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Pink Floyd - Animals CD (album) cover

ANIMALS

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.52 | 3471 ratings

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Frankingsteins
3 stars Roger Waters designed an inflatable pig, the said pig was built by a dedicated team and suspended by Battersea power station in 1977, and then blew away, much to the shock of air traffic control and the local public. But thankfully enough material was composited together to make another iconic album cover for Pink Floyd, by this time one of the biggest sensations in the music world.

After the landmark technological soundscapes of 'Dark Side of the Moon' and 'Wish You Were Here,' Pink Floyd, or rather Roger Waters, opted for a less polished and more 'live' attitude to the music, which primarily involved relegating Richard Wright's keyboards to backing duties (before firing Wright altogether during recording of the follow-up album). This allowed for even greater focus on David Gilmour's ever-improving guitar skills, Roger's vocals and innovative bass and Nick Mason's frantic drumming.

Surprisingly, despite its more aggressive and stripped-down sound, Animals fails to break in a completely new era for Pink Floyd due to the persistently slow pace of the consciously structured songs. The concept, written by Waters and the start of his almost totalitarian control of the band's output (culminating in 'The Wall' and 'The Final Cut'), is admittedly based on George Orwell's farmyard/politics allegory novel 'Animal Farm,' criticising a national and global climate that Waters was feeling increasingly dismayed and infuriated by.

I'm not put off by song length; some of my favourite albums are composed as one extended piece of music, but those extra minutes have to earn their keep. Pink Floyd's earlier albums and live shows were rife with long, improvised pieces or extensions to existing songs that are great to unwind to, but after the more precise concept focus instigated by 'Dark Side of the Moon,' the band seem to have lost their knack for crafting epics, and the material instead sounds repetitive.

'Dogs,' 'Pigs (Three Different Ones)' and 'Sheep' all follow the exact same structure: a gradual build-up from either silence or a basic rhythm to a recognisable main riff and verse section that repeats before fading into a quieter section with relevant animals sounds and exploding again towards the end.

This worked for the earlier twenty-three minute 'Echoes,' seen by many as the band's crowning achievement, and it is clearly successful in Animals due to the album's popularity, but I can't help feeling cheated out of several additional songs when the second half of the song basically reverses the style of the first half, save for the occasional good but ultimately disposable guitar solo. At under ten minutes, 'Sheep' is the only song that really gets away with this, the muted section being shorter and the closing minute dominated by Gilmour's brilliant guitar solo, but at almost double the length, 'Dogs' is a prime candidate for an editing job that was never performed.

This is a shame, as despite being ridiculously overlong, 'Dogs' is probably the best song on here and deserves to be included on best-of compilations without record company heretics earning the wrath of fans by shaving minutes off. The lyrics are bitter and bleak over the main rhythm, a dense and layered riff aided greatly by use of acoustic guitars, but the highlight is David Gilmour's laid-back first solo after five or so minutes.

The anticipation of the solo's return is what keeps the dull part of the song interesting, and its resurrection is one of the highlights of the album, but a similar effect could be achieved by playing the song again after it finished at around nine minutes, the point by which everything has been heard. Oh come on, I don't know the first thing about writing a song, I know that. But I know what I like! Without a live audience to bask in its harmony, Gilmour's guitar sounds increasingly lonely as the song carries on.

'Pigs (Three Different Ones)' is a funkier sing-along type centrepiece for the album and a good one too, even though the basic riff becomes a little irritating. The unusual zap sound that opens the song, and Mason's oddly successful light percussion both add to this song's originality, which I find myself liking more with each listen. The distorted vocals sound more ethereal and haunting than damning here, Roger trying out his (later-) distinctive vocal style for what appears to be the first time. Pigs are also clearly the best animal out of the three featured on the album, as well as being contenders for best animal in the world (if apes, lemurs and stuff didn't exist), so I may be a little biased.

'Sheep' is more accessible as the shortest song, but a little less impressive on the whole as the third song in a row to use the same structure. It opens with a great lounge jazz esque part before breaking into the fastest and most energetic riff of the album, quite a feat for the reflective Pink Floyd. Now that Wright's keyboards aren't flooding through too much, Waters' effective bass lines can be better heard, clearly the inspiration for many bands to follow. This song is certainly more laid back than its predecessors, seeming something of a jam at times and perhaps an excuse to insert bits and pieces that wouldn't have worked elsewhere. As mentioned earlier, David Gilmour closes the song in style, my favourite moment of the album.

Animals is bookended by 'Pigs on the Wing,' two short halves of one song that, fitting to the structure of the songs in between, are both almost exactly the same. But they're nice and pleasant, really deserving a place on the CD/LP precisely for being so different in tone from the long pessimistic prog.

Animals is a fairly unique and certainly memorable part of Pink Floyd's discography, and acts as a middle ground between the spaced out progressive rock that came before and the gloomy, more commercially minded rock opera format that was to follow. Not an entirely successful album, but one that has enough classic guitar parts to merit repeated listens.

Pigs are better than dogs or sheep, but chimps are best of all.

Frankingsteins | 3/5 |

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