Coming off the success of their previous two albums, Pink Floyd decided to make a record that was different than the rest. They focused on having songs stripped down of all the heavy synths and noises, relying squarely on their musical ability. Inspired by Orwell's Animal Farm
, Waters wrote lyrics to songs classifying humans into three groups. You have the dogs, the predators of society. The pigs, rich socialites. And the sheep, the mindless followers that are used and abused by both the dogs and the pigs. What came out of this was, is the eyes of many, Floyd's greatest work. I'd have to disagree, but it's second best and still fantastic. It consists of five tracks, with the middle three all being over ten minutes long and an intro and outro song under two minutes. While certainly not the most accessible of Floyd's works, it's still near the top of their discography.
The first track is a short acoustic number. Entitled Pigs on the Wing (Part 1)
, it's just a strummed guitar and Roger Waters singing some wonderful lyrics. "If you didn't care what happened to me/And I didn't care for you/We would zig-zag away from the boredom and pain/Occasionally glancing up through the rain" he sings. Then he speeds the strumming up a bit as he sings "Wondering which of the buggers to blame/And watching for pigs on the wing." A final strum ends a good little song.
Up next is the beastly Dogs
. It's the first of the large middle three tracks and at just over seventeen minutes, it's the longest one. It begins with some light guitar strumming with some keyboard in the background. The guitar fades in and then Gilmour graces us with some vocals. The lyrics here are remarkably well done. "You've got to be crazy/Gotta have a real need/Gotta sleep on your toes/And when you're on the streets, you've got to be able to pick up easy meat with your eyes closed" is one fantastic bit of lines. Drums come in now with more wonderful lyrics with "And after a while, you can work on points for style/Like the club-tie and the firm handshake/A certain look in the eyes and an easy smile." More lyrical genius comes next with "You've got to be trusted by the people that you lie to/So that when they turn their backs on you, you'll get the chance to put the knife in." This triggers some solo work from Gilmour. Afterward some creepy laughing in the background, it goes back into the vocals. "And in the end you'll pack up/Fly down south, and hide your head in the sand/Just another sad old man, all alone, and dying of cancer" brings a break with some keyboard work. This gives way to some effects-laden guitar. It's high-pitched and sounds almost like a solo, but it's not. Rick plays some synth keys in the background as the guitar gets a bit faster. A break occurs, as there's lone guitar and bass with the sounds of howling dogs in the background. The strings go away leaving the sounds of howling.
After some quick snare notes, bass and keyboard return and Gilmour solos away. This goes on for a while and it's quite enjoyable. After the soloing, keyboard and bass are left to stand alone. Until Gilmour's voice comes back, that is. He chimes in with "And when you lose control, you'll reap the harvest you have sown/And as the fear grows, the bad blood slows and turns to stone." There's a pause with silence, until everyone comes back. The guitar has a chicky quality to it, and sounds great. "And it's too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around" is sang followed by the music getting more frantic and "So have a good drown, as you go down all alone/Dragged down by the stone." This triggers a keyboard heavy mid-section of the song. It's got some synth noises in it and eventually the sounds of barking dogs. After about two minutes, it goes back to the strumming that opened the song with synth still going in the background. "Got to admit that I'm a little bit confused/Sometimes it seems to me, as if I'm just being used" sings Gilmour as he joins the mix. Drums come in now and is followed by more vocals. Some hectic drumming and guitar soloing is next. Things mellow out as it returns back the high-pitched guitar from the beginning. The guitar whines and squeals and drums ease along and keyboards hum. A change of pace as things slow a bit and the final bit of vocals comes forth. "Who was dragged down by the stone" and some final jamming is followed by a repeat of the same line. A little drum fill and some final few notes end this fantastic song.
Pigs (Three Different Ones)
is next. This is my favorite track of the album. It starts with some strange synth that sounds like a pig. Then keyboard comes in and there's some notes plucked. Guitar comes in in a distorted fashion, and after a crash, keyboard makes it's presence known even more so. A tom fill and then into the vocals with "Pig man, ha ha! Charade you are." After a little versing, the song changes and gets a bit darker. Nick whacks on a cowbell because he's got a fever. The vocals are slightly distorted, here, and it works well. A little piano slide and then more cowbell! The guitar and keyboard adds accents every now and then until it's time for more verse. It returns to the ways of the first verse with it's occasional repeating of "Ha ha! Charade you are." Then it returns to the cowbell. Gotta have more cowbell! The vocals go back to their low tone as keyboard accents away. Another fiddle of the keys and it's back to jamming mode, with the cowbell leading the way. There's a break and the pig noises come back, accompanied by bass and keyboard.
A drum roll and then the drums join the fray, but this time lacking cowbell. Guitar makes an entrance and is greatly distorted in a strange way to make it sound sort of like a pig squealing. They jam away for a while with the guitar squealing and the keyboard backing and bass thumping along. Then they suddenly stop, leaving only a lone keyboard as Rick does his magic. Some bass joins in and is soon followed by guitar. Some tom hits and then it goes into another verse. "You house proud town mouse/Ha ha! Charade you are/You're trying to keep our feelings off the street" leads into the cowbell moments. More vocals with "You're nearly a real treat.." Now it goes back those jam moments filled with wonderful, wonderful cowbell. A screeching solo from Gilmour appears here, and sounds great as usual. During the solo, the music starts to fade out and continues to do so until it's gone and the track ends.
This leads into the last main song, Sheep
. It starts with the sounds of, you guessed it, sheep. Rick joins in with some gentle keyboard and plays a while. Bass creeps it's way into the mix and with some quick tom notes, Nick joins with his skins. This leads into the verse with "Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away." The music speeds up here with a repeating bass bit. "Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air" leads into a bit of keyboard work and then some guitar with "You better watch out/There may be dogs about." Gilmour strums a bit and then Roger's voice comes back with "What'll you get for pretending the danger's not real?" Some more playing and then more vocals while Roger twiddles his bass. "Things are really what they seem/Noooo, this is no bad dream" leads into a break where everything stops but some soft bass plucking. Keyboards are added to the top and then drums come out of nowhere. High-pitched keyboards come in next, and they jam for a bit, until the guitar returns and they go back to the main riff for a minute. Then, things die again, left with the sole bassline and some interluding keyboard pieces. The sounds of sheep come in, and is followed by a highly distorted, electronic sounding voice. Drums come back again and then they launch into another verse with "Bleating and babbling we fell on his neck with a scream." The music changes a bit and Waters sings "Have you heard the news?/The dogs are dead/You'd better stay home and do as you're told/Get out of the road if you wanna grow old." That's followed by guitar that sounds remarkably like the bit in Run like Hell
from their next album. They jam for a bit with that as the music slowly fades out and is replaced by the sounds of chirping birds and bleating sheep.
The last track is the second of the short, acoustic set. Pigs on the Wing (Part 2)
is nearly identical in music to the first one, with only the lyrics being different. The guitar is strummed with Waters softly singing "You know that I care what happens to you/And I know that you care for me, too." Then the strumming is altered a bit as he sings "So I don't feel alone or the weight of the stone/Now that I've found somewhere safe to bury my bone." The strumming gets louder now with "Any fool knows a dog needs a home." It gets softer now with "A shelter from pigs on the wing." A few final plucks and that's the end of the song and album.
Overall, this is a great album. The music is great, the lyrics are brilliant, and it's all held together nicely. The only real problem with it is that Sheep
isn't quite up to par with it's two older brothers. That and the long length of the middle three tracks, though that's easily forgivable. If you're looking to get into Pink Floyd, don't do it here. It's one of the least accessible albums they've made. If you're interested in this after hearing earlier works, you'll be in for a bit of a shock, as it's quite different in sound from the rest. But that doesn't stop it from being a wonderful piece of work. By all means, give it a listen.
(+)Good music throughout
(+)Lyrics are nothing short of genius
(+)Vocals are well done
(-)The extra long song lengths may turn casual listeners away
(-)A few minutes of Dogs
could've been trimmed off
(-)It's not for everyone
(?)Since when did pigs fly?
1. Pigs on the Wing (Part 1) -1:24 (Waters)
2. Dogs -17:08 (Gilmour; Waters)
3. Pigs (Three Different Ones) -11:28 (Waters)
4. Sheep -10:20 (Gilmour; Waters; Wright)
5. Pigs on the Wing (Part 2) -1:25 (Waters)