Is This The Life We Really Want? (Sony)
Before getting into the weeds of this long, impassioned, uncompromising, humourless, equal parts compelling and off-putting mix of polemic, manifesto and diatribe it should be acknowledged that this is probably the most Pink Floyd album ever.
And I include any actual individual Pink Floyd albums.
Track after track here is like a compendium of Floyd moments from 1968 to 1984. Or, if you’re keeping track over there of the Roger Waters life cycle, from 1943 to “get off my lawn you bastard kids before I turn my hose on you and tell your Republican/Conservative/Likud-voting parents they’re the reason we’re going to hell in a handbasket”.
There’s the sampled (human and mechanised) voices and both heart beating and clock ticking sounds; the weary, intimate acoustic song; the ranting at the sky power rock song; the lonely guitar line matched by the soaring guitar line; white boy grooves which chug rather than funk; occasional female voices which add some soul occasionally; the surge into a rush of Running Man energy; the fall back to a meditative rhythm and murmuring voice; the shifting shape, low key prog; the damaged boy trying to make sense; the damaged boy-now-a-man trying to make sense; the perfidy of governments and bastardry of industry; string arrangements working on the discomfort-is-beauty principle; heavy piano chords and rumbling burbling electronics; voices echoing into a bottomless void; tenderness as a reflection of weariness as much as heartfelt feeling; a light brush of country music which works as a tonic.
What differences there are are in the secondary details. Instead of WWII bombs there are drones; instead of isolated kids beaten by fascist teacher there are kids ripped from parents in the search for refuge; instead of Thatcher and Reagan there’s a “leader with no fucking brains” who doesn’t need to be named; instead of the existential threat of MAD there’s terrorisms morphing presence into its own mutually assured destruction methodology.
And, in case it wasn’t clear, this is no escape into a science fiction future you can set aside as a warning, but rather a decidedly dystopian present. Shit isn’t about to get real; shit has landed around you and it’s rising fast. “Wake up and smell the roses, throw a photo on the funeral pyre.”
As I said a few wars and occupations back at the beginning of this review, this is both compelling and fascinating to absorb, and wearying and off-putting to repeat.
It is not relentless, thankfully, with interludes and digressions changing the mood just enough to ease the emotional temperature.
However, if this is something which matters to you when listening to 54 minutes of music, it does not actually engender pleasure. Waters doesn’t do that. He’s got his sights on other parts of your brain.