Never exactly a cheeky chappy during his decades fronting Pink Floyd, on his first record in 25 years Roger Waters is straight-up incandescent. He lashes out at the weaknesses in the democratic system that swept a “nincompoop” into the White House and blames human-kind in general for the decline in the standards of our leaders (we are, after all, the ones voting them into power).
But if the record’s anger and tendency towards diatribe suggest a Twitter rant extended over 75 minutes, there is still lots to delight Floyd fans. With Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich behind the sound desk, Waters conjures a stoic grandeur instantly familiar to anyone raised on Dark Side of the Moon and, in particular, The Wall — a project likewise obsessed with inter-generational tension and political incompetence.
Orchestral swells underpin his careworn yelp as Godrich weaves in eerie found-sounds: squalling gulls, distorted radio broadcasts, the communiqués from pilots on bombing runs over the Middle East. Waters is further assisted by Jonathan Wilson, delivering David Gilmour-esque walls of guitar angst, and indie girl-duo Lucius, whose sad-siren backing vocals recall the ghostly ululations of Clare Torry on ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’.
What’s changed is that the singer is now confronting real-world traumas head on. ‘The Last Refugee’ is a funereal rumination on what it must feel like for those fleeing Syria across the Mediterranean; on ‘Part Of Me Died’ he pours his rancour over Trump into a stately rock-out.
A Floyd-esque concept record inspired by yesterday’s most bruising headlines, Is This The Life We Really Want? at times feels like a nostalgia-wallow.
Far from mellowing, with age Waters has turned increasingly cantankerousness and preachy.
But if you can bare to be lectured on the evils of drone strikes and the stupidity of the Trump administration (thanks Roger, but we already received the memo on that) the Floyd-esque touches make this worth delving into.
Amid the sourness and dourness, are glimmerings of the old Floyd majesty and of Waters’ singular talent for blending the confessional and the universal.
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