New Roger Waters Songs Sound Familiar But Surprisingly Good

I’ll admit I tend to lecture sanctimoniously about the need for artists to keep changing and growing in order to stay vital and relevant. I just strongly believe that great artists shouldn’t dine out on their old creations forever. But Roger Waters has released some new material that sounds a lot like Seventies-era Pink Floyd and I’ve got to say I don’t have a problem with it at all.

First of all, it is Waters’ first album of new Rock-oriented music in 25 years. In the intervening years he has regurgitated a lot of old Floyd in god knows how many live albums, your typical classic Rock sellout behavior. On the other hand he took a huge creative risk releasing an opera album in 2005, and he deserves full marks for putting his neck on the line like that.

He has also seen his former bandmates David Gilmour and Nick Mason release albums under the Pink Floyd name, as recently as 2014’s mostly instrumental album The Endless River. This surely galled Waters as much as the other two were galled seeing him perform solo at last year Desert Trip Festival among Rock Giants Dylan, Neil Young, McCartney, the Who and the Stones.

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It’s almost as if with this new album – Is This The Life We Really Want?, due to drop on June 6 – Waters is staking his claim to the sound of Pink Floyd in the year 2017. And not only has it been a long time since we heard new music that sounded so much like old Floyd, but in the two new tracks we’ve heard so far, I was really quite surprised by how good it sounded too. Sounding good will trump philosophical misgivings about artistic integrity every time.

You’ve got to watch his performance of “Déjà Vu” on Colbert Monday night to get the full effect. Nobody could make an acoustic ballad play as big as Floyd could, and here you’ve got two electric guitars, bass, drums, two keyboards, a 10-piece string section, two backing singers and exploding sound effects accompanying Waters on his acoustic guitar. They sprawled across the entire Colbert stage.

The song deals with familiar Floyd anti-war, pro-human themes, but Waters – lyric writing has always been his long suit – knocks out a head-turning verse right off the top: “If I had been God / I would have rearranged the veins in the face / To make them more resistant to alcohol / And less prone to aging”. The music may not cover any new ground, but he never would have written these lyrics 25 years ago. I guess we can call that artistic growth. Let’s see if there’s any more of it when the rest of the album comes out.

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