Roger Waters – Is This The Life We Really Want? (Album Review)

After all these years, iconic Rocker Roger Waters finds there is still something to say with his first album in twenty five years with the release of Is This The Life We Really Want? Co-founder of the legendary Pink Floyd, Waters moves towards his allegedly “final” album, and it may possibly be one of his best societal masterpieces of music to date. 

A long time since 1992’s Amused To Death, whose theme viewed the media under a microscope, Is This The Life We Really Want? takes that analysis a step further. Released on June 2, 2017 via Columbia Records, Is This The Life We Really Want? takes a harsher look at greed and fear under that same genius scrutiny held skillfully by Waters and his cynical lyrical microscope like a child burning the truth after it is illuminated.

Having one of the most successful careers in Rock history, highlighted by the mind-blowing works of 1973’s The Dark Side Of The Moon, 1977’s Animals, and 1979’s The Wall, Waters comes full circle on this politically charged new album. A piece of work that is years in the making, the musicians accompanying Waters consist of Nigel Godrich (arrangement, sound collages, keyboards, guitar), Gus Seyffert (bass, guitar, keyboards), Jonathan Wilson (guitar, keyboards), Joey Waronker (drums), Roger Manning (keyboards), Lee Pardini (keyboards), and Lucius (vocals), with Jessica Wolfe and Holly Proctor. 

Twelve tracks in total, kicking off Is This The Life We Really Want? is “When We Were Young” with all of its mutterings of inner thoughts. Time thickening in the background, the simple guitar work and opening lyrics call out the rock star’s demise that is a direct conflict of alcohol and the aging process. A damn powerful way to start an opus to a life well lived, lyrically, there is then some comfort in “Deja Vu.”

With the group of musicians in the studio, the balanced talent creates an experience drifting from one song into another. In addition, “The Last Refugee” proves Waters has not lost the vocal ability that originally connected his voice as a Rock poet. The keyboard work is both symphonic, natural, and elevates into the sheer terror with “Picture That” working along with the lyrical discord of the times. “Picture a leader with no fucking brains,” seems prophetic considering the fact that Waters feels like an angry prophet shouting into the wind. Waters has historically had the ability to ride the tide of the times, and here he sings “why are we so fucking needy?” as call and response riffs take precedent over the lyrical barrage of opinion that seems to say what many are thinking.  

Moving on, “Broken Bones” starts with the clearing of the throat, because irony has always been one of the strengths of a great writer. All too much to handle? The fact is Waters has been a proponent of the political voice of truth since the 1960s and, recapturing that, the album’s title-track, “Is This the Life We Really Want?,” strikes gold. Are we getting fat as a people and country, or, more importantly, are we becoming apathetic? This is the idea Waters is trying to challenge listeners with. Thereafter, more performing art than strictly Rock, “Bird In A Gale” blows in with a strong bass line and piano driven melody much like “The Wall,” striking a chord of familiarity. In a way, it gives a sense of grounding to the chaos.

Softening the tone, “The Most Beautiful Girl” sounds like acceptance from an aging master hoping for someone to take his place. Melodic and hopeful from start to finish, this is the Waters that listeners knew from the past. The album’s single, “Smell The Roses,” is a blast with a Dark Side Of The Moon era, comforting and familiar down to the barking dogs thrown in the mix. With only a few songs left, “Wait For Her” is an excellent way to head out of an album that only a skilled songwriter can do, gentle and purposeful with imagery like a poet. This is before “Oceans Apart” punctuates the global connectedness that the world shares, ethereal chorus enveloping all. A song which is a landscape painted by an auditory Leonardo Da Vinci, it drifts off into a reprise of “When We Were Young” casting out for the finale of “Part Of Me Died.”

In enough words, Roger Waters is angered by the world’s stupidity. In a recent interview on CBS Sunday Morning, Waters stated that this would most likely be his last album and tour in support of such an artistic purging. If that is true, the world will lose a true musical genius, but nothing is forever, and if Is This The Life We Really Want? is it, it is a wonderful parting gift. CrypticRock gives this album 5 out of 5 stars. 

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