The illustrious life of Roger Waters is one filled with accomplishments beyond any mere mortal. As a part of Pink Floyd, he helped craft some of the most seminal albums the world has ever seen. Is This The Life We Really Want? is the first album of new material that Rogers has released in almost 25 years, and sees the wise musician questioning the current state of the world in which we live.
Spoken word numbers aren’t the liveliest of ways to open a record and When We Were Young; sadly, fails to ignite any depth of feeling as one would hope to expect from a passionate speech. The state of the nation is called into question on Deja Vu, with Rogers bemoaning bankers and drones amongst other modern plagues on society. The swelling strings are impeccable and as a standalone track, there is a lot that could be learnt from how Waters sees the world. The harking back to older and less intense times is an ideology that many would perhaps relish were they given the chance. But for all of the positive nostalgia, there is no acknowledgement that the past was not great for all involved, and occasionally Deja Vu edges into ‘old man yells at cloud’ territory.
With a title as powerful as The Last Refugee, Waters solemnly tugs at the heartstrings with imagery of people fleeing wars in boats. There is a poignancy in the pain conveyed throughout Waters’ words, which is something anybody with sympathy in their heart will be able to relate to. It is commendable to address such damning subject matter in a musical format and in such an upfront way. In 2017 the world still is not all a bed of roses, and Roger Waters is using his position as an iconic musician to point out the inequality between societies the world over.
Long winded musical intros have the potential to encapsulate or isolate listeners within the first few bars, but on Is This The Life We Really Want? both seem to occur at once. Waters speak/singing style isn’t the easiest to engage with and here, leaves listeners floating in space somewhat. The statements remain powerful, an exceptional highlight being Waters comments towards he who shall not be named on the other side of the Atlantic as well as passing remarks about racial profiling in the American justice system. These are incredibly well thought out cutting remarks that will have many nodding in agreement. But, with a platform as big as Roger Waters has, why oh why does he – a cisgender straight male – use the slur ‘faggot’? It is a term that has and continues to cause grief and sadness to LGBT+ people across the world and it has no place here.
The altogether jazzier and lively Smell The Roses gives a taste of the passion that is fuelling Waters on this record, but continues to beg the question – why is there no passionate fire in his soul? To be honest after decades of watching the world deteriorate; Waters passiveness is somewhat understandable, but the continued macabre delivery is one that eats away after too long. If inequality is legitimately something that Roger Waters cannot tolerate, then where is the drive to effect real change? It’s easy to sit back and whine, but improvement can only happen if there is proper fired up support.
Oceans Apart is one of the most soothing songs in recent years. The soft brushes of the waves lapping over Waters voice, calm and relax like only the ocean is able to. Putting the loss of someone or something close to a person into words is a difficult task for all, but Waters does so with such spectacular ease. It eases effortlessly into the closing track; Part Of Me Died, where closed borders are what is causing Waters to lose faith in the world. Acid attacks and the buying of power are just a few targets of Waters gentle lyrical venom, it’s hard-hitting stuff delivered in a softly spoken package of hope.
The return of such a legendary musician is one that will be welcomed the world over, the influence of Pink Floyd is still very much a pivotal point of cultural significance. On Is This The Life We Really Want? Waters lays bare the conflicts raging both inside and outside of our own personal bubbles. He invites you to look at the world as a whole, and truth be told if we all looked at the bigger picture then maybe the world could be a better place in a shorter time.