Thursday, August 25, 2016

Pink Floyd's The Final Cut: One of their Best Albums

Look around the internet for what people think are Pink Floyd's best albums, and The Final Cut usually rates as one of the worst, at least of those from the Roger Waters era.

It's too bad because The Final Cut is a lyrical masterpiece from Waters showcasing his true genius, and should get far more praise from Floyd fans than it does.

Released in 1983, it's a concept album decrying war and mocking the world leaders who make war. Originally intended as a soundtrack to The Wall movie, Waters quickly changed the album's direction after the Falkland Islands war began in April 1982. The war was a brief battle between Britain and Argentina, which had invaded the Falkland Islands (a British colony), prompting the British to retaliate and take them back.

For Waters this was a crazy move, after all his dad had died in Italy fighting for Britain in World War 2, and the idea that the British would go to war again after the horrors of the Second World War was ludicrous to him, especially over a couple of tiny, British held, islands. So he was prompted to change direction, and turn The Final Cut into a stand alone album.

What makes the album so good is Waters' emotion and bitterness. The songs are great, but he takes them to another level with all the emotion he puts into every song whether it's anger, outrage or heartfelt sadness.

The record opens with "The Post-War Dream" (questioning the British economy and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's move to attack Argentina). The song starts with the sound of a car radio tuning to a station, much like the final song on the album, "Two Suns in the Sunset", which also features a car driving down the road, so the album starts where it ends. Waters lyrics on that last track take thoughts of warfare from conventional to nuclear in a stunning first-person narrative of anger and despair, that really kicks in heavy at the 2:17 mark as a nuclear bomb explodes.

A 2004 re-release of The Final Cut includes "When the Tigers Broke Free" as track No. 4. The song first appeared on the Wall movie, and describes in detail how Waters' father, Eric Fletcher Waters, died under fire from the German army holding the Anzio bridgehead in Italy in 1944 (Eric Waters died in a town called Aprilla, some 10 km from Anzio when his company was surrounded by German forces). In the song, you can hear the venom in Waters' voice in when he sings "And that's how the High Command took my daddy from me." It's that bitterness, that raw emotion that really makes The Final Cut the stellar album it really is. And when you know the history of Waters' father and Waters feelings about his death, The Final Cut is made that much more poignant.

Standout Songs on The Final Cut

Waters pays further homage to his late father in the amazing "Fletcher Memorial Home", which takes its title from his dad's name. It's a mellow song ridiculing some key world leaders like Ronald Reagan, Thatcher, Richard Nixon, Leonid Brezhnev, Ian Paisley and Joseph McCarthy. Waters paints them as "Colonial wasters of life and limb" who should be sent to a retirement home with a group of "anonymous Latin American meat-packing glitterati" where they can act like children and abuse themselves. The track features a standout, piercing David Gilmour guitar solo (it wasn't just a Waters solo album). And never one to mince words, Waters concludes the song by saying "the final solution can be applied" to these out of touch world leaders.

Another standout track is "Not Now John" with David Gilmour handling lead vocals, even though Waters wrote it and does some vocal work on the song. It's easily the most hard rocking track on the record with a heavy guitar riff and a thumping drum beat. "Not Now John" examines the global policy at the time and harkens to people only caring about trivial things "Who cares what it's about as long as the kids go". The final part of the song is sung by Waters who mocks global and British foreign policy and how "We showed Argentina, now let's go and show these. Makes us feel tough and wouldn't Maggie be pleased." Then he's heard wailing "Oh Britannia, Britannia" but mocking the British Empire with his tone.

The album's title track is a leftover from The Wall sessions, and while it's a great song, the theme of isolation and suicide doesn't quite fit the war and economic elements of the album. It fits much better into The Wall, although the sound and Waters' impressive effort on vocals, fits right into The Final Cut.

Final Cut is not a Waters Solo Album

Many decry the album as a Roger Waters solo effort, which just isn't the case. Sure Waters and Gilmour were fighting and had essentially split, but Gilmour still plays some phenomenal guitar on the record and drummer Nick Mason is steady as always. Only keyboardist Richard Wright was missing after getting booted from the band during sessions for The Wall. Yes, Waters wrote all the songs on Cut, but that was nothing new for Pink Floyd since the Animals record as he took over more and more writing duties because Gilmour and Wright didn't bring much to the table. Since Wish You Were Here, Gilmour only wrote "Dogs", and co-wrote on three Wall tracks ("Young Lust", "Comfortably Numb" and "Run Like Hell"). So The Final Cut is no more of a Waters solo album than any of those previous Pink Floyd releases.

If you have written off The Final Cut - Pink Floyd's last great album - as not being worth listening to, check it out again. It's actually a very strong Floyd record and sounds amazing the morning after a night of very heavy drinking.

Read how Pink Floyd chose the songs for The Wall and how a Canadian had a huge impact on that record

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