It’s been 25 years since Roger Waters released his single “What God Wants, Part I,” a seething diatribe against conformity and the blind worship of false idols. Over two decades later, the croaky warbler offers up Is this the Life We Really Want – another seething diatribe against conformity and the blind worship of false idols. The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess.
This go around, however, Waters’ rage feels perfectly in tune with our own. In a world caught up in the undertow of abject mendacity and ideological division, the well-worn subject matter on Life feels far more relevant. The early nineties were a release valve for the disaffected youth bred under the threat of nuclear Armageddon and bad hair metal. It was generation grunge, a mopey, flannel-clad army, committed only to their navels. The last thing on their mind was politics. Well, that was then, this is now. It only took 25 years, but Roger’s one-track grievances have finally caught up with the times…or is it vice versa?
“Picture a shithouse with no fucking drains/Picture a leader with no fucking brains”, snarls Waters on the vicious ‘Picture That.’ We can picture it alright, Rog…we’re fucking living it. Sonically, the album recalls the sound-bite atmospherics of Dark Side of the Moon and The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. Moreover, the oaky warmth of acoustic instrumentation seamlessly combines with the rubbery throb of well-curated loops and sampling, giving the album a hybrid freshness lacking in the aggressively ‘80s Radio Kaos and out of touch Amused to Death. Much of the credit for this welcomed make-over goes to producer Nigel Godrich (Paul McCartney, Beck, Radiohead) the maestro of ambient soundscapes.
The songs assert themselves cumulatively. It is an album to be experienced as a whole, abundant with piano ballads that plaintively express Waters’ thematic obsessions. The sole exception to this similitude would be “Smell the Roses”; a sneering rocker with a rhythm track nearly identical to Wish You Were Here’s “Have a Cigar”.
All in all, it’s Waters best work in decades. Turns out, aside from his passionate – and more than occasionally overly didactic – humanitarian activism he can still turn out a solid rock effort. Hell, I guess it’s all the same sticky ball of wax.
Waters' best effort in decades... His throwback album