Friday, January 26, 2018

Three Different Ones - Pink Floyd's Animals (AM8)

Pink Floyd was in the throes of their success (read that as genius) by 1975 and still at a loss. The question was always, how does a band follow up an album like Dark Side of the Moon? Like a day at the north pole, there is nowhere to go but south. But the dilemma was worse. Dark Side's successor was nearly it's equal, and for many, more substantive. Now what? Follow up DSOTM and WYWH with... The answer was the zoological bride stripped bare, otherwise known as Animals. Animals is equal to or better than than nearly anything recorded in 1976 – Queen, Bowie, Elvis Costello, Ramones, Kraftwerk, Aja – but little is there to defend the title in the same way that we aggrandize Low or Rumours. It’s time:

"Pigs on the Wing (Part I)," the LP's opening track lasts but 1 minute 25 seconds and features Roger Waters playing an acoustic guitar. It's a short, wistful song that stands as an island of comfort before the storm. The rest of the side is taken up by the behemoth epic "Dogs." At just over 17 minutes long, "Dogs" is the real face of Animals: harsh and angry, bleak. Capturing the Animal Farm motif, the dogs are enforcers that work for the pigs to protect their interests, doing the dirty work behind the scenes to maintain order and the power structure. The dogs in question are also victims of this world, being used by those in charge and then disposed of themselves when they can no longer carry out their duties. This is the only song on the album co-written by anybody other than Waters. The song began as a composition by guitarist David Gilmour, and as such is the most guitar oriented song on the album. The solos for this album are fittingly biting and snarling with acoustic and electric interplay by Gilmour and Waters. 8 minutes in, the song changes into a slow and spacey synthesizer solo by keyboardist Richard Wright with dog noises and whistling dubbed in by Gilmour on a vocoder. At 12 minutes, the guitar format returns, mimicking the original suite, this time the vocals are Waters, David Gilmour later revealing that it was nearly impossible for him to sing all the vocals on this 17 minute epic, and that was incorporated into the studio cut. The song ends with a two minute electrically charged requiem for the dogs, who served their masters faithfully and without hesitation, only to be tossed aside and replaced. A sad end to a sad life. [Click here for the nearly complete alt. demo.]

"Pigs (Three Different Ones)" is a scathing 11 minute criticism of the powers that be. The pigs are the ones in charge, the ones pulling the strings in society. The "three different ones" in question are three different representations of people in power. The first can be assumed a politician, the second, an aristocrat or some kind of military leader. Nick Mason's drums plod along slowly as the rest of the band creates a densely furious atmosphere that extends into a lengthy jam with Gilmour howling like an animal into a vocoder; sounds like politicians to me. The third verse specifically mentions one of the "pigs," Mary Whitehouse, a conservative social activist fighting the progressive changes in British society at the time, a forerunner to Margaret Thatcher's radical conservatism. With two minutes left, the band fires into one of the most aggressive jams of their long and storied career. David Gilmour blasts away with the most intense guitar solo he ever composed, giving way to the pastoral sounds of birds and sheep. As if there were hope for us all.

From there, "Sheep" begins with a long, relaxed and jazzy electric piano solo by Wright. As a droning bass fades in, the song explodes into a mid-tempo rocker, again sung by Waters. The sheep in question are those of us who aren't a pig or a dog, the vast majority who must remain docile and idle lest they face the wrath of the dogs. The song features Gilmour playing bass, as he did on "Pigs," in is some of the best recorded bass by Pink Floyd. Waters croons about the final social revolution in which the sheep finally rise up to take over, the meek inheriting the earth, the pigs once again on the wing. Animals is like an industrial wasteland in a bright, moonlit night: simply beautiful.