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To read a shockingly bad, poorly-written review of this classic, see the lowest rated reviews listed here; there are quite a few. I say this because low intellect seems to go hand-in-hand with disdain for something so well-made.
"Animals" is book-ended with "Pigs on the Wing," parts 1 and 2, a simple, one-voice song, Roger Waters singing, and strumming only an acoustic guitar as accompaniment. It seems to ease the listener into the body of "Animals," and gives a soft landing at the end.
"Dogs" is is a magnum opus that clocks in at over seventeen minutes, and if you think it's literally a song about dogs, you are quite mistaken. The life of a dog figures in, of course, but it's a person, fighting to get ahead, learning "to strike when the moment is right, without thinking."
The middle section, where the tempo slows down, takes the listener to the last moments of someone's life, the fear and despondency of dying alone, abandoned, "Dragged down by the stone." This could be a person, or the old dog that someone callously gets rid of, because he, or she, isn't useful anymore. The surrealistic passage that follows, is the end of life, swirling to the bottom, waiting for death to ease the sense of aloneness, abandonment, and dejection, the sounds of whistles and muted barks being all that's left of this soon-to- end life.
The music then returns to the opening theme, Waters singing this time, instead of Gilmour, a different life, someone else rushing to get ahead now, a different stray dog roaming the streets, fighting the paranoia of knowing persecution, the sense that you "believe at heart everyone's a killer."
The final verse chronicles the cycle of life, from being "born in a house full of pain," going to school for indoctrination, being "broken by trained personnel," finding your own way in life, "breaking away from the pack," and dying, being "dragged down by the stone."
In all, pretty heavy, and we're only halfway through it.
"Pigs(three different ones) opens the second half, and I remember reading that Roger Waters played rhythym guitar on this song, with David Gilmour overdubbing the bass, as well as his lead guitar duties; if you listen, that is not Water's bass style. On stage, Snowy White played guitar and bass to suppliment the band on the '77 "Animals" tour. I also think that's Waters playing acoustic on "Dogs," as well.
Each verse of "Pigs" is dedicated to a different person,the first, the often gluttonous sloth who who keeps looking, and pretending to be important. The fat-cat businessman, the snuffling polititian.
Pig number two, is self-explanatory, bus stop rat bag, the degenerate you'd do best to just stay away from.
I love the instrumental to this song, the repetition of the same two parts, getting more intense each time, vocoder imitating pig grunts, turning into hair-raising squeals, then long sustained notes, the ugliness of a pig sty, and the granduer of vintage Pink Floyd-style progressive rock.
The third pig is obviously Mary Whitehouse, Waters turning his disdain and legendary sarcasm at her, with her "tight lips and cold feet," telling her she's "nearly a treat, but really a cry."
"Sheep" is the third part of this behemoth, a quiet, mellow, jazzy beginning, sheep noises in the background, and suddenly, the hardest rock the Floyd has ever done. I've often criticized the singing style of Roger Waters, but he is in top form here, railing full throttle at society's persistent followers, "dimly aware of a certain unease in the air," that the aforementioned dogs are coming for them. Possibly the most gruesome depictions of life's unpleasant moments are told of here; "Meek and obedient, you follow the leader down well-trodden corridors, into the valley of steel," plainly, the slaughterhouse. I think of Agent Starling's account of the lamb she tried to save when she was young, and how she felt in her failure to do so, from Thomas Harris' "The Silence of the Lambs." The screams as they are being slaughtered, and her helplessness to do anything about it, echo Waters' warning to people not to blindly follow, it will cost you, and dearly, you poor, harmless, helpless sheep.
The adaptation of the 23rd Psalm, is worth the price of the whole disc, "...he maketh me to hang on hooks, in high places, he converteth me to lamb cutlets..."
By the time it fades into the sounds of sheep in the meadow, you have about forty-five minutes of really heavy, not so pleasant music about life, and the not-so-pleasant people you meet in life, unflinchingly told through the metaphors of animals, all of which are, ironically, usually pleasant animals. Gotta say, though, I've heard pigs squeal, and it's a sound you don't soon forget.
And, of course, "Pigs on the Wing, part 2" closes this, a gentle farewell that closes the book. So, ignore the bad reviews; this is a masterpiece.
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