Roger Waters returns, after a twenty five year wait, with his new album Is This The Life We Really Want? Ever since his Animals days with his former band Pink Floyd, Waters has delivered lyrics that attack the prevailing social order, religion and the state of the world in general.
‘When We Were Young’ opens the album and is a soundscape/spoken piece on the baggage we carry from our youth. ‘Deja Vu’ is similar to Animals-era Floyd particularly ‘Pigs on the Wing’. It finds Waters imagining himself as God and stating that if he was: “I would have sired many sons and I would not have suffered the Romans to kill even one of them”. There is a black humour evident, but nonetheless makes you think. Waters’ voice, whilst never the strongest, always had an intimate vulnerability that feels like it might crack at any moment, drawing you in. ‘The Last Refugee’ is drum and piano led and considers the plight of Syrian refugees on the beaches of Europe.
‘Picture That’ is full of savage barbs asking the listener to “Picture your kid with his finger on the trigger, picture prosthetics in Afghanistan”. Trump, deservedly, gets it in the neck – “Picture a leader with no fucking brain”. Echoes of earlier works are to be found in the line “Wish you were here in Guantanamo Bay”. In ‘Broken Bones’, strings and acoustic lead the melancholy, matching the bleakness of the theme: the squandered opportunity of the post World War Two planet to follow the path of peace. This leads into the title track, with its Radiohead claustrophobic vibe and deadpan vocal delivery: “The good sides gotten fat on caviar and fancy bars and subprime loans and broken homes”. Over his career Waters has developed a jaundiced view of both the world and its inhabitants and he lays the blame for all the woes of the world on, well the world.
‘Bird in a Gale’ is all movement and snippets of radio announcers. Again Waters doesn’t run from his history as this song mines both Animals and The Wall. With its synth and delayed vocal it is like a modern version of ‘Dogs’.
‘The Most Beautiful Girl in the World’ has a sumptuous melody and ‘Smell the Roses’ has that driven funk that one might not expect of Waters but has been part of his oeuvre since the 70s (oh and those dogs are back barking).’Wait for Her’ and ‘Oceans Apart’ could be straight off The Final Cut and reminds you that he could always write an acoustic ballad. The latter gives way into the albums closer ‘Part of Me Died’ but they are the same song, for all intents and purposes.
No one could ever argue that Roger Waters has an optimistic disposition but in a world that is often chaotic who could blame him? This has been a work that has been a long time coming but in today’s world it feels vital and necessary.