With all due respect to the Beatles, if he didn’t invent the concept album he certainly perfected it. First with Pink Floyd and later as a solo artist, Roger Waters has never been shy about expressing his emotions – if not kicking his audience in the teeth with them. His latest rock LP released on Friday, “Is This the Life We Really Want?” – his first in nearly a quarter century – is no exception; a non-sugar coated look at the world today and its all too common and disturbing dysfunction.
1973’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” a tale of passing time, greed and mental illness told with jazzy instrumental flourishes and background vocals, is still considered by many as one of the greatest albums of all-time and, certainly, it is among the top selling. Want barnyard animals to unsubtly communicate your disdain for the political elite? Look no further than 1977’s “Pigs.” Yet, for perhaps the biggest emotional ‘bang for the buck’ there’s 1979’s “The Wall,” a tale of disenchantment and isolation. Buying and playing this album for the first time in high school, I could not believe what I was hearing. Like an individual coming across a bad accident, I was disturbed but could not look away.
This ability to force us to consider and then consume a sometimes-bitter pill is what Roger Waters is a master at. It is what we have come to expect – even embrace – from his work. I just downloaded his latest and, through listening previously to samples and reading about some of the lyrics and themes, I am incredible excited to take a full listen and, it appears, from early reviews, with good reason. Stark, beautiful, poetic and humorous, “Is This The Life” is also bleak, angry and unapologetic with topics ranging from drone warfare to terrorism to refugees. And, consider this line: “Picture a s-house with no f-ing drains. Picture a leader with no f-ing brains.”
When he arrives at the Palace of Auburn Hills later this year, Roger Waters is sure to give quite a show. Always theatric, I’ve read of on-stage visuals at recent shows that have Vladimir Putin holding a baby Donald Trump in his arms. Indeed, where Roger Waters is concerned, the phrase: We don’t need no education simply does not work. Because, as Waters once again proves, we do need his commentary – be it no holds-barred or delivered with subtlety. We just need it more often.