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Roger Waters: Is This the Life We Really Want?

 A l b u m   D e t a i l s

Label: Columbia Records
Released: 2017.06.02
Category: Rock, Art Rock, Progressive Rock
Producer(s): Nigel Godrich
Media type: CD
Web address: www.roger-waters.com
Appears with: Pink Floyd
Purchase date: 2017
Price in €: 1,00

 S o n g s ,   T r a c k s

[1] When We Were Young (R.Waters) - 1:38
[2] Déjà Vu (R.Waters) - 4:27
[3] The Last Refugee (R.Waters) - 4:12
[4] Picture That (R.Waters) - 6:47
[5] Broken Bones (R.Waters) - 4:57
[6] Is This the Life We Really Want? (R.Waters) - 5:55
[7] Bird in a Gale (R.Waters) - 5:31
[8] The Most Beautiful Girl (R.Waters) - 6:09
[9] Smell the Roses (R.Waters) - 5:15
[10] Wait for Her (R.Waters/M.Darwish) - 4:56
[11] Oceans Apart (R.Waters) - 1:07
[12] Part of Me Died (R.Waters) - 3:12

 A r t i s t s ,   P e r s o n n e l

Roger Waters - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar

Nigel Godrich - Keyboards, Guitar, Sound Collages, Arrangements, Engineer, Mixing, String Arrangements, Producer
Gus Seyffert - Guitar, Keyboards, Bass Guitar
Jonathan Wilson - Guitar, Keyboards
Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. - Keyboards
Lee Pardini - Keyboards
Joey Waronker - Drums
Jessica Wolfe - Vocals
Holly Laessig - Vocals
David Campbell - String Arrangements

Sam Petts-Davies - Engineer
Darrell Thorp - Engineer
Rachel Agnew - Voice Engineer
Jane Barbe - Voice Engineer
Emma Clarke - Voice Engineer
Celia Drummond - Voice Engineer
Ingrid Schram - Voice Engineer
Kathy Somers - Voice Engineer
Monique Evelyn - Assistant
Rouble Kapoor - Assistant
Wesley Seidman - Assistant
Gosha Usov - Assistant
Barry Grint - Mastering
Bob Ludwig - Mastering
Dan Ichimoto - Design
Danny Kamhaji - Design
Sean Evans - Creative Director, Design
Richard Rowley - Photography

 C o m m e n t s ,   N o t e s

Roger Waters may not have made an album of new material between 1992 and 2017, but he was very active during that quarter-century. He toured regularly, wrote an opera, reunited Pink Floyd for the 2005 charity concert Live 8, and revived The Wall several times, turning the self-absorbed rock opera into a political piece. Is This the Life We Really Want?, his fourth song cycle, picks up on this thread, functioning as barbed protest music for the age of Brexit and Trump. Waters doesn't disguise his bile -- there's a lament for "The Last Refugee" and he spits out "picture a leader with no f****** brains," a clear broadside against Trump -- but the album doesn't seethe with rage. With its deliberate tempos, wide soundscapes, operatic guitar solos, and swelling crescendos, it is recognizably a Waters album or, perhaps more accurately, a Floydian one. Where his other solo albums sported productions that tied them to their time -- quite garishly so in the case of 1987's Radio K.A.O.S. -- Is This the Life We Really Want? is warm and supple, thanks in no small part to a band featuring guitarists Jonathan Wilson and Gus Seyffert, drummer Joey Waronker, and keyboardist Roger Manning. The key player, though, is producer Nigel Godrich, who gives this a sonic richness evoking late-period Pink Floyd without specifically nodding toward any particular record. Certainly, Is This the Life We Really Want? lacks the straightforward narrative or melodic thrust of The Wall, but it isn't as somnolent as The Final Cut, and if the songs don't call attention to themselves, they nevertheless form a long suite that works as a sustained mood piece.

Thomas Erlewine - All Music Guide

In this unflinchingly bleak era of nationalism and despotic madmen profiting from institutionalized intolerance, listening to a Roger Waters record doesn’t sound like a clinically advisable move. Too catastrophically depressing. Fortunately, the mastermind behind some of the darkest sociopolitical records in rock history is alight with the fire of rebellion.

Yes, after a studio hiatus that lasted nearly a quarter of a century, the Pink Floyd co-founder has returned when we need him most. The last time we heard from Waters, he was warning the world about almost exactly what’s befallen us. 1992’s Amused to Death was a loose concept album, more of a tapestry really, focusing on the numbing indifference of media and politicians’ grotesque proliferation of war. In many ways, the record was a culmination of Waters’ absolute grimmest, most affecting work: Animals, The Wall, and The Final Cut wrapped up in the fullest expression of his trademark cinematic audio production. His new offering, Is This the Life We Really Want?, can easily be read as a direct follow-up. Remarkably, in this even more disturbing time, what sets these two sister albums apart is that Is This the Life We Really Want? offers a shred of hope and call to fight.

Is This The Life We Really Want? is easily the most accessible of Waters’ solo work – a distillation in many regards of the anti-fascist, anti-imperialist, anti-greed messages he’s been broadcasting since Pink Floyd. And, in fact, musically this is Waters’ most classically Floyd-sounding record. Lyrically, it’s about as subtle as “Money”, but in this dark hour, there’s no room left for subtlety. Though there are certainly some nooks and crannies to peer in for deeper context, Is This the Life We Really Want? is a clearly stated “fuck you” to Donald Trump and anyone who profits from human suffering.

The title track opens with a CNN clip of Trump asserting his election win with an insistence of “zero chaos.” It’s in the dead center of the 12-track record – a thesis junction from which all the album’s other trains of thought travel. “Fear drives the mills of modern man,” sings Waters over dreary grooves. String section hits and Vangelis-like synth accents layer the song as it builds into a sinister embodiment of life over the past year. “Is this the life we really want?” he asks and replies: “It surely must be so. ‘Cause this is a democracy, and what we all say goes.”

The sound of distant arguments, maybe rioting, plays dimly in the background, and Waters starts listing atrocities we can blame ourselves for by embracing an anesthetized, ant-like existence: “Every time a young girl’s life is casually spent, and every time a nincompoop becomes the president…” If what you always look for in a Roger Waters album is a profoundly sobering experience, this one won’t disappoint, but unlike past records, these songs won’t leave you wanting to bury yourself deeper in the sand. The question “Is this the life we really want?” invites the listener to say, “No fucking way!”

If there’s something familiar-sounding about these new songs, other than Waters’ grim list-making, that’s no coincidence. Throughout his career, Waters has woven recurring motifs and echoed lyrics into a kind of conceptual continuity – not of a story, but an ongoing dialogue. Is This the Life We Really Want? leans heavily on these moments, more than ever before. The Amused to Death monkey is back to switching channels as an occasional segue device between tracks; the record opens with ticking clocks and heartbeats… These callbacks risk being heavy-handed, but feel like an integral part of the album’s dialogue, cluing listeners in as to where contextual threads connect while building on what’s come before to examine where we are now.

Songs like “Picture That” give a sense of being a sequel of a sort — in that case, “Sheep” from Animals. In “Sheep”, Waters asked, “What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real?” and now we see the consequences: opulence. Ruin. Sobering snapshots like“prosthetics in Afghanistan” and simple but gutturally satisfying lines like: “Picture a shithouse with no fucking drains, picture a leader with no fucking brains.” Cue vocal echo, strobing baseline, and eerie synth corridors, and you’re off in a breakdown not a far cry from 1977.

“Broken Bones” hearkens to The Final Cut’s “Possible Pasts” following its post-World War II dialogue: “Oh, the slate was never wiped clean/ We could’ve picked over them broken bones/ We could’ve been free/ But we chose to adhere to abundance, we chose the American dream/ And oh, mysterious Liberty – how we abandoned thee.” The track delves into the torturing of innocents and other vile acts done in Liberty’s name. It’s also host to another one of Waters’ pointed rallying cries: “We cannot turn back the clock/ We cannot go back in time/ But can say, ‘Fuck you, we’ll not listen to your bullshit and lies.’”

Eloquent? No. But key for this time and place. Is This the Life We Really Want? will definitely stand as a document of the moment, even over the albums that spawned prior to the Falklands and the Gulf War. However, this less conceptual, simpler record might reach a wider audience and do some real good. In this album, Waters offers his work as fuel for revolutionaries. It’s still not presented as a series of singles, but the stripped-down, less narrative, less dream-like structure is less daunting while the messages are just as powerful.

Having said that, it’s not hard to imagine another time when the instrumentals would’ve been deeper and funkier. Nigel Godrich’s production has a cleanliness to it that plays with the right tools to engineer the Waters/Floyd sound — not to mention plenty of beautiful and distinct nuances of its own – but the record pales to the rich and lush sounds of its prior entries. This is not the sonic opulence Waters is known for, nor is it necessarily copacetic with the tone of the record throughout.

Is This the Life We Really Want? closes on an unexpected note – a three-song cycle that shifts away from the scathing critique of our lives to a love song of sorts. Culminating in the last track, “A Part of Me Died”, the narrator turns his back on a life of cold-hearted depravity: “silence, indifference, the ultimate crime — but when I met you that part of me died.” The sequence serves as an important component to the album’s theme: that experiencing real love and caring can change a human being for the better. That the capacity to give and receive love is as much a component of us as our predatory inclination to amass power. As Waters recently told Rolling Stone: “I’ve only ever written about one thing in my life, which is the fact that we as human beings have a responsibility to one another.” Well, there you are.

Cap Blackardon - June 01, 2017,
© 2007-2017 Consequence of Sound

You have to hand it to Roger Waters: never one to shirk from a challenge, and never one to mince his words, he’s picked the exact moment Pink Floyd enter the V&A for the Their Mortal Remains exhibition to put out his first studio solo album in almost 25 years. Although to be fair, he’s at least on speaking terms with his former band mates these days, and thankfully that means I can leave the rambling essay/ history lesson for another day. Not that I’d be able to say anything you don’t already know, as the lives and careers of Waters and the Floyd have been dissected about a million times over the past 40-odd years: if you do want a bit of background to both, I’d recommend Nick Mason’s memoir Inside Out more than anything.

Anyway, I’m sure Floyd fans and Waters die hards alike will be as happy as flying pigs in shit at the amount of activity in each respective camp, and to quote the man himself on Is This The Future We Really Want's brilliantly weird little intro ‘When We Were Young’: “who gives a fuck, it’s never really over”.

After his last concept album, 1992 Amused To Deathhttp://dis11.herokuapp.com/releases/18933/reviews/4149250, which commented on television’s encroaching influence in daily life, especially around the time of the first gulf war, it’s heartening to hear him still with a belly full of fire and a head buzzing full of ideas on ITTLWRW - the voice might falter and wobble a bit more these days, but that anger and appetite are still very much there. Touching on life in 2017, I can imagine Waters out of his mind witnessing what’s happening around the world these days: “picture a shithouse with no fucking dreams, picture a leader with no fucking brains_” his grizzled, off kilter American accent snarls on ‘Picture That’.

Produced by Nigel Godrich, the trademark Waters growl gets some absolutely lush instrumentation to wander around in: it’s not as obtuse or as grim as A Moon Shaped Pool, for instance, but many of the same ingredients are there: synths buzz and glide, string sections wax and wane, and guitars strum and scream. Perhaps a nod to The Wall, there’s also a lot of sonic collaging, cutting up Waters’ speech, telephone conversations, train announcements, and even a shipping forecast in there for good measure. It sets the mood perfectly, very subtly garnished around the album to give it that sense of impending doom, but never fully submitting to it.

It’d be interesting to see how much Godrich has built up on these songs, as a lot feel like sun-soaked acoustic Americana, but elevated into something a lot grander with the humongous string sections and subtle atmospherics. ’Broken Bones’ is a prime example - all country strums, and baritone growl lifted with soaring strings and dashes of slide guitar. The partnership works fantastically well, and those plucked electric guitars that Radiohead do so well bleed into the record, particularly on the brilliantly creepy ’The Life We Really Want’ - it’s almost as if Yorke, Greenwood and co. are the backing band by proxy, which is no bad thing.

The strings actually remind me of Sea Change by Beck - another record that Godrich had a hand in. His masterful arrangements and dynamics really made that album something special, and it’s no different here: there’s something in the way he gets a piano, a drum kit, and a string section to play together that sounds like absolute fucking honey, and by the time we get to ‘A Bird In A Gale’, he’s just showing off. The bastard.

It’s strange to hear lyrics so literal, and so un-cloaked in any kind of intellectual smoke-and-mirrors: it’s what you get with Waters - a raw, jagged-to-the-bone stream of ideas, spat with such ferocity that you forget he’s now in his seventies. Sometimes he strays into cliche, but as it’s delivered with such conviction, you can forgive him such transgressions.

It’s also a big album: a long, sprawling epic that stretches out for it’s slightly-padded running time, but one so full of ideas and intricacies that it’s an easy album to get sucked into - a sonic world you can get lost in, permeated with that familiar swirling synth sound that slides all over one of Waters’ best Floyd records - Animals. It also feels very intimate - Waters's voice feels like he’s right in front of you the entire time: he’s there, not flinching, and he’ll sit with you for about an hour and let you know where we’re all going wrong. And to that, you have to say fair enough.

Rating 8 out of 10.

Gavin Miller - May 30th, 2017
© 2000-2017 DROWNED IN SOUND

It’s been abundantly well documented that by the time Pink Floyd set out to record their sprawling 1979 double album The Wall, internal friction over bassist/frontman Roger Waters’ push for creative control had reached a breaking point. In a sense, The Wall crushed the classic lineup of Pink Floyd, but it’s been Waters who’s had the hardest time getting out from under its weight. For much of his solo career—1987’s Radio K.A.O.S. and 1992’s Amused to Death in particular—he has more or less repeated The Wall’s musical style and conceptual grandiosity, at times appearing both stuck and ungrounded without his former bandmates. Waters has even staged his own productions of The Wall and released two different live recordings of it.

On paper, his decision to work with famed producer Nigel Godrich for Is This the Life We Really Want? looks like a much-needed injection of new blood. After all, Godrich’s signature sound has been a cornerstone in the legacies of Radiohead and Beck. His touch is immediately apparent from the outset, as Is This the Life opens with a ticking clock, bass played in the pulse of a heartbeat, and muffled voices—like Radiohead’s OK Computer interlude “Fitter Happier” meets the iconic intro to Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon cut “Time.” Before you can make out what the voices are saying, their cadence and tones suggest a broadcast of some kind—a motif that runs through both Radio K.A.O.S. and Amused to Death.

As the voices come into focus, you realize you’re hearing multiple tracks of Waters himself. At first, the words come tumbling down in a heap of unrelated gibberish. “Where are you now?” asks one of the voices. Then, after a slight pause: “Don’t answer that.” Another: “I’m still ugly; you’re still fat.” Eventually, a train of thought begins to form: “Our parents made us who we are. Or was it God? Who gives a fuck; it’s never really over.” Now craggy and deep, Waters’ speaking voice could probably give the late Orson Welles a run for his money. Without question, he would excel at doing radio theatre. And though Waters’ singing voice was already sounding nicely age-worn in ’92, here he switches with great agility between his usual confidence and a newfound frailty that recalls Johnny Cash’s final output.

Is This the Life leaves little doubt that Waters has seasoned in the 25 years since Amused to Death. But aside from his 2005 opera Ça Ira, he’s still hung up on the same themes. Depending on your perspective, this will either strike you as reassuringly familiar or maddeningly one-track minded—maybe even both. To be fair, Waters was ahead of the curve in lamenting our attachment to media saturation on *Amused to Death—*modern life has basically become what that album anticipated. So it makes sense that Is This the Life answers back with a plea for sanity. And to his credit, much of it comes across as both sincere and necessary—albeit draped in Waters’ habit of being preachy and pedantic. (Two years ago, he described the new material as his way of sending humanity a mediocre report card.)

Yes, the radio-style announcements at the top of “The Last Refugee” would indicate that Waters hasn’t stretched much beyond his now-predictable arsenal of sound effects. The same goes for its languid drumbeat. The album even calls Godrich into question—tunes like “The Last Refugee” and “Is This the Life We Really Want?” are sometimes hard to tell apart from Sea Change-era Beck. Godrich and Waters didn’t push each other to break new ground as much as one might have hoped. But “The Last Refugee,” with its images of lovers lying “Under lemon tree skies” and “Dreams/Up to our knees/In warm ocean swells,” also shows that Waters has grown into an evocative poet—that is, when he isn’t spelling out his message on songs like “Picture That.” “Picture your kid with his hand on the trigger,” he sings, “Picture prosthetics in Afghanistan.” Then again, it’s hard to argue with a verse like “Picture a shithouse, with no fucking drains/Picture a leader, with no fucking brains.”

Waters’ predictability doesn’t diminish his effortless songwriting, and Is This the Life We Really Want? presents his tightest, most focused songs since the mid-’70s. “Wish You Were Here in Guantanamo Bay,” he sings on “Picture That.” The first letters of the phrase are capitalized in the lyric sheet, a sly nod to both the popular tourist postcard and, of course, to the Pink Floyd song and album of the same name. Even casual fans will spot Waters’ hint of the old melody right away. Is This the Life’s myriad sonic references to his work with Pink Floyd suggest that Waters is comfortable with his past. The more you accept how much his past reflects in his present, the more receptive you’ll be to this album’s charms.

Saby Reyes-Kulkarni - MAY 27 2017

"Picture a shithouse with no fucking drains/Picture a leader with no fucking brains," snarls Roger Waters near the start of his first proper rock LP in nearly 25 years, unsubtle as a hammer between the eyes. But the grim charm of this set, a 12-track dystopian concept LP that makes The Wall read like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, is precisely his emeritus off-the-leash ranting, a fitting response to the stench and stupidity of our present moment.

Is This The Life We Really Want? is not without humor. It opens with the old rock star imaging his first act as God: undoing the longterm effects of alcohol on his face (priorities, people!) Elsewhere, classic song allusions flicker sardonically ("Wish you were here in Guantanamo Bay!") But from the redacted-text package design forward, it's a relentlessly dark image-feed: drone warfare ("Déjà Vu"), forced parent-child separations ("The Last Refugee"), the gluttony of the American dream ("Broken Bones"), the psychosis of terrorism ("Smell The Roses") – pretty much the nightly news. The music is quintessential post-Dark Side Of The Moon Floyd, but channeled by offspring: Producer Nigel Godrich brings prog-rock grandeur, multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Wilson microdose psychedelia, Lucius alt-R&B backing vocals. A greater sense of these collaborators' styles would be welcome. Otherwise, it's precisely what a Trump-era Roger Waters LP should be.

Will Hermes - June 1, 2017
© Rolling Stone 2017

Roger Waters critiqued capitalism and the decay of society of his native England on Pink Floyd's Animals in 1977, a body of work whose his lyrics feel eerily relevant to today's world. For his first solo effort in 25 years, Waters moves his gaze beyond Britain to take stock of the world at large in asking listeners, Is This the Life We Really Want?
Over 12 tracks, Waters paints a sonic portrait of a future that could become reality should we let it: A world consumed by the politics of fear, where "the temple's in ruins" and "the bankers get fat," as he sings on "Déjà Vu." Of course, some of these visions need no forethought, as he belts about a "nincompoop" becoming president on the record's title track after asking listeners to "picture a leader with no fucking brains" on "Picture That."
Is This the Life… doesn't come from the "rock will get better under Trump" line of thinking, nor will it soundtrack a revolution. The songs that Waters lays bare using his aged, yet still capable voice prompt more self-reflection in hopes of avoiding "silence, indifference, the ultimate crime." Producer Nigel Godrich, no stranger to helping soundtrack world-weary malaise, keeps Waters in comfortable territory with pianos, string arrangements and acoustic guitars, along with a few unmistakably Floyd-ian arrangements.
Though Waters is recognized for being more outspoken then most when it comes to his political views, Is This the Life We Really Want? finds him not quite ready to sit quiet at 73 years of age — even as, yes, his high-grossing tours roll on and the Floyd back catalogue receives its umpteenth reissue.

Calum Slingerland - May 31, 2017

Is This the Life We Really Want? (stylised as is this the life we really want?) is the fifth studio album by English rock musician and former Pink Floyd bassist and vocalist Roger Waters, released on 2 June 2017 by Columbia Records. It is his first solo album in nearly 25 years since Amused to Death (1992), as well as his first studio album in 12 years since Ça Ira (2005). On 20 April, the single "Smell the Roses" was released.

The album was recorded at various times between 2010 and 2017. The song "Déjà Vu" was debuted live in 2014 under the title "Lay Down Jerusalem (If I Had Been God)". The song "Broken Bones" was debuted live in 2015 under the title "Safe and Sound".

The cover was banned in Italy (not the work itself) because it was considered plagiarism of the work of Emilio Isgrò whose signature work involves "erasing".

At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from critics, the album received an average score of 73, based on 15 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Rolling Stone said: "The music is quintessential post-Dark Side Of The Moon Floyd, but channeled by offspring: Producer Nigel Godrich brings prog-rock grandeur, multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Wilson microdose psychedelia, Lucius alt-R&B backing vocals." Drowned in Sound said the album is "a long, sprawling epic that stretches out for its slightly-padded running time, but one so full of ideas and intricacies that it's an easy album to get sucked into." Consequence of Sound said the album "is easily the most accessible of Waters' solo work—a distillation in many regards of the anti-fascist, anti-imperialist, anti-greed messages he's been broadcasting since Pink Floyd." Pitchfork said the album's "myriad sonic references to his work with Pink Floyd suggest that Waters is comfortable with his past. The more you accept how much his past reflects in his present, the more receptive you'll be to this album's charms."



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