THE PINK FLOYD discography is a very hallowed one, and as a result Animals sits at an awkward point. With the seminal Dark Side of the Moon being released in 1973, and Wish You Were Here following this in 1975, Animals already had a lot to live up to. Not only that, but following the events of touring the album, Pink Floyd would go on to release The Wall in 1979. Animals is sandwiched between the three best Floyd albums of all time.
But despite being overshadowed somewhat by these giants, Animals still holds its own 39 years after its release (in before the 40 year anniversary next year). Sure, it might not be the greatest Pink Floyd album (which is obviously Dark Side of the Moon), but the themes of Animals can be applied to life throughout the 80s, 90s, 00s and I’d argue the present day. The universal lyrics about false leaders and the critique of Capitalism can apply to an situation since the time of its release. The ideas of the sheep following the pigs into the Middle East, the South Atlantic, or North Africa.
And to soundtrack Roger Water’s scathing lyrics come five tracks of Pink Floyd’s classic sound. That may sound slightly offhand, but there are plenty of Pink Floyd-isms to be found on Animals. The squealing guitar, the jazz influenced keys and the prominent bass guitar are all obviously included, but like every Floyd album, there’s a musical sound that helps make it unique. You had a the atmospheric soundscapes of Dark Side of the Moon, the operatic The Wall, and the more psychedelic sounds of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Animals, on the other hands takes an angrier, rougher tone.
With the first and final tracks taking on a slower, acoustic approach, the remaining three tracks are fully loaded with scorn and anger. The second track, ‘Dogs’, is the longest on the record. It begins in a notably reserved way, with Nick Mason giving a smooth, downbeat drum pattern. David Gilmour’s wailing guitar is left to cry out through large portions of the track, especially the softer parts. As Waters’ wails fade into the background, a great loop is picked up, as the word ‘stone’ is distorted and electrified. Floyd’s anger and political snarl is muted on this track, but nevertheless, still evident.
‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’ shows Waters giving a funky bass performance while David Gilmour produces some guitar solos that land somewhere between Heavy Metal and Glam Rock. Gilmour also produces these distorted wails that mimic a pig’s cry, it’s both amazingly inventive and at the same time pretty haunting. To compliment this, Waters’ lyrics of “ha ha, charade you are” are spat from the mouth of the singer in a defiant and rebellious fashion.
The final of the epic trilogy, ‘Sheep’, opens with a pulsating bass line and some beautiful keys from Richard Wright. The apocalyptic sound of the Floyd then reinvigorates the track, with the vocal hook really capturing the mood: “You’d better watch out, there may be dogs about!” The song then breaks down again, with some melancholic keys and guitar, and Waters’ looped vocal sample fading in and out. The song then dies down again, leaving the pulsating bass lingering over a backdrop of thick synthesizers and a psalm spoken through a vocoder.
Pink Floyd’s more frustrated attitude may have come from troubles in the studio and Roger Waters’ politically driven lyrics, but I believe it also comes as a backlash to Punk music. Progressive rock was lambasted by the likes of the Sex Pistols, so Pink Floyd changed their sound, not to gain favour with the Punks, but to say ‘fuck you’ in their own clean cut, epic way. Animals might be occasionally overlooked in comparison to its predecessors and follow-up, but in its own way it sums up the feeling of disillusionment, anger and frustration coming from the Pink Floyd camp.
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