Friday, December 3, 2010

Pink Floyd 12: Animals

With each album and tour, Roger Waters had started to assert himself as the brains behind Pink Floyd, pushing himself as the lyricist and conceptual genius. His heavy hand becomes especially dominant on Animals, an album inspired by, ironically, the indictment of totalitarianism in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. While that novel portrayed various species in differing roles, in Roger’s view, we’re all either dogs, sheep or pigs.
Much like their last album, the music is bookended by a single theme, but in the reverse; here the bookends are brief, while the real songs are longer, yet still compelling. After the simple introduction of “Pigs On The Wing (Part 1)”, “Dogs” runs for seventeen fascinating minutes, from the opening acoustic flourishes through David Gilmour’s vocal and heavy solos. After the slower middle section, you can hear the dogs barking, but it takes a trained ear to tell when Roger takes over the verses. Even the use of yet another list—something Roger would resort to for the rest of his career—to close the track can’t kill the power of this one.
While the title of “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” suggests that each verse describes someone unique, it’s not apparent how they stand out, outside of Roger’s disdain. The spooky organ leads through the verses into a grooving middle section, with plenty of guitar-as-pig effects. “Sheep” begins with the nearly pastoral sounds of bleating underneath a ping-ponging electric piano, before the beat gets more insistent and the music more scary. A mid-section featuring a buried parody of the 23rd Psalm gives way to another verse, before a triumphant coda anchored by a descending guitar riff that David would recycle a few times on other albums. The album comes full circle with the affectionate sentiment of “Pigs On The Wing (Part 2)”.
Because of the heavy preaching and longer tracks, Animals doesn’t get as much attention as other Floyd albums. When it finally joined its brothers with 21st-century mixes, no extra material (alternate mixes, live versions, not even the extended “Pigs On The Wing” with a guitar solo between the sections prepared for the 8-track) was included, unlike every other major album in their catalog. However, that also means it hasn’t been overplayed on the radio except at three in the morning on those stations that still have deejays. But despite what might have been happening inside the band, the Floyd certainly clicked musically here, making Animals a continually rewarding listen.

Pink Floyd Animals (1977)—4


  1. Got to agree here: it took a while to grow on me, but I eventually came to the conclusion that Animals is worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as Dark Side and Wish You Were Here, while The Wall probably is not. In particular Dogs is an absolute tour de force in terms of guitar work.

  2. I have to agree.

    The Wall has some songs I like on it, rarely listen to the whole thing straight through.

    Wish You Were Here I like a little more than Animals, but I play this one more because some of the sound effects drive my girlfriend's cat crazy.

  3. I own all the Floyd albums. I have all with Waters on vinyl, and all on CD in the sensible boxed set, and the last one which came out later. I also have a few on individual CDs. I've heard them all. I admit that Animals is rather far down on my list. I'll give it another spin. (Jethro Tull's Stormwatch was also once way down on my list, but I started liking it after hearing it a few times.) I think that one reason are the explicitly political lyrics. Not that a disagree with the sentiment; the question is what is good for a lyric.