Emerging from a 25 year music release absence, Rogers Waters has finally returned with an astounding conceptual masterpiece entitled Is This the Life We Really Want?
Roger Waters has done with this new album what the majority of other political reactionary music releases (Neil Young’s Peace Trail, or Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy, for instance) have fallen short of: capturing the sinister tone of it all as well as diving into harsh truths within cold and naked lyricism. This record is exactly what the world needs to hear, it rips the greedy flesh right off of its bones, exposing the world and its leaders as inflated anti-humanitarians; leaving us disgraced at the cruelty we allowed to happen for the sake of currency and power.
Is This the Life We Really Want? is filled with rich instrumentation varying from stringed arrangements, multiple guitars, keyboards, piano, tight percussion and bass, as well as sound collages put together by producer Nigel Godrich, Is This the Life We Really Want? leaves nothing behind.
No other musician has the exact fortitude and spirit to capture the true evils of today and embody them in a remarkably enjoyable creative expression quite like Roger Waters, and I am ecstatic he has done it again.
In a lot of ways Is This the Life We Really Want? is similar to The Wall, the Waters-fronted era Pink Floyd concept album about isolation and a metaphorical wall built within protagonist Pink’s mind.
With Waters’ new album it sounds like Pink is back, this time in the current world state, older and still cynical, but this time ’round he totes a sad acceptance that even if he were to build a wall from humanity’s darkness, it would do nothing to change things.
Sonically Is This the Life We Really Want? also echoes The Wall by an extremely similar vocal loop in “Bird In a Gale” is heard in “Hey You” found within the ’79 release, as well as a lyric throwback connecting both albums: “bleeding hearts,” symbolizing nothing has truly changed in all the years distancing the records, only a growing acceptance of violence and immoral behavior enacted by world governments and the religiously or politically zealot.
The highlights of this album are, well, the entire piece. But alas, sure there are some tracks that stand on their own however, such as “The Last Refugee” in which Waters shared during an interview with Dan Rather the idea for the song: that there being a last true refugee is fascinating yet daunting to him, and was something he needed to express on Is This the Life We Really Want? .
“Picture That” begins with eerie guitar strings and bass before Waters sings in a pissed off tone, elevating the already biting lyrics, “Picture a leader with no f*#king brains.”
My personal favorite is “Broken Bones,” an instrumentally building track highlighting a key theme of the entire record: Mistress Liberty. It is within this fifth track the listener hears what Waters is writing about throughout Is This the Life We Really Want? yet finally names. The song even begins with a sampling of night sounds indicating a reactionary withdrawal from society that Waters’ soon emphasizes: “We cannot turn back the clock, cannot go back in time, but we can say: F*^k you, we will not listen to your bullshit and lies.”
The self-titled track which follows opens with a sample taken from a Donald Trump interview with CNN, Trump being heard saying: “I won, I won” in his typical cocky tone before the album listener can hear a TV being shut off in frustration and the song that develops is just as sinister sounding as America’s leader. Further driving home Waters’ disgust are the lyrics: “Every time a nincompoop becomes the president.”
The second half of Is This the Life We Really Want? holds the melodic and horn graced “The Most Beautiful Girl.” “Smell the Roses” is the grooviest song on the album and Waters delivers his vocals in bluesy vigor. For a song about waking up to the reality we have allowed our leaders to create and manipulate, it is pretty danceable.
“Wait For Her” holds perhaps the most poetic lyrics, and is the first of the last three album tracks that flow together as one all about Mistress Liberty. The rich bass in this track bleeds out near the end, much like the bleeding hearts of society being washed out by the rich and powerful, all in Mistress Liberty’s wake. For we once had the chance to be held within her arms, but we abandoned her.
The closing track, “Part of Me Died” shows what happens when we get too accustomed to the violence and the lies: “Dead to the world, just watching the game. Watching endless repeats, out of sight, out of mind. Silence, indifference: the ultimate crime.”
Roger Waters has come back with a purpose, not a late-career cash grab.
Is This the Life We Really Want? is the album we all need in our lives to reflect on, to let sink in our consumerist, blind minds. After all, is this the life we really want?