so I don't think we have a representative sample ;-)

    be sure to check out the "gravesing" videos -- they're really cool.

    thanks for the comment.

    1. Back in the eighties, when I was in the university, I thought about making the film to the music.... I do need to see them.