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Pink Floyd - The Final Cut CD (album) cover

THE FINAL CUT

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.17 | 1300 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
2 stars On March 21, 1983 this LP hit the shelves and, right out of the chute, the album's mundane cover leaked hints that some kind of Floydian slip was afoot. When one is dealing with this highly influential band's contributions to modern music in general one cannot overlook the importance the initial impact the visual art they chose to beckon the potential listener inside with had on its eventual acceptance. Take a gander at the iconic covers for "Animals" or "Dark Side of the Moon" or even go back to the absurd yet irresistible allure of the photo on the front of "Ummagumma" and tell me that those images didn't grab your attention in a millisecond. (I'm speaking to those "of age" who first saw them in a record store, of course.) But, instead of relying on Hipgnosis (the folks that designed their previous covers) to dazzle and entice, Roger Waters took it upon himself to do to the decorating. While I've since learned that the solemn collage he put together is of four WWII medals and a Remembrance poppy, at the time it just looked like something a tenderfoot modern art student assembled out of scraps in a rush to have something to hand in to their instructor. While I'm sure it meant loads to Roger, it meant nothing to me and it certainly didn't look like a Pink Floyd album. I wish that was all that was sub par about the record. Unfortunately, it ain't. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

As the old adage goes, "Thou shalt not judgeth a book by its cover" and, inasmuch as I could've, I did not. In fact, I only got around to giving it a concentrated, undistracted listen a few weeks ago so my low opinion of the graphic design had long since faded by then. One of the advantages of reviewing a record three decades after its release is that I can do a little research and educate myself as to what exactly was going on in the band (or what was left of it, in this case) while the album was under construction. I gather that the talented Richard Wright had long since cleaned out his desk at the PF corporation altogether and that both David Gilmour and Nick Mason, while still on the payroll, had developed an acute aversion to being in the same room as Waters' bloated ego so "The Final Cut" appears to be very much a solo effort on his part. Furthermore, I've read that it was initially intended to be an accompanying soundtrack to the cinematic interpretation of "The Wall" until Roger became incensed by his country's involvement in the Falklands War and decided to turn it into a personal anti-war manifesto of sorts. Works of art that have this kind of incubation rarely turn out well and this one is not the exception.

"The Post War Dream" opens the record somewhat meekly with what sounds like an antique pump organ intro and verse. The piece then builds in intensity in order to buoy Waters' predictable angst-filled tirade regarding civilization's ongoing failure to become civilized but it never congeals into a solid composition you can wrap your head around. "Your Possible Pasts" is a parade of somewhat disjointed melodic ideas strung together in an effort to support Roger's pessimistic lyrical content. The song does include a guitar solo from Gilmour but it feels stifled and falls short of achieving his usual high standards. "One of the Few" follows and it's a musically sparse reading of bitter but pointless words. "The Hero's Return" is next and it actually has the appearance of being a cohesive tune most of the time but Waters seems intent on dousing any potential momentum it might gain by insisting on injecting his self-perceived deep profundity into the proceedings. Conceit can be described as something someone acquires when, upon sniffing their own armpits, proclaims the aroma to not only be pleasant but exhilarating. It's my opinion that Roger was, indeed, smelling himself in the early 80s.

The first bright spot arises in the form of "The Gunners Dream." Michael Kamen's pretty and fluid piano playing augmented by soothing strings reassures the listener that at least some thought was given to the music. Waters has one of the most unique voices in prog rock and I love how his passionate high vocal note morphs into Raphael Ravenscroft's tender saxophone ride. All in all it's a poignant song about a soldier's remorse that works on many levels. "Paranoid Eyes" follows and it marks a return to Roger's tiresome, semi-melodic spoken word poetry recited over pastoral but unremarkable instrumentation, leading to an overly-dramatic explosion that begins "Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert," a string quartet-heavy number signifying very little. The album seems quite obtuse at this juncture but it continues on. "The Fletcher Memorial Home" is next and my guess is that he's trying to indicate that the tune's vaguely outlined theme is referring to some kind of imaginary retirement abode for incurable, mean-spirited kings and tyrants. It has a morose yet stately score streaming underneath the surface but Waters' self-righteous, judgmental rant poisons any attempt on the part of the listener to be objective. At least David's inimitable guitar gets a few precious seconds of air time and he tosses in some much-needed musical inspiration but it's not nearly enough to salvage this listing hulk.

"Southampton Dock" is a basic, Pink Floyd-styled acoustic folk ditty that manages to evolve slightly thanks to Kamen's piano slipping into the mix but, like so many of the tracks on this album, it eventually goes nowhere. "The Final Cut" (that, sadly, isn't) contains some elements that worked wondrously on their previous record but the budding sprouts of musical ideas that pop up are never allowed to expand and grow into something new and exciting. "Not Now John" is a figurative oasis in a dry expanse of sand dunes in that, finally, a strong rock beat is introduced and used to break up the depression-fest that Roger has headlined so far. Gilmour's sizzling guitar licks and his refreshing voice is a virtual lightning strike out of the blue and his presence briefly lights up the drab scenery. The album closes with "Two Suns in the Sunset" and all I can say about it is that the Pink Floyd I cherish was never this boring. This confounding cut is the most tedious of all and made me glad only because I knew that I was nearing the end. Thank heavens for Raphael's sax solo that saves the record from deteriorating into dust before one's very eyes or there'd be nothing to take out of the changer but a handful of silt.

While Waters' outrage over England's getting into another bloody conflict is admirable, his perspective could've used some fine tuning. We baby boomers in the USA were still trying to heal from our misguided and indefensible involvement in Vietnam that took the lives of over 58,000 of our bravest and best so Roger's fist-pumping, indignant posturing over a skirmish that killed a miniscule percentage of that number (255 of his countrymen, may they rest in peace) wasn't taken very seriously in the states. Yes, it rose to #6 on the album charts due to the band's stellar reputation but I challenge you to hum even half of one song from "The Final Cut." I can't because they're so unmemorable. I can excuse a band for hitting a speed bump and releasing an album of average tunes but it's hard to forgive them when they put one out that doesn't have any real tunes on it at all. Funny thing, I once read that Waters didn't like either "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" or "The Division Bell" because he thought they were too intentionally saturated in the "Pink Floyd" formula. Perhaps a lot more of that precious formula would've kept this one from ending up on the dark side of their resume'. 1.5 stars.

Chicapah | 2/5 |

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