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Pink Floyd - Animals CD (album) cover


Pink Floyd


Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.52 | 3471 ratings

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4 stars 'Animals' was so nearly a breathtakingly brilliant album. It fails to live up to its potential because, in the end, it is performed not by PINK FLOYD, but by ROGER WATERS and his amazing backing band.

WATERS kept the band in ideas from this point on - and, indeed, had been the major creative force behind 'Dark Side of the Moon' and 'Wish You Were Here'. Without him the full power of PINK FLOYD would never have been unleashed. But his creative skills were not matched by management skills, and he sowed the seeds of the band's destruction between 1977 and 1980 by alienating WRIGHT and GILMOUR. Why on earth he thought he was talented enough to sing the songs he wrote is a mystery of the age: his limited range and nasal, flat delivery makes for uncomfortable listening. I often wonder what some of the latter FLOYD material would have been like had WRIGHT provided more vocals. From being PINK FLOYD's 'go-to' singer in the early 70's, he is virtually absent on this album, and would become the first casualty of WATERS' takeover.

And what of ROGER WATERS' creativity? I find it ironic at best and hypocritical at worst that the man who, as NICK MASON said 'struggled to modify what had been a democratic band into one with a single leader' (Mason, Inside Out, p247) would use his expanded power to write concept albums lampooning the dictatorial and fascist behaviour of others. For this reason above all others I have never been able to take the sentiments expressed in 'Animals' seriously.

Only WATERS could have come up with such a daring, in-your-face concept, simple song titles based on Orwell's 'Animal Farm' in which - take note, ROGER - power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely - and then spoil it be taking too much of it on his own shoulders. PINK FLOYD worked best as a democracy, where the melodic talents of GILMOUR and WRIGHT could counterbalance WATERS' hard-edged audacity. Compositionally this record simply doesn't stack up against its predecessors: there's less actual music in this album than in anything since 'Ummagumma'.

So, what of the music? Three enormous, sprawling songs bookended by two guitar pieces, the tune for the latter freely liberated from the song 'Wish You Were Here'. Supposed love songs, they are rendered implausibly ugly by WATERS' voice. 'Dogs' is drawn out beyond the capacity of the music. The middle section, after the 'stone' echo', goes on far too long: unlike the space-rock of 'Shine on You Crazy Diamond' this bores rather than uplifts the listener. This is because it exists to amplify the concept rather than as good music. There's a piece of pure magic spliced awkwardly into the song: I think of this piece, starting at 3:40, as the 'GILMOUR parcel', a song fragment of real power dropped in here with no connection to the rest of the music. As powerful as it is, it loses meaning in this context - and, to make matters worse, is repeated verbatim near the end of the song. Other aspects of the song are indeed powerful. The vocals and guitar are excellent, the keyboards lush, and both WATERS and MASON take the rhythm section far beyond where they've been in previous albums. That's the irony of this song and this record - there's real progression here, but the in-your-face concept makes it difficult to appreciate. The song ends with an 'Eclipse'-like climax, but by this time I've generally lost any emotional connection to the music.

'Pigs (Three Different Ones)' is simply an insult to the intelligence. Here WATERS rails against individuals with his trademark hammerhead subtlety, and misses each time. The point about Mary Whitehouse, for example, was precisely that she was not a charade, but a real force of her time, irrespective of how unpalatable her views were. I do enjoy the way the band makes 'pig music': the guitars wallow, the bass is fat, even the keyboards are heavy and porcine. Trouble is, after the two opening verses, the song itself wallows in its own waste for three or four minutes, missing the chance for a classic FLOYD build. It's never a good sign when a song marks time, only to return to the third verse, same as the first two. And then, completely out of place, comes a guitar solo like a thunderstorm, backed by WATERS' rising and falling bass line, and suddenly the song wakes from its self-indulgent slumber. What could have been!

'Sheep' is the masterpiece on this record. It is so much cleverer lyrically and musically than the other songs. From WATERS' trademark rumbling bass, this song has an urgency missing in the rest of the sprawl. The effect of fading WATERS' vocal into a sound stab works wonderfully well, and the song never loses that momentum. If only it could have finished with the solo from the last song, we'd have a complete winner.

'Animals' heralds an angrier, more direct PINK FLOYD, mainly because an angrier, more direct person had taken control of the band - and the rest of the band were happy to let him do the work. The decline and fall of PINK FLOYD, when it came, was swift, but we only see signs of it here.

At least it wasn't about the war.

russellk | 4/5 |


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