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Pink Floyd - Animals CD (album) cover

ANIMALS

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.52 | 2620 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Listening to this album I get the distinct feeling that not only was the band starting to fracture from the inside but that they also had no desire to attempt to reproduce the same meticulously nurtured sounds that characterized their previous two wildly popular releases. Despite the fact that it still took seven months to record, there's a palpable back-to-the-basics flavor to the proceedings that gives it an up-front, immediate and somewhat stark personality. All of this adds up to an album that doesn't sound like anything else in their catalogue, for better or for worse.

"Pigs on the Wing, Pt. 1" defines the no-frills approach that permeates the project with Roger Waters singing dispassionately over a folksy acoustic guitar that "if you didn't care what happened to me/and I didn't care for you" we'd all be at the mercy of the ruthless money merchants and, if we're not vigilant and courageous, we'll be run over. The sarcastic lyrics throughout the album are painted with a brush broad enough to allow us to interpret and recognize them as Roger's overwhelming distrust of both the music industry and society as a whole.

The 17-minute "Dogs" shows the group working as a tight unit, despite the well-documented tensions and infighting. It's the kind of music they could have easily recreated playing either a one-nighter in a small Irish pub or in a football stadium. David Gilmour's rhythmic guitar strumming sets the running pace as Richard Wright's thin organ tones give the song a rare fragility that offsets Waters' ruthless, mongrel-eat-mongrel commentary on the realities of climbing the corporate ladder starting from street level. "You gotta be able to pick out the easy meat with your eyes closed" and "strike when the moment is right without thinking," he preaches. Once you get your paw in the conglomerate door you then have to "work on points for style" and gain the trust of "the people you lie to." Gilmour provides unadorned guitar harmonies and a biting lead before Roger describes in ghastly detail the end result of living such a selfish life when one turns out to be "just another sad old man/all alone and dying of cancer" who discovers that it's "too late to loose the weight/you used to need to throw around." One of the most memorable moments occurs when he sings the line "dragged down by the stone" and his final word turns into a loop that evolves into less of a human utterance and more like a wailing siren that echoes inside a dreamy synthesizer sequence featuring electronically- filtered barking/howling dogs. After a return to the opening themes Waters relates that he must "stay awake, gotta try and shake off this creeping malaise" for "if I don't stand my own ground/how can I find my own way out of this maze?" The song ends with a repeating, labored, heavy riff where the vocals lament those who have been taken in by the hollow promises of the doomed road to riches. This epic tune is a brutal yet brilliant indictment of the industrial age.

The problem presented to radio programmers by this record was that they had one of the biggest groups in the world giving them three long cuts to play for their listeners. The one that they eventually put into heavy rotation was "Pigs (Three different ones)," a not-nearly-as-poetic diatribe against those self-righteous individuals who feel it's their God-commanded duty to tell the rest of the world what to do, feel and think. Wright supplies a memorable organ intro punctuated by surreal pig grunts and Roger's deft bass lines before Nick Mason kicks the band into a semi-funky groove. (I must register a tiny complaint here. I can't help but envision Christopher Walken barging into the studio, pleading for "more cowbell" because it gets to be annoying after a while.) Portraying these know-it-all swine as "well-heeled big wheels," "bus stop rat bags" and "house proud town mice," Waters calls them all out as the charades they are in the most direct and blunt of terms. Next there's a great, slow-to-build guitar solo section where David's sow-like, squealing voice-box effect adds to the rich aroma rising from the musical sty. A reprise of the original arrangement ensues where Roger reminds us that "you gotta stem the evil tide" before Gilmour finally opens up a large can of whup-ass and lets his fierce electric guitar escalate the song to a more forceful and driving level.

Barnyard noises lead into "Sheep" which features Richard's jazzy Rhodes piano stylizations layered over a pulsating bass line as the tune morphs into a rocker when the rest of the band joins in. Here the vocals are quite alarmist in their intensity and stress level as Waters warns the vulnerable, gullible public that "you better watch out/there may be dogs about/I've looked over Jordan and I've seen/things are not what they seem." His sly twisting of the famous passage from Psalms is not only genius but effectively unnerving, as well. "He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places/he converteth me to lamb cutlets/for lo, he hath great power and great hunger/when cometh the day we lowly ones/through quiet reflection and great dedication/master the art of karate/lo, we shall rise up/and then we'll make the buggers' eyes water." He goes on to briefly describe a spirited revolt by "demented avengers" that, when all is said and done, doesn't change anything at all. Musically there's a spacey segment where the earlier "siren" resurfaces for a few bars, then David lashes out with angry guitar spasms followed by eerie synthesizer wisps performed over bleating sheep sounds. My favorite part of the entire album occurs when Gilmore delivers gloriously triumphant descending power chords as the "victorious" sheep parade over the horizon. Beautiful irony.

"Pigs on the Wing Pt. 2" brings things full circle as Roger enlightens us to what is most important after all. "You know I care what happens to you/and I know that you care for me," he croons over simple acoustic guitar chords. The message of love thy neighbor is still valid over three decades later and will be a million years hence.

It's much too easy to criticize this album as not being as compelling as "Dark Side of the Moon" or "Wish You Were Here" but that wouldn't be fair. The group was suffering from the inevitable downside of worldwide fame and fortune and that's a pressure that few mortals ever have the experience of knowing. It certainly affected Pink Floyd. Lyrically "Animals" ranks with their best work while musically it comes off like the collective creation of a band that just wanted to be a combo again and, in that humble but admirable regard, they succeeded. 3.8 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |

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