Sound — 8
First off: I don't consider The Final Cut to be a 'Pink Floyd' LP, though by the same measure I'd happily rip out the larynx of anyone who'd call it a 'Roger Waters solo album'. So instead of debating authorship all day, isn't it easier to just accept the evasive 'by Roger Waters, performed by Pink Floyd' tag and be done with it? Good stuff. Regardless of who penned it, The Final Cut stands as one of the most powerful anti-war pieces of art ever created. If your favorite Floyd LP is 'Wish You Were Here' or 'Piper At The Gates' you'll find little to enjoy, gone are the lush synth arrangements and soaring guitar solos, leaving a dark and stripped-down vibe. Fans of 'Animals' and 'The Wall' will feel more at home, but it's still a huge leap. The production is superb and extensive use is made of piano and orchestra, but this time the musicianship is really just a canvas for Waters to paint his lyrical picture upon, in a thousand shades of grey.
Lyrics — 10
A good decision, since the songwriting is of a remarkably high standard throughout. At first it may seem like an uncomplicated collection of songs about war, but there are huge bubbling undercurrents of cynicism, depression and disillusionment which you can unpick and decipher a little more with each listen. The lyrics range from dark beauty ("Through the fish-eyed lens of tear stained eyes/I can barely define the shape of this moment in time"), to bleak pessimism ("In derelict sidings the poppies entwine/with cattle trucks lying in wait for the next time"), all the way through to grim apocalyptic acceptance ("Two suns in the sunset/ hmm, could be the human race is run"). Considering the album was originally intended to be the bricks missed out of The Wall, as it were, almost every track is a mini-masterpiece. The real standouts are 'The Fletcher Memorial Home', 'The Gunner's Dream', and the melodic title track, but as with most Pink Floyd the album is best enjoyed as a whole. Unusually it feels like every song has a definite purpose, with no filler what'soever. And adding 'When The Tigers Broke Free' to the reissue was a great move, it fits the flow of the album perfectly and seems to have found a suitable home at last. The only thing resembling old-school Floyd is 'Not Now John', it's reminiscent of Have A Cigar (as a sarcastic parody as much as anything) and is also the only track on which Gilmour sings lead. Not a bad track, by any means, but it doesn't quite fit and I reckon it's inclusion is a little two-finger-salute to anyone expecting a conventional pop record (Roger Waters gives the unnerving impression of having thought of absolutely everything in advance, like the baddie in a spy thriller).
Overall Impression — 9
It's impossible to write about The Final Cut without sounding pretentious, as is the case with anything that attempts to make sense of a subject so inherently stupid and unintelligible. It's dark, and maybe a bit too heavy for most to enjoy. It certainly requires your full attention and makes poor background 'white noise', unlike Wish You Were Here or Dark Side. It's not for easy listeners. It's not for the eternally cheerful. There's a good chance you'll listen and find it to be the tiresome, pretentious ramblings of a career egotist. But if the full power of the album hits you, it'll send a shiver down your spine and leave a mark across your soul. A work of genius, from one of the world's least likely philosophers. Highly recommended.