Albums Of The Week

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters offers protest rock in Is This The Life We Really Want?

Is This The Life We Really Want? is Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters' first solo album in 25 years.
Is This The Life We Really Want? is Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters' first solo album in 25 years.PHOTO: SONY MUSIC

Roger Waters takes aim at political leaders, world crises and even concertgoers' habits in Is This The Life We Really Want?

Rock luminaries Pink Floyd's co-founder Roger Waters has an unflinching view of the state of the world and vents his fury in Is This The Life We Really Want?, his fourth solo album and his first in 25 years.

While the messages can be quite literal, the 73-year-old English musician's album is an aurally luscious yet despairing sign of the times, a release that helps bring protest rock back to the mainstream stage.

And while he has never shied away from turning to humanity's dire traits as inspiration for his music, Waters' well-documented animosity towards political leaders' roles in crises around the world comes to the fore in this release.

He might not be the greatest of singers and his range seems limited at times, but the way in which he delivers the lyrics shines with conviction.

The Last Refugee is a cinematic ode to the migrant crisis, while Deja Vu paints a ruined world marked by killer drones, "bankers" who "get fat" and animals driven to extinction.

Some lyrics seem prescient - such as the line in the title track referencing rising sea levels, just as President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord last week .

  • Is This The Life We Really Want? is Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters' first solo album in 25 years.

    PROGRESSIVE ROCK

    IS THIS THE LIFE WE REALLY WANT?

    Roger Waters

    Columbia Records

    4 stars

While he does not directly name political heads whom he despises, he does include a sample of Mr Trump's combative interview with CNN at the start of the titular song.

Picture This, with its dramatic synths and throbbing rhythms, takes aim at everything from the modern concertgoers' grating habits ("Follow me filming myself at the show/On a phone from a seat in the very front row") to the troubles in Afghanistan and even has a sly dig at one of his former band's most vaunted albums ("Wish You Were Here in Guantanamo Bay").

The production and mixing work by Nigel Godrich, best known for his oeuvre with Radiohead, is plush and stellar.

The tune Broken Bones, in particular, stands out with its delicate acoustic strums and melancholic strings and slide guitar.

Waters picks up the pace in Smell The Roses which, despite its vivid depictions of the horrors of war, is a funky jam reminiscent of Pink Floyd's more upbeat numbers such as Money from The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) and Have A Cigar from Wish You Were Here (1975).

But even a hardened man such as Waters realises that it cannot always be doom and gloom.

The album ends with a trio of tender tunes that include Wait For Her, a beautiful acoustic guitar and piano ballad with lyrics originally written by late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, translated into English. Despite the rest of the album's ominous vibes, Waters offers the power of hope and love as an antidote to global woes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2017, with the headline 'Protest rock brought back to the fore '. Print Edition | Subscribe