×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Album Review: Roger Waters’ ‘Is This the Life We Really Want?’

Roger Waters
“Is This the Life We Really Want?”
(Columbia)

When Roger Waters announced that he was working with Radiohead/Beck producer Nigel Godrich on his first new studio album in a quarter-century, imaginations ran wild at the thought of Waters’ sensibilities being run through some kind of post-modern filter. But, for better or worse, the newly released result is less of the “Kid Animals” hybrid you might have expected than Godrich indulging his Pink Floyd fanboy side.

“Is This the Life We Really Want?” finds the producer adding blatant nods along the way to every Floyd album from “Meddle” through “The Final Cut” — which may alternately delight fans and frustrate them a little, since the material Waters has written doesn’t always seem to be calling for these touches. Most of the songs are closer to meditative, half-spoken album tracks of yore like “Mother” than explosive hits like “Money,” but that doesn’t keep Godrich from throwing in tape loops of BBC radio announcers or ticking-clock sound effects or synth parts that sound like posthumous contributions from Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright. These ‘70s-redolent touches may represent Godrich’s glee at being the kid in the Pink Floyd candy store, or just a realization that it takes a spoonful of that sugar to make Waters’ world-weary bitterness go down.

And make no mistake — Waters was already rock’s angriest man for the last 40 years, and the election of Donald Trump certainly hasn’t mellowed him out. Except for a couple of surprisingly sweet moments in the final stretch, “Is This the Life We Really Want?” is a nonstop fusillade of Waters’ grievances against (a probably non-existent) God, the president, the military-industrial complex, drones, smartphones, reality TV, remote-control bombings, cruel fate, and far, far crueler mankind. (However, there are none of the overt Israeli/Palestinian comments he’s made in recent interviews, in case you’re wondering.) The largely stream-of-consciousness lyrics make this arguably Waters’ first real non-concept album since “Meddle” — although the idea that the world has gone to hell in a handbasket, and that Roger Waters is mad about it, may count as concept enough.

When Godrich isn’t distracting with overtly nostalgic touches, “Is This the Life We Really Want?” plays out a lot like free-form poetry set to music. That’s not a knock; it’s mostly very good free-form poetry, and the music has a lot of undeniably lovely moments — thanks especially to the string arrangements from David Campbell (a.k.a. Beck’s father) — even if it rarely coalesces into the conventional tunes some may be looking for. It’s a better album than previous efforts like “Radio KAOS” or “Amused to Death” for being less tied to narrative shackles.

Yet the problem with the winking Floyd references is that they keep setting you up for a cathartic David Gilmour guitar solo that never comes. (Jonathan Wilson, who’s part of the crack L.A. studio band Godrich brought in, is certainly capable, but goes uncalled upon for much here.) Maybe it’s a no-win situation — such a solo would be too overt — but all that tension begs for some kind of release.

And yet it’s hard not to be struck by all the beautiful turns of phrase Waters comes upon here, even amid all the FCC-baiting political bile. This is especially true of the quiet three-song suite that ends the album, which seems to revolve around actual love, even though you keep waiting for a missile sound effect. (He did, after all, blow up “The Most Beautiful Girl” a little earlier in the album.) It takes a moment to realize in “Wait for Her” that, when he sings “Don’t let your eyes alight upon the twin doves of her breast, lest they take flight/ Wait for her,” he’s being funny and affectionate and dear, not setting you up for the kill.

And then, in the closing “Part of Me Died,” he goes on to literally catalogue every bad thing he can think of in the world over the course of a couple of unbendingly bitter minutes, because he is Roger Waters, but also because he’s trying to provide some closing context for how the love of a woman supposedly makes him want to forget all that misanthropy. But if you’re a fan, you would never want Waters to forget: All these decades into our relationship, there’s something comforting about his discomfort.

 

 

Album Review: Roger Waters' 'Is This the Life We Really Want?'

More Music

  • Justin Bieber Changes album

    Justin Bieber Reveals 'Changes' Release Date, North American Tour

    Justin Bieber will release his fifth studio album, “Changes,” on Feb. 14. The Valentine’s Day drop comes a little over three weeks after his YouTube series “Justin Bieber: Seasons” premieres on the video streaming platform. The single “Yummy” is already out and has logged more than 300 million streams since its debut last month. In [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Corrosion of Conformity Drummer Reed Mullin Dies at 53

    Reed Mullin, drummer and cofounder of long-running North Carolina hard rock outfit Corrosion of Conformity, has died, according to a social media posts from the band, fellow musicians and many of the friends he had made in the music world over the years. He was 53. It’s with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to [...]

  • Saweetie62nd Annual Grammy Awards, Arrivals, Los

    When 'Birds of Prey' Came Calling, 'I Passed Out,' Says Saweetie

    “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” the R-rated girl gang-driven comic book actioner starring Margot Robbie and directed by Cathy Yan, bows in theaters Feb. 7 — the same date its equally female-driven soundtrack drops. And the latter even has its own trailer.  The film’s playlist includes tracks by Megan [...]

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 25:

    Grammy Party Report: Inside the Week’s Biggest Music Events

    Sometimes there’s so much bad news that it’s wonderful to have a reason to celebrate, and in a weekend marred by Kobe Bryant’s death, the scandal surrounding the Recording Academy’s controversial ouster of president/CEO Deborah Dugan, presidential impeachment proceedings and more depressing stuff, the music business managed to push back the clouds and throw down [...]

  • BTS Grammys

    BTS and Demi Lovato's Emotional Return Top Grammys Twitter Moments

    From Demi Lovato’s emotional comeback to the Grammy’s stage to Billie Eilish’s five award wins, this year’s ceremony honoring the best in music got Twitter talking. Of the most memorable moments during the show, the internet praised Lovato (so choked-up that she had to start her performance over again) as she debuted her song “Anyone.” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content