The Final Cut

Pink Floyd

Columbia Records, 1983

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


On the heels of the phenomenon that is The Wall, Pink Floyd released their most controversial, and for many fans the most inaccessible album of their careers. One thing that has to be considered about the band at this juncture is that at this point the two de-facto leaders, Roger Waters and David Gilmour, had fallen apart for both artistic and business reasons. Following this album Waters would leave the band for good.

Essentially, The Final Cut is a Roger Waters album. Gilmour plays, as does original member Nick Mason, though minimally and augmented by a number of outside musicians. Rick Wright, also an original member, does not appear on the album and had been fired from the band, or left, depending on whom you talk to.

Big chunks of the album use minimal arrangement, in some cases just a solo piano. In other places the sound is extremely thick and drenched with atmosphere and mood. Waters' flair for coloring his compositions with voices and odd sound clips is used extensively. The rich sonic textures you'd come to expect from The Floyd are here, but in a much different fashion than previous albums. The majority of the album consists of either minimalist arrangements or lush orchestrations provided by the full London Philharmonic conducted by the legendary Michael Kaman. In fact, the orchestrated parts make up a huge part of the album, and it works. The dense layers of orchestral sound create a dark ambience that is unlike any other Floyd record, but fits in perfectly with Water's often heavy-handed compositions.

If people were expecting more of what they got on The Wall, or any other previous Floyd album, they were in for a surprise. The Final Cut is a somber affair; completely devoid of any bright moments and with no groove whatsoever to be found -- without question, the most radio-unfriendly album of their career. No big stretch for Floyd really, almost every thing they did was dark, if not downright depressing, and they certainly never cared about singles. The thematic elements need to be dark anyway, for the subject of the album is abut as dark as it gets. A concept album about the futility and aftermath of war. This is not new territory for Waters, as he has covered it many times before, from "Corporal Clegg" off my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 A Saucerful Of Secrets to a good chunk of The Wall, it's been an obsession of Waters' his entire life.

In this case, he gives in and creates and entire album about it, spanning the length of his own life in the telling. He has a much more mature voice by this time, at times making The Wall seem a bit juvenile. And as far as concepts go, this is by far his most structured and cohesive work, outshining even Dark Side Of The Moon in that respect. Partly personal reflection, and part the voices of others, Waters' narrators jump from child to old veteran, to post-war teen, to war widow, blurring the lines between whose particular recollections we're experiencing at the time. Waters' story covers WWII, the event with the greatest impact and effect on the last three generations, through the Cold War and Viet Nam, to the comparatively paltry affairs in Grenada which were just a blip on the radar of the collective consciousness of most of the world.

Though as different sounding as can you can imagine, coming from the same source, The Final Cut certainly dovetails with The Wall, at least in the personal recollection of Waters' youth and the death of his father at Anzio in WWII. It also incorporates elements of The Wall that were left out of the album for one reason or another, mainly the excellent song "When The Tigers Broke Free," which was sadly cut from The Wall but appears in the film version, and was included in the re-mastered reissue of The Final Cut. The only real rocker in this set, "Not Now John," is a clone of the extended "Empty Spaces" also recorded for The Wall film but left off the original album. Another link to The Wall is the song "Southampton Dock": "They disembarked in '45 / And no-one spoke and no-one smiled / There were too many spaces in the line"; which reflects "Bring The Boys Back Home" from The Wall where young Pink searches in vain for his father among groups of returning soldiers.

Water's compositions waver up and down the emotional scale, from quite reflection to intense anger, sometimes with startling abruptness. The melancholy quality of "The Gunner's Dream" is so plaintive (and so futilely hopeful); it's hard to believe this is the same voice of "The Fletcher Memorial Home" who suggests that the answer to world peace is to have all the world's leaders gassed.

Part of the appeal of The Final Cut is the contrast between this album and any other by Floyd. Secondly, the rich lyrical content leaves a lot of territory to be explored. Subsequent listens to this album reveal more and more layers of complexity and depth. Personally I find it a fascinating and richly detailed look into Waters' dark psyche, albeit a bit emotionally exhausting.

After all the ups and downs, the album closes with the quiet"Two Suns In The Sunset," which pulls together what really is the crux of the album, the culmination of all the wars of the past and our current volatile global situation, the thing Waters fears more than his own losses or damaged psyche, the impending threat of nuclear holocaust:

"The wire that holds the cork That keeps the anger in Gives way And suddenly it's day again. The sun is in the east Even though the day is done Two suns in the sunset"

[Authors note: This review covers the 2004 reissue of the album which this writer feels is far superior to the original release, partly because of the inclusion of the excellent track "When The Tigers Broke Free" which tells the back story of the death of Waters' father. It was included in the film version of The Wall but appears here for the first time on a studio album. -BR]

Rating: B+

User Rating: C+



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