English singer-songwriter-bassist Roger Waters’ first album in 25 years, Is This the Life We Really Want?, makes me realize I miss Pink Floyd — and I’m not a Pink Floyd fan.
Waters is/was the Darth Vader of the band, responsible for its dark power but more importantly their glorious excursions and social commentary and outrage. The man knows how to capture the mood of the times and offer it up like lightning in a bottle. He does it again here.
Waters is an Orwellian presence who is not here to party, although many have tried to do so to his music. He’s an iconic figure who creates monumental mood music. Floydian textures are present, revealed as Waters’ staples: sound bites, samples, spoken word, throbbing tracks, and echoed voices.
His reappearance is timely and on tracks like Picture That and Smell The Roses he gets down to dark grooves and dystopian sound-scapes while he intones like a futuristic Old Testament prophet. He follows that with a bittersweet acoustic track about human vulnerability in the cosmos that starts with the cry of a loon (Broken Bones).
He asks questions and carries off the trick of sounding angrier than a street punk or as thoughtful as a Romantic era poet (Wait for Her). This last song emphasizes the Leonard Cohen after-world present in many of Waters’ quiet songs — this one is a wistful piano ballad of regret.
Is This The Life We Really Want is a classic Roger Waters album that gets you thinking, usually in a form of reverie about war torn past and present and hopeful daydreams. Not many can summon painful regret like Waters and give it anthemic character (Oceans Apart, Part of Me Died). But give the man his due – he’s one of the very few who can do a mega tour of a nearly 40 year old album (The Wall).
Waters’ new music has power and insight, hope and glory, and when he drops the F-bomb he means it. And you better believe it.
–Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest music releases in his column, Street Sounds, every Friday.