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Pink Floyd - The Final Cut CD (album) cover

THE FINAL CUT

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.18 | 1705 ratings

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Frankingsteins
2 stars The last Pink Floyd album to feature vocalist/bassist Roger Waters, and the only album not to feature keyboard player Rick Wright, 'The Final Cut' is a bleak and reflective art rock album by Waters, produced under the successful Pink Floyd name and bearing the subtitle 'performed by Pink Floyd,' or at least its three remaining members.

'A requiem for the post-war dream,' The Final Cut divides the band's fans into those who appreciate its message and uniqueness within the discography, and those who bemoan its ego-centric creation and departure from the band's definitive 'sound,' the record furthest removed from the band's psychedelic origins. Guess which party I fall into.

The story behind The Final Cut is well documented: Waters was becoming ever more the control freak with each album, and after the huge success of 1979's 'The Wall,' moved on to produce this follow-up album almost independently, despite the efforts of David Gilmour and Nick Mason to contribute their experience and skills. Without Wright's epic prog soundscapes, Waters hired composer Michael Kamen to fill out the sound with piano and orchestration that can barely be heard, and created the album through a mix of inferior off-cuts from The Wall and new, similar sounding songs crafted around his bitter lyrics.

The Final Cut is essentially a Waters solo album, made more tolerable than his later albums by the presence of the supremely talented but stifled Gilmour on guitars. Despite fair criticism that the unused songs from The Wall were of inferior quality, hence their omission from that double LP, Waters used them as the basis for an album that ends up sounding very much like a Wall wannabe, sadly emphasising and over- using the most annoying elements of that hit album such as the volume tinkering, strained vocal style and formulaic song structure. All the songs sound the same.

As it's a Pink Floyd album there is the usual attention to detail in crafting extra depth to songs with the studio equipment, but here it's mostly used to contrive a link between songs that otherwise wouldn't flow together. Wind, seagulls and soft dialogue help to create the atmosphere Waters is going for, but even the most blatant samples in the form of explosions within songs like 'The Gunner's Dream' don't have the fun audacity of the ringing clocks and cash registers of their earlier work. There is some variance in song style, but this is limited essentially to 'loud song'/'quiet song'/'quiet song with some loud bits.'

'The Post War Dream' is a short opening to the album that begs the listener to turn up the volume so they'll be hit by the roaring Wall-style guitar at the end, leading to the album's leading song and first Wall leftover, 'Your Possible Pasts.' The balance between quiet and loud sections is quite irritating, even though it's novel at first, and seems to become quite arbitrary towards the end. This would be a great song if it had something more to it than relying on this volume trick, leading as it does into the dull but brief interlude 'One of the Few.'

'The Hero's Return' begins with a promising whip-cracking exotic guitar and features an almost identical bass line to 'Another Brick in the Wall.' Despite lacking originality it's an enjoyable song that descends into the volume game again for the last couple of minutes, with Waters' genuinely pained vocals fitting his lyrics but grating my eardrums. By contrast, 'The Gunner's Dream' is one of the best songs on here, a more melancholy song amidst the bitterness that features some nice saxophone to break up the repetition, and a great moment where Waters' scream morphs seamlessly into the opening sax line. More tomfoolery like this would have made The Final Cut a brilliant work.

'Paranoid Eyes' is long and dull, despite its promising 'hit single'-style title, led by a piano and backing orchestra. This may have been a good song to break up a more lively album, but seems drawn out here. 'Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert' is an acoustic guitar piece with violins that acts as a nice one-minute interlude, the unison humming of the opening song a nice reminder of when the album started off quite promising. This hum repeats for some reason in the later 'Southampton Dock,' maybe an attempt at a bricks-in-the-wall-esque repeated theme for the album.

The most acclaimed songs on the album are 'The Fletcher Memorial Home' and 'The Final Cut,' both very similar and accomplished, but a little dull by this point. The former is most memorable for a mocking parade of world leaders done in Waters' annoying bombastic spoken word style, similar to 'Trial' from the end of The Wall, while the second is probably the culmination of all the attempts at an emotional song so far. The highlights of both songs are Gilmour's harmonic solos, shining out of the gloom and reminding the listener of what the album could have been if he had been allowed to contribute more, rather than simply aiding production and then having his co-producer credit stripped away by a bitter vocalist. These songs effectively go together, and the main bulk only serves as a pause between these two similar and excellent guitar harmonies.

Finally arriving penultimately is 'Not Now John,' the only co-written song on the album and a definite departure from the style, though not one that is as impressive as it could have been. Sung by Gilmour in the same style as 'Young Lust' from The Wall, which I always thought was intended to mock the gruff vocals and swinging guitar riffs of hard rock bands but was evidently just done because it would sell quite well as a single. With the backing women and some swearing, this song isn't quite the breather I had in mind from the depression elsewhere, but it's not too bad. The album closes with 'Two Suns in the Sunset,' a pleasant piece that sees the return of the sax and the orchestra and controversially sees Nick Mason replaced by Andy Newmark on drums. For some reason. The soft song sounds similar to earlier Pink Floyd song 'Summer '68,' written by the absent Rick Wright.

Fans of The Final Cut praise Waters' genius in linking World War II and other conflicts of the past with conflicts of the then-present, namely the Falklands, and the cyclical nature of history means that at least the album will have this in its favour for it for a while. Where 'The Wall' was quite an ingenious work that took some deciphering, and maybe even a viewing of the film before really understanding what it was about, The Final Cut is disappointingly blatant in its scattered references. (I wonder who this 'Maggie' is?... Oh I see, excellent). Waters was clearly having a hard, disillusioned time, and we are invited to share in his misery and bitterness.

With twelve tracks of varying length, nothing in the way of extended jamming, the endorsement of the famous band name and red-hot modern satire, The Final Cut should had the ingredients to be a phenomenal success. But Roger Waters is a rubbish chef. Who burns the food. And finally comes crawling back for Live 8 in 2005 for a nibble.

Frankingsteins | 2/5 |

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