What does it sound like?:
It’s been twenty five years since Roger Waters last made a rock album, 1992’s Amused To Death. Since then there has been his foray into the world of opera, Ca Ira, which no one else seemed as interested in as he was, and only half a dozen new songs, appearing variously on film soundtracks, live and compilation albums and a solitary single. His main energies seem to have been directed into lengthy tours of old, albeit classic, albums like Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall – presumably that’s where the money is to be made these days.
The album we have here then is very long overdue and much anticipated by fans, and arrives at a time of political and global upheaval in the world, thus providing the themes for this piece of work, which, while not a concept album as such, is perhaps best described as a cycle of connected songs.
Starting with the spoken When We Were Young, Waters gives vent to his feelings in familiar fashion, as always wearing his heart on his sleeve. The stronger songs, such as Déjà Vu (formerly known as If I Had Been God), Picture That and Smell The Roses heavily and unashamedly channel the seventies Floyd sound as he deals with weighty matters such as Donald Trump, drone warfare, Syria, torture, rendition and refugees – yes, this is heavy subject matter make no mistake, and he’s only just getting started. Strangely, there’s no place for some of the songs he’s been playing live in recent times, such as Crystal Clear Brooks and Safe and Sound, and even Déjà Vu is a much shortened version of its original incarnation. There’s certainly more than a casual hint or two here of influences from his best work of forty odd years back though – a suggestion of Have A Cigar here, a hint of Dogs there, a nod to Welcome To The Machine, a wink to Wish You Were Here – see how many you can spot. On previous solo albums, Waters has gone for big name guest guitarists such as Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck to fill the Gilmour shaped hole, but here Jonathan Wilson handles guitar duties, and there’s hardly a solo to be found anywhere. Instead, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich has set the songs against a background of almost ambient collages of keyboards and the usual array of sound effects, which all add to the rather seventies vibe that’s been created here. The main instrument is often the acoustic guitar, accompanying Waters as he sings in a voice, which can best be described as ‘lived in’. If this is to be his swansong, and, as he’s now almost seventy three, logic suggests it may well be, then he does at least close the album on a note of hope and even optimism, the final three songs dwelling on the redemptive power of love.
All in all, if you’re an admirer of Waters music, you’ll find plenty to enjoy and engage here – obviously no album can really live up to the expectations created by a quarter of a century wait, but this is certainly a worthy addition to his canon.
What does it all *mean*?
Nigel Godrich has said that he wanted to give Waters a reboot for the twenty first century, presenting familiar musical ideas that still move listeners, but in a more current way. I think he has succeeded by and large – certainly fans will like, maybe even admire, this piece of work, although I also suspect that the uncommitted may well remain unconvinced.
Goes well with…
Other Waters solo works, and of course Pink Floyd, especially their albums from their 1970’s era.
Might suit people who like…
Hard hitting and thought provoking lyrics, accomplished playing, great production.