CK Retro Review: The Final Cut by Pink FloydPosted: January 16, 2014
Rick Wright was gone, David Gilmour and Nick Mason were relegated to session-playing duties, and Roger Waters had a vice-grip on the helm. Perhaps 1983’s The Final Cut is a Pink Floyd album in name only, but, as completely written and conceived by Waters, it makes some strong, if blunt points, about the slippery slope to which even minor wars can lead, and is sporadically brilliant in its efforts to do so. Here is a song-by-song review.
12. “Not Now John”- The cynical view would be that Waters gave Gilmour the opportunity to sing the album’s most grating song as a kind of punishment. That’s probably a bit harsh, but there is no denying that this song is such a sore thumb from the rest of the music on the album and so pitch-black in its worldview that it’s hard to endure.
11. “One Of The Few”- One of the common criticisms of The Final Cut is that it’s an unrelenting downer. It’s certainly has a bleak outlook, but it shouldn’t be criticized for it; there’s no rule that all music should be happy and chirpy. That said, this ominous interstitial doesn’t express its cynicism that originally, making it a rather depressing minute or so of your life.
10. “The Hero’s Return”-This track has some interesting musical ideas and lyrics, but they are sort of rammed in together without much coherence or flow. As a result, this feels like a missed opportunity.
9. “Southampton Dock”- There’s nothing egregiously wrong with this lament commemorating the British dock from which soldiers headed off to war, but neither the lyrics nor the music express much that can’t be found elsewhere in this batch of songs.
8. “The Fletcher Memorial Home”- The music is slog, at least until Gilmour joins the fray with a solid solo and Mason makes his presence felt for one of the few times on the album with aggressive banging. You can’t ever accuse Waters of pulling punches or tiptoeing around a matter, as he articulates here his vision of a permanent getaway for “wasters of life and limb”, many of whom were among the most powerful men on the planet at the time, so they can’t do any more damage,
7. “Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert”- A throwback to the musical theme introduced by “The Post War Dream”, this track name-drops some world leaders and features a title that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on one of Floyd’s entrancing instrumentals from back in the day.
6. “Your Possible Pasts”- It’s clear listening to this track that it came from the batch of songs that Waters had written for The Wall; the themes and the musical shifts from lullaby-like quietude to jarring loudness were very characteristic of that project. The ideas are a bit jumbled here and it feels a bit by-the-numbers when Gilmour comes in for his guitar solo, but the song still demands your attention.
5. “Two Suns In The Sunset”- Anyone hoping for some kind of cathartic ending a la The Wall coming down is in for a rude awakening. Waters blows up the Earth to drive home what he sees as the ultimate result of all of the insanity and violence. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, not even leavened by the jazzy sax solo in the run-out.
4. “Paranoid Eyes”- This forgotten track is a cutting look at the inner fears and secret obsessions that dog even the seemingly serene among us. The music revisits a lot of the same tropes used on this album and The Wall, but the lyrics are finely observed and the generality of the character sketch ties in well with the specific concerns voiced elsewhere on the album.
3. “The Post-War Dream”- Musically, this is very much in the vein of “When The Tigers Broke Free”, another superlative song seen in The Wall movie which fell between the cracks of Floyd albums. The difference between the two is that “The Post War Dream” eventually explodes out of the elegiac harmonium part played by co-producer Michael Kamen to a brief but potent blast of electric energy that captures the build-up of rage and frustration in Waters’ lyrics. It’s nicely situated as the album’s table-setter and it’s quite strong on it’s own.
2. “The Final Cut”- I suppose you could downgrade this song for too closely rehashing some of the musical motifs from The Wall (it seriously resembles “Comfortable Numb.”) I choose to forgive the similarities because it’s such a beautiful and resonant song, featuring one of Gilmour’s best guitar moments on the album and some heartfelt lyrics. Waters muses on the destructive effect all the bitter memories and ongoing carnage is having on his ability to connect with another human being.
1. “The Gunner’s Dream”- Although he doesn’t conistently demonstrate it in the most artful manner, there is no denying the passion Waters has for the subject matter of The Final Cut. On this masterful track, that passion is matched by exquisite songwriting and a fully-realized recording. The music shifts from quiet to loud with grace and purpose, the highlight coming when Waters’ piercing scream seamlessly blends into Raphael Ravenscroft’s sax solo. The lyrics are a stirring combination of poignant details of a funeral and personal pleas to avoid repeating such senseless deaths. Through it all runs an undercurrent of desperate hope that “The Gunner’s Dream” someday will come to fruition.
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