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Pink Floyd - Animals CD (album) cover

ANIMALS

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.52 | 2512 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
5 stars This is often referred to as Pink Floyd's "punk" album, and this description is both apt and completely insane. There can't be any doubt that this is a 100% prog rock album through and through. Aside from the brief opening acoustic ballad "Pigs on the Wing," along with its reprise at album's end, this album consists of a grand total of three tracks, all of which exceed ten minutes in length (with one that's more than seventeen). As usual, the songs consist of long instrumental passages in support of pessimistic, concept-oriented lyrics. So why would punk, which was coming into its own in 1977 with music that was pretty much the opposite of the art rock Pink Floyd had become known for, ever be mentioned in a description of the music found on this album?

Well, it turns out that this album, for all of its similarities to the band's established sound, has a lot of differences that strongly suggest the band had allowed punk to affect it. The last two albums were plenty pessimistic, but their overall tone was more oppressed and depressed than anything else. This album, though, redirects the band's (or rather Waters') pessimistic approach from sad and glum to completely and totally pissed off. The lyrical concept is simple and Orwell- based: all people can be classified as Dogs (cutthroat businessmen and politicians), Pigs (the ruling aristocracy) or Sheep (weak people). It's not just Waters' lyrics that have changed in mood, though. The instrumental parts are MUCH more aggressive than the band had shown at pretty much any time in its history. Mason plays more interesting fills than I'd heard from him since, sheesh, A Saucerful of Secrets, and his drum strikes seem to have greater force than anything I'd ever heard from him. Gilmour's guitar sound has a noticable increase in *OOMPH* and grit from everything he had contributed to the band previously, from harder distortion to a fuller sound to a greater reliance on loud, driving chords than in previous albums. Waters all of a sudden shows off a combination of groove, virtuousity and power that he'd probably always posessed but rarely bothered to demonstrate previously on the band's albums. Wright's style of playing on this album betrays a slight lack of his usual personality, but he's still just as central to the sound as ever, and he deserves plenty of credit for making this album as enjoyable to me as it is. The end result is that this album is clearly a prog rock album, but more than any other Pink Floyd album this is a rock album, and that says something from these guys.

The most significant change from previous albums, overall, is that Waters expanded his (already considerable) control over the band even further. Gilmour has only a single co-writing credit (in "Dogs"), and poor Rick Wright, as prevalent as his keyboards might be on the album, doesn't get any writing credits. Apparently, Wright and Waters had never really gotten along very well in the first place, and this was the point where their differences spilled over into their working relationship. Basically, Waters kept rejecting Wright's ideas, which in turn led to Wright no longer bothering to contribute any ideas, which eventually gave Waters an excuse to fire him ... but that didn't happen for a little while. Point is, this album is Waters' baby through and through, and marks the point where the others essentially became his backing band. Still, while they might have been treated as session musicians on this album, they certainly made the best of the situation and made their parts as interesting as they needed to be. It somewhat helps that the songs were apparently reworked versions of pieces that had been written by the whole band in years past, so while Waters got final credit for them, they actually had significant input from everybody in at least some form.

"Pigs on the Wing," split into two parts and bookending the album, is a pleasant enough simple acoustic ballad with an ambiguous lyrical message that really sounds nothing like anything else here. From the sweet acoustic lines of "Pigs on the Wing" we move into the driving acoustic part, underpinned by moody synths, that opens up the absolute magnificence that is "Dogs." Supposedly, Dave never really liked singing the lyrics assigned to him in this part, but he shows a lot of passion in delivering these lines about what it's like to live among those who have to hunt down and kill others in order to get ahead in life (and how it just gets harder and harder as you get older, until it's time to retire and wait for your empty life to end). The piece morphs into a lengthy instrumental passage with two different, equally great themes (and some of my absolute favorite Gilmour solos ever), eventually coming to a menacing mid-tempo section featuring Dave and Roger singing together. This section absolutely rocks, particularly the underpinning of one of my favorite lyrics from the band ever, "And it's too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around."

The section ends with a resounding, "Dragged down by the stone (stone ... stone ... stone ... stone ...)," which leads into my favorite instrumental passage on the album. The next five minutes or so are nothing but Wright's synths mixed with sound effects designed to create the effect of slowly drowning and hearing a bunch of dog voices above the water. There's that cool synth effect that prolongs and mimics the "stone ... stone ... stone ..." line, those bits of processed howling and barking, and overall there's Wright, playing notes that are seemingly directionless and never ending but are SO effective in setting the right mood. Coming out of that we have a reprise of the opening acoustic-driven theme, only with Waters singing this time. It builds into yet another instrumental stretch that rocks like mad, before Waters sings the final 'verse' and everything comes crashing down on another, "Dragged down by the stone!"

Side two opens with "Pigs (Three Different Ones)," which I consider the weakest of the three but is nonetheless extremely enjoyable. The bulk of the track is based around the same rhythm track, featuring a bassline from Waters that's a weird combination of hard rock, art rock and some kind of stiff funk, and while I could see getting irritated with its monotony, I enjoy it way too much. The verses (all sung by Waters) are an attack on British politics, alternating between Waters all-out belting and singing quieter with some subtle effect on his voice (unless that's actually just him making his own voice sound a little off). The mid-section consists of a mid-tempo, nearly unchanging jam mixing a light synth covering and Gilmour having fun with a guitar effect that mimics pig grunts and squeals. I know people who hate it, and occasionally I start to wonder, "Man, how much longer does this last," but most of the time I'm perfectly happy to lose myself in the sound. And oh man, is that a POWERFUL sounding solo from Dave over the song's lengthy ending and fadeout, with the noises of sheep slowly creeping up.

"Sheep" opens up with a moody electric piano solo, kinda reminiscient of the one from "Riders on the Storm" (at least in tone), before the drums break in and Waters starts singing. This track is just full of awesome bits, the first of which is the way Roger sings, "Helplessly passing your time in the grassland awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay" and the last vocal sound morphs seamlessly into one of Wright's synth tones before Gilmour caps it with a *BAAAAAAM* sound from his guitar (with the same sort of thing happening on the next sung line, and reprised later). Gilmour's guitars are just set to balls-out RAWK on this track, from the aforementioned loud chords to the cool short breaks he throws in to the lengthy fadeout. Wright plays a lot of loud Hammond organ along with his usual synths, Waters plays a bunch of cool basslines, Mason rocks as well as he ever has, and the overall effect is stunning. Plus, the track has a cool midsection with a quiet voice speaking a variation of the 23rd Psalm through a vocoder, before building into the final sung verses, which include another one of my favorite Floyd lyrics ever ("Wave upon wave of demented avengers march cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream"). Awesome.

And that's the album in all of its splendor. I can understand the reasons why this album is largely forgotten by casual Pink Floyd fans, but frankly none of these reasons speak in favor of said fans. The songs are long, and the lyrics are very angry and misanthropic in tone, but the songs are great and the lyrics are clever, so those should hardly be considered problems. Credit should also be given to the band for proving that they could make a top-rate album without any guest stars (except for Snowy White playing guitar on "PotW"), whereas the albums surrounding it belonged as much to the guest star performances, vocal samples, various sound effects and producers as to the band. This is the "pure" Pink Floyd not seen since Meddle, even if the style is drastically different, and it's a joy to behold. A must own.

PS: Supposedly, this album works in a synchronicity with Casablanca. Anybody actually tried this?

PPS: From college until I started full-time employment, I had the following as a custom license plate: POTW3. I'm such a geek.

tarkus1980 | 5/5 |

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