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Friday, January 27, 2017

Animals

It was forty years ago that Pink Floyd released Animals, a concept album that has strange relevance to today. For people of a certain age (like me), the sound is instantly recognizable from classic rock radio, and the album cover, a floating pig over Battersea Station, is iconic.

The album, undoubtedly inspired by George Orwell's Animal Farm, has only five tracks, and two are under two minutes long (that's "Pigs on the Wing," parts 1 and 2). That means the album is dominated by three tracks of over ten minutes, named after "Dogs," "Pigs (Three Different Ones),", and "Sheep." But while Orwell was condemning Stalinism, Pink Floyd was criticizing Western capitalism.

In David Gilmour's "Dogs," the canines are representative of the ruthless and rapacious of society, presumably businessmen who rape the environment or toss aside innocents in their lust for money and power:

"You gotta be able to pick out the easy meat with your eyes closed.
And then moving in silently, down wind and out of sight,
You gotta strike when the moment is right without thinking."

And then, out of the old fascist playbook that is now being used:

"And when you loose control, you'll reap the harvest you have sown.
And as the fear grows, the bad blood slows and turns to stone.
And it's too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around.
So have a good drown, as you go down, all alone,
Dragged down by the stone."

"Dogs" is over seventeen minutes long, and much of it is the virtuosic guitar work of Gilmour, but the opening is a spooky keyboard riff by Richard Wright.

Next up is "Pigs (Three Different Ones)," by Roger Waters. While only one of the "pigs" is mentioned by name, Waters has openly used the song to indicate any corpulent, trash-rooting capitalist. At a concert in Mexico City, he flashed unflattering pictures of Donald Trump throughout the song. The lyric fits:

"Big man, pig man, ha ha charade you are.
You well heeled big wheel, ha ha charade you are.
And when your hand is on your heart,
You're nearly a good laugh,
 Almost a joker,
With your head down in the pig bin,
Saying "Keep on digging."
Pig stain on your fat chin.
What do you hope to find.
When you're down in the pig mine.
You're nearly a laugh,
You're nearly a laugh
But you're really a cry."

Again, the song is full of instrumental  breaks, likely an indication of the group's fan's fondness for cannabis, and it also has, other than "Don't Fear the Reaper," the best use of a cowbell.

Finally comes "Sheep," the animal metaphor for people who blindly follow the crowd, and a perfect representation of the Trump voter:

"What do you get for pretending the danger's not real.
Meek and obedient you follow the leader
Down well trodden corridors into the valley of steel.
What a surprise! A look of terminal shock in your eyes.
Now things are really what they seem.
No, this is no bad dream."

As Trump has signed one executive order after another that shows he is as malevolent as we all imagined, this forty-year-old album by one of rock's great progressive groups is still accurate. I think that's less a tribute to Waters and Gilmour and the rest, though it is warranted, then to the old saw, that everything comes around again.

1 comment:

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