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Roger Waters

Is This the Life We Really Want?

Review by Gary Hill

I have to admit that I haven't really followed Roger Waters much lately. When he left Pink Floyd and they moved on, I feel that it showcased the two sides within the band. The David Gilmour led part of the band focused more on the rocking, "song" structured stuff. Don't get me wrong, they could still stretch out and explore and get mellow, but they were more immediate. They had more hooks. Waters was less concerned about traditional song structure and hooks. That made his sound more complex, but also a bit harder to latch onto and really "feel." I guess to me, once I had heard The Final Cut and his first couple solo albums, it also sort of seemed like "well, here we go again."

 

Hearing some great reviews of this album, I had to give it a try. There still is quite a bit of that familiarity and sense of having done this before. That said, this is much stronger than I remember Waters' stuff being. I really like this album a lot. I think it might grow to be one of my favorites of the year. It's definitely the kind of thing that takes some repeated listening to really grasp. It should be mentioned that this is packed full of parental advisories on the lyrics.

 

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
When We Were Young

Rising up gradually, this is mostly just spoken word, but there is ambient music behind it. It has an a foreboding, almost creepy sound to it.

Déjà Vu

Acoustic guitar brings us out of the previous piece. Waters' vocals join and we're into a tune that's unquestionably trademark Roger Waters. The arrangement has that sort of classically tinged element that's so familiar as it works its way forward. This builds out into a bit more of a rocker. It feels very much like the kind of thing that would have been at home on The Wall or The Final Cut. There are bits of sound effects and theatrical styled elements that are the kind of thing you expect from Waters, too.

The Last Refugee

Lots of bits of broadcast elements are heard as some music moves forward gradually. As the music and vocals join this is another that's so instantly recognizable as Waters and Final Cut era Pink Floyd. There are definitely some intriguing keyboard textures built into this thing. As more layers of sound are built upon this and it starts stretching upward, it really gets powerful.

Picture That
Can you picture a combination of Meddle era Pink Floyd with Bob Dylan? If so, you are pretty close to this song. The lyrics on this one get a lot of parental advisories. The rocking jam later on this is pretty darned cool. This works through a number of shifts and changes and a lot of the cut wouldn't be out of place on my favorite Pink Floyd album Animals. This is hard rocking and dark and very cool.
Broken Bones

This has a bit of a Native American flute at the start (and other places in its run). Then the acoustic guitar rises up to move the piece forward. This is another that's very dynamic. It has mellower, moody movements. It has bombastic ones. It's trademark Waters for sure. I really like the contrast between the different levels of sound here.

Is This the Life We Really Want?
This starts with Donald Trump on the TV. That is shut off, and the music rises up from there. Symphonic and yet trippy and still bombastic, this is unmistakable as Roger Waters, too. This piece has some really powerful music at its core.
Bird In A Gale
There is an industrial bit of sound at the start of this. The cut comes in from there with sound-bites over the top of an insistent, growing, musical texture. It turns toward harder rocking sounds as the vocals join. This is quite electronic in mode, but it's also distinctly Pink Floyd like. It's definitely hard rock. It's also powerful.
The Most Beautiful Girl
More piano based, this still has plenty of the Roger Waters bombast built into it.
Smell the Roses
Those waiting for some pure rock are probably going to be pleased to hear this. This is the kind of thing that again feels a bit like Animals.  It's a harder edged stomper that really works well. It brings some nice contrast to the music that surrounds it. There's an electronic weirdness drop back mid-track. It works back to more hard rocking stuff that's trademark Pink Floyd. This is one of the most instantly accessible things here. It's pretty freaking awesome, really.
Wait for Her
Piano starts things here. There are both mellower movements and more rocking ones built into this. It definitely has a lot of contrast and a lot of bombast.
Oceans Apart
This is a short melodic number. Acoustic guitar is accompanied by the sounds of the sea at the start. There are some keyboards as texture over the top, but overall this is fairly stripped back.
Part of Me Died

This feels like a continuation of the previous cut. There is a lot of piano in the mix. The closing movement of this brings us into some of that Floydian bombast before dropping it way down to end.

 
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