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Is This The Life We Really Want?
Roger Waters

Is This The Life We Really Want?
Released 2 June 2017
Producer Nigel Godrich
Label Columbia
Length 54:06
Genre Rock
Website roger-waters.com
80

Extrapolated from his 2008 poem of the same name, Is This the Life We Really Want? is Roger Waters’ first rock album since 1992’s Amused to Death and concerns itself with the same themes of greed, racism and war as its source material. Having lost his father in World War II, the futility of war has never been far from Waters’ writing, with such sentiments featuring heavily in Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Final Cut as well as his subsequent solo material. New material has been long rumoured; an album with the working title of Heartland being mooted as far back as 2008, but the inauguration of Trump has proved the catalyst for Waters to finally finish and release his fourth solo album.

The album is dense with references to the Waters-led Pink Floyd era. Waters dips into his back catalogue to include some instantly recognisable themes; whether it’s the stabbing synths and ominous bass of 'Picture That' harking back to Animals and Wish You Were Here, the barking dog interlude of 'Smell the Roses' mimicking the 'Dogs' instrumental or how the simple strummed guitar and seagulls of 'Oceans Apart' call to mind the opening of 'Southampton Dock' from The Final Cut, the album exudes a familiarity that would make it instantly accessible to Floyd fans.

Waters pulls no punches with his lyrics; his views on God ("I believe I could have done a better job"), Trump ("Picture a leader with no fucking brains"), climate change ("Every time that Greenland falls in the fucking sea"), state engineered racism ("Fear keeps us all in line / Fear of all those foreigners / Fear of all their crimes") or even living through social media ("Follow me filming myself at the show / On a phone from a seat in the very front row"), get venomous airing throughout. Colours are nailed to the mast and his ability to put the scope of a war on terrorism on a personal level (that of the innocent bystander in their kitchen about to be obliterated by a less than accurate drone strike) is chilling.

The album does finish on a brighter note with a run of three connected songs that focus on love; 'Wait for Her' puts the words of a Mahmoud Darwish poem to music, the insinuation being that if someone who himself was a war refugee can forgive and move on to create beautiful poetry then love really can be the antidote to hate. 'Oceans Apart' and 'Part of Me Died' show how love can melt away the inherent negativity that we allow to build up in ourselves by only being open to fear and anger as is pedalled by the media and certain world leaders. Though not the strongest songs on the album musically, the message at least alleviates some of the tension from earlier and seeing a softening to Waters’ vitriol is effective in remembering there is another way.

Its extreme political messages may split the listeners and turn off new fans, but message aside it’s a strong album that like all of Waters’ work continues to grow on you with each listen.

- Brian Kinsella