Is This The Life We Really Want? review by Roger Waters

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  • Released: Jun 2, 2017
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.3 Good
  • Users' score: 7.6 (25 votes)
Roger Waters: Is This The Life We Really Want?
7

Sound — 8
I have to admit it. I never really followed Roger Waters' solo works. I've never spun "The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking", "Radio K.A.O.S.", or "Amused to Death". When it came to post-Pink Floyd solo albums, David Gilmour was always my go-to, especially with "On an Island" and his most recent, "Rattle That Lock". And I even found myself getting lost on Pink Floyd near the end of Waters' reign on the band. I always found "The Wall" oddly grating to sit through (despite some really powerful tunes) and I generally ignore "The Final Cut", but picked the band back up again on "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" and "The Division Bell".

But there's always been something missing from the Floyd catalog, along with the solo releases of its other members, that Roger Waters may have been directly responsible for: a sort of spitting, vitriolic delivery rife with political awareness and dissatisfaction with the state of the world. Without Waters, the remaining Floyd members lost that anger that made some of their mid-to-late 1970s material so iconic.

Presenting his first studio album of all-new rock material since 1992 (though he did release an opera called "Ça Ira" in 2005), Waters taps into that angry, despondent attitude of his and gives us a rather interesting performance. Performance-wise, the tracks on this album are definitely a musical continuation of sorts of Pink Floyd's 1983 record "The Final Cut", with a heavy emphasis on simple acoustic guitar chordal arrangements, news segments playing at the beginning of nearly every track, and a few sort of stereotypically late-'70s/early-'80s era Pink Floydisms, such as string-heavy orchestral arrangements and '70s-esque synthesizers. If you enjoyed Pink Floyd from "Animals" and "The Wall", then "Picture This" gets pretty close to fitting that paradigm, with its swelling synths and pulsing shuffle-rhythm bass and drums. Tracks like "Bird in a Gale" also represent a Floydian sort of atmosphere, but with a modern, almost Radiohead-esque tinge to them. "Smell the Roses", the album's first single, recalls the funky style of tracks like "Have a Cigar", with an almost uncannily similar descending guitar line. However, neither of the album's three guitarists: Nigel Godrich, Gus Seyffert, nor Jonathan Wilson, have the feel or power of David Gilmour. But their performances throughout the album are not exactly bad by any means. "Déjà Vu" is an acoustic guitar-led piece that instantly brings to mind tracks like "Mother" and "Two Suns in the Sunset". A fair number of the album's tracks are softer, acoustic pieces with a heavy amount of piano, but there are still some progressive swirlings such as in the end of "Wait for Her".

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 It's really easy to compare this songwriting to Waters' work with Pink Floyd, but there's certainly a small amount of influence from modern bands such as Radiohead in some of the grooves and textures. Roger sounds older and more worn out on this album than he has on any other studio record I've associated with him, but considering that his last rock album was released when I was all but 6 years old, I'd say his voice has aged rather well. Despite a very keyboard-heavy arrangement, with no fewer than five people handling key duties (all three guitarists plus Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. and Lee Pardini), the production never seems to be anything other than airy and dynamic, with loads and loads of headroom. Nigel Godrich opens many of the album's tracks with sound collages taken from various sources, including the news (particularly about Donald Trump, a constant lyrical bone to pick on this album) and weather forecasts.

Lyrics — 7
If there's one thing Roger Waters has become known for in the past several years, it's his political rants. Whether it be over the Israel-Palestine issue, the election of Donald Trump, the state of the music industry, or being compared to Stalin by one of his former bandmates, Roger Waters has become something of an incredibly controversial figure in rock music as of late.

Roger spends a lot of time being critical of the Trump administration on this record, on tracks like "Picture This" ("Picture a courthouse with no fucking laws/Picture a cathouse with no fucking whores/Picture a shithouse with no fucking drains/Picture a leader with no fucking brains"), "Broken Bones" ("We cannot turn back the clock/Cannot go back in time/But we can say "fuck you"/We will not listen to/Your bullshit and lies"), and the title track ("Every time a Russian bride is advertised for sale/And every time a journalist is left to rot in jail/Every time a young girl’s life is casually spent/And every time a nincompoop becomes the president"), and you can really feel the vitriol in his delivery. While his voice is definitely older and more strained than it's ever been, there's certainly still a fair deal of anger in his singing on this record. His vocals definitely still retain their signature sound on the album's softer songs, but his higher wail is not as present on this album as it has been on past records.

Overall Impression — 7
Strangely, Roger Waters has managed to put together a collection of searingly controversial and politically-charged songs that are as angry as anything you'll hear from any number of politically-minded bands these days, but with a much more melodic and pastoral sound that one would expect of the former Pink Floyd vocalist/bassist. There's a surprising amount of groove and progginess on the album, and at times, a somewhat more modern take on the classic Roger Waters/Pink Floyd sound. And in many ways, this album sounds more like Pink Floyd than any other past member of Pink Floyd's more recent output (including "The Endless River"), with its less-than-subtle references to "Have a Cigar" on the album's first single "Smell the Roses" and the subtle nod to the band's "Animals" era on "Picture This".

It's not a very original-sounding record, of course, and it's quite derivative of Waters' past output, but this is of no matter to me, as it's a formula that works very well. Sadly, the political content of the album will not be to all listeners' tastes, but I have to commend Waters for his bluntness about it. He is not one to waver on the fence about any issues, and he chooses to be as upfront about his opinions as possible on this album, and dare I say, this album is not the shining beacon of "political correctness" some critics of his political views may make it out to be.

Overall, this is a pretty good record, all politics aside. There are some really nice performances on this record that hark back to a better time when Pink Floyd was on top of the world, and even though some of the vocal performances are a little more run-down than they would have been in Floyd's heyday, it's kind of refreshing to see that Roger Waters can still mockingly spit his way through a performance with the best of them.

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32 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Walldude63
    Go see the tour. Seriously. I listened to the album and thought "Ok", and then saw the songs performed live and thought "fuck me!"   Look guys I'm a roadie so I do know of what I speak, as long as you aren't insulted by Waters pounding the shit out of Donald Trump, then DO NOT MISS THIS TOUR. The audio was beyond anything i have ever heard, it was like getting hit by a freight train, in surround sound.( Props to Clair Brothers Audio) I've seen Waters 7 times, Floyd 3 times, and Gilmour twice, and this was by far the best sound ever. You could feel every note down in your bones, and every instrument and vocal was crystal clear. The mix was perfect, I was literally physically sore the next day from the audio assault. (yeah I'm old)   Some highlights were: playing Dark Side, side one and replacing "On The Run" with a mean version of "One Of These Days", then following the calm and beauty of "Great Gig" with a menacing "Welcome To The Machine", then the first 4 songs off the new album, "Picture That" being especially notable. The second half of the show starts off with Dogs and Pigs from Animals, which if you've never heard live.. well..   Look, if you go, and you are in the right frame of mind,**wink wink** then nothing I say can prepare you for whats coming. Go see it. You won't be sorry.  And if you are a Donald Trump fan, turn around and go home. You'll hate it. 
    foursho
    ..and he's touring with Snowy White on guitar. That guy's appeared in numerous Floyd tours and bootlegs. I still enjoy Animal Instincts.
    primus182
    the sound is good live cuz he is lip singing most of his song (sadly). there's a lot of playback too. but its alway a great show
    Walldude63
    Uh.. no. First of all he only sang half the songs(he reminded me of Zappa who basically just conducted the band when I saw him) and his voice had a bit of rasp to it(Denver, altitude), plus you could see on screen he wasn't lip syncing.  2nd, saying it was all because of playback and lip sync is an insult to the guys at Clair Brothers who put together the best PA system I have ever heard. Since I am a roadie and have been to or worked thousands of shows over my lifetime I'd like to think I know a bit about what I am talking about. Whether it was the "playback" of a freight train running through the arena or the keyboards that crawled up and down your spine during Welcome To The Machine, the audio was flawless. Playback is a common occurrence at almost every show nowadays, I should know, I'm the playback guy on another tour. 
    primus182
    Sorry, but you have to do some research. During the  '' the wall tour '' Waters sang about the tier of the songs that he would normally sing (studio version). Waiting for the worms, The trial, Bring the boys back home, second half of One of my turn, Stop and may be Vera were lip syncing. It is a long known fact that Waters is no longer able to sing properly (live 8 2005 lol). The videos of him in background during the The wall tour were not live and were prerecorded (dude I saw him twice during that endless tour). You can find plenty of site talking about Waters and lip singing. But hey, im a big fan of pink floyd and him so I dont really care  
    BillDemote
    not gonna pay that type of money tho lol
    jesse1994
    I only paid $40 each or so, for the seats I'd say the best in the house considering the type of show. 
    Walldude63
    Yeah there is no debating it's expensive.. I saved for 6 months to get tix.. Was worth every penny though.. 
    BillDemote
    I saw the old man when he was still touring the Wall and I paid 120$ and promised myself it was the last time I was paying that kind of money for one artist. And at the moment there is no artist I would like to see that charges close to that amount.
    HugoPan
    great album indeed. got into Pink Floyd only recently. but man, even those lyrics inspired by trump sound tired and forced. It's old already.  
    travislausch
    Only got into them recently? You're in for a treat, then! My favourites are Wish You Were Here and Animals. Two excellent records, usually somewhat overlooked compared to the two records that came before and after (Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall).
    selkayann
    Talk about an overlooked Floyd album, that'd be Obscured by Clouds (or as I like to call it, Obscured by DSOTM)
    travislausch
    That's a good one, too. I also think "Meddle" doesn't get enough love, despite some really strong tunes!
    BassFishin
    DSOTM is one of those albums that, ironically, i think gets too much flak for being overrated, haha. The older you get, the more relate-able it becomes.  That's the beauty of its lyrical content.  I was listening to PULSE the other day, which contains an entire live performance of it towards the end - absolutely breathtaking.   Don't get me wrong, I love most of the Floyd catalogue with Meddle being one of my favorites - but something about DSOTM just gives it that extra level of timelessness, even if it has been 'overrated' to death.  
    ZPinkZeppelinS
    Although The Wall will always be my favorite, listen to Meddle and Atom Heart Mother. You will not regret it.
    jasperado
    just saw him in denver a few days ago, he played 3 of the new songs, the rest old floyd material.  that song picture this, had a heavy emphasis and lingering echo on the last line "picture a leader with no fucking brains, (with no fucking brains echoing for 15 seconds or so) " was pretty on the nose, but he didn't rant once about it, just plenty of imagery to do it for him.  I like the new record, its simplicity is refreshing after listening to tech death metal all day, a calmer angry i can sleep to. tear down the wall!
    travislausch
    Definitely feel you on the "it's refreshing after tech-death all day". Been on a real tech-death kick lately (thanks to that recent "31 best" list posted recently, as well as attending a show with a couple of local tech-death bands), and it's kind of nice to just find something relaxing to kick back to but still be pissed off.  
    jasperado
    yeah that 31 tech metal band list was great, those articles always keep me busy for a while finding awesome new stuff, i agreed that archspire shoulda been higher, they are insanely technical
    Walldude63
    That's the show I saw as well(Sat). I saw the Wall in 3 different cities and Denver was the best show of the three. For some reason, maybe it's the altitude, the guy is always on fire when he plays here..   Oh and just an aside, if you count "Smell The Roses" in set 2 there were 4 new songs.. 
    jasperado
    yeah you are right, he did play 4 tunes from his solo stuff.   I dig his solo stuff, he is a conceptual master, knows how to bring you into his world and feel his feels.  I saw the wall too, twice in denver, both times blew me away, second one i ate some psilocybin and that show shook me to my core. Something about that mountain air *wink wink* hope he stays healthy and lives long!
    rcanders
    Well, I like Trump, but I like Snowy White and a good show too, so I'll be there. Can't wait.
    evanharte123
    I love this album. It caught my interest at first listen. It is lyrically, instrumentally, and vocally awesome. Well done Roger!
    imbatman1312
    It's great that he's still going, but he sounds so old and tired. He shouldn't need that much autotune, he's Roger Waters.
    travislausch
    Honestly, I haven't detected much auto-tune use on this album. If it's there, it certainly isn't all that obvious.