Throughout the decades, various members from the legendary progressive rock band Pink Floyd have individually done a wide range of solo projects outside of the band.
One such solo career belongs to bassist and primary lyricist Roger Waters. After leaving the band acrimoniously in 1983, he released several albums of his own to various degrees of success, the most recent being 1992’s Amused to Death.
While he continued with the creative and lyrical direction that dominated Pink Floyd in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Waters soon found himself playing to smaller crowds, while Pink Floyd played record-setting stadium tours all over the world.
In 1999, four years after Pink Floyd first broke up, Waters finally returned to road with his In the Flesh Tour, which mixed together solo songs with Pink Floyd’s greatest hits.
The tour became a massive success and Waters soon staged subsequent tours based on his past experience with the band.
With such a long time on the road, Waters was naturally kept out of the recording studio to create the long-awaited fourth studio album.
After years of hyping it up to the fans, Waters finally got around to releasing his first album in 25 years, Is This the Life We Really Want?
In times of political and social uncertainty gripping the world, this new album could not have come at a more appropriate time.
Social commentary and politically charged lyrics have long defined Waters’ lyrical prose, in and out of Pink Floyd.
In a span of 55 minutes, Waters airs his personal grievances at the military-industrial complex, millennial culture, organized religion and the Trump administration.
One topic that is strangely omitted is the conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine, which Waters very openly discusses. All things considered, the lyrics on this album will definitely give flashbacks to Pink Floyd’s 1977 album, Animals.
Strangely, while the songs seem to have a similar theme all throughout, Waters has confirmed that this is actually not a concept album, making it the first freeform album he has written since Pink Floyd released Obscured By Clouds in 1972.
As far as concept records go, it has always been a mixed bag when it came to Waters. Sometimes it worked, like The Wall and The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, and other times it came short, like Radio K.A.O.S. and The Final Cut.
Without being tied to any sort of narrative, this album manages to flow seamlessly and is an easy listening experience because of how it was put together.
Though it is not a concept album, the album does include a three-track suite that closes the album.
Surprisingly, these songs are optimistic and sweet in subject matter and they end the album on a very light note. This seems to be a nod to how Animals bookended the harsh political lyrics with a soft and tender acoustic love ballad from Waters.
Of course, lyrics are just one half of the experience when it comes to progressive rock. Given Waters’ illustrious past works, there will understandably be a lot of emphasis placed on the overall music.
For this new album, Waters enlisted the production duties of Nigel Godrich, best known for co-producing the bulk of Radiohead’s studio discography. In addition to production duties, he also contributes additional guitar and keyboards.
Throughout his career as a producer, Godrich has made it very clear that he is a huge Pink Floyd fan. Within this new album, various tributes to classic Pink Floyd are scattered throughout the songs.
The first single, “Smell the Roses,” bears a strong resemblance to the song, “Have a Cigar,” due to its high emphasis on the funk electric piano and bass guitar.
The follow-up single “Deja Vu” combines elements of songs like “Mother,” “Pigs on the Wing” and “Southampton Dock.”
Several of the songs feature sound bites of various samples like ticking clocks or BBC news reports, harkening back to the legendary Dark Side of the Moon album.
While the largely bleak and cynical lyrics may not be for everyone, Waters has made a long-awaited return that expands on his solo career while looking back at the band that turned him into a worldwide figure of progressive rock.
Waters recently started the promotional tour for the album, dubbed Us + Them.
He is scheduled to perform four shows in the New York metropolitan area at the Barclays Center and the new Nassau Coliseum from Sept. 11 to 16.