For most average rock fans, and even for died in the wool Pink Floyd fans, the holy trinity of Floyd albums generally is accepted as 1973’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, 1975’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘The Wall’ from 1979. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of argument too for ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ and ‘Meddle’, but more often than not, it will be those three.
Living deep in the shadow of those seventies monoliths is the 1977 album, ‘Animals’. Animals was the first Floyd album I ever set my eyes on. As a youngster growing up in the 70’s, my best mates’ much older sister had a wonderful record collection which I would always flick through when she wasn’t around. And the Animals album cover just stood out.
That iconic cover of the Battersea Power Station being illuminated by the London sunrise (sunset?), whilst menacing clouds blend with black smoke belching from the stacks, and with a floating pig hovering above, was always a thing of beauty to my eyes. (So was my best mates much older sister, but that’s for another time!)
Pink Floyd Animals review.
Animals is so different from the other albums that surrounded it. Containing only 4 songs, comprising of three epics all tracking well over 10 minutes in length and book-ended by a much shorter acoustic number broken into two parts. And the songs, are as ominous as the skies on the front cover.
The album is very roughly based on the George Orwell novel, ‘Animal Farm’ and focuses on the social and political status within a capitalist society. The song titles are the animals of the novel; the hungry, get-to-the-top-at-all-costs-no-matter-who-you-burn, Dogs; the ruling class Pigs and the mindless masses who are the Sheep. The lyrics are cutting and brutal and take no prisoners throughout. In itself, a brilliant but scathing commentary on society of the time. The lyrics of Dogs read almost like a check list on how to ruthlessly get to the top…
“You have to be trusted by the people that you lie to, so when they turn their backs on you, you’ll get the chance to put the knife in.”
…and the inevitable, lonely demise.
“And when you lose control, you’ll reap the harvest you have sown.”
Whilst Dogs runs for over 17 minutes, it is an absolute tour de force, powered by David Gilmour’s incredible lead guitar, perhaps the finest of his career. It also has an ominous synthesizer interlude where you can hear the dogs barking in the distant nightime air.
Pigs (Three Different Ones) is a scalding lyrical attack on certain high society types full of disdain and bile, but powered by an almost funky bass and guitar groove which belies the content within. Again Gilmour shines. Sheep’s tinkling piano intro from Rick Wright morphs into another powerhouse Gilmour performance. Roger Water’s brilliant foreboding lyrics cling to the back of the driving rhythm, giving hope to the sheep and a warning to the dogs of the imminent vengeance.
“Wave upon wave of demented avengers march cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream”
This album also reflected the changing of Pink Floyd as a collaborative band, to that of a Roger Waters driven vehicle. Whilst keyboardist Rick Wright adds some nice touches on Dogs and Sheep, his overall input is minimal and on following albums he would simply become a hired employee rather than a band member. But whilst Waters is the absolute architect of this album and those subsequent, David Gilmour is the hero here with some of the most breath taking guitar work you are ever likely to hear!
Animals is a beautifully produced album…as are all of the Floyd oeuvre. There is plenty of space for the album to stretch out on all sides. And for that reason it is also a wonderful driving album. Go for a long drive with the sunnies on, music playing loud with just the road ahead for company, and you will see what I mean. Pink Floyd Animals… give it a go.
If you have skipped over this album before or simply dismissed it, silly you. Now is your chance to give it another spin. It is definitely worthy of your reappraisal or discovery.
The official Pink Floyd website.