Review Summary: A highly personal journey which berates the futility of war. 'The Final Cut' is often overlooked and occasionally maligned but Waters penned some of his most emotive and thought provoking lyrics on this final chapter in his career with Pink Floyd.
It doesn't take much research to come to the conclusion that 'The Final Cut' is not exactly the most well-loved Pink Floyd release. In fact some people don't even consider this to be a proper Floyd album and jestingly proclaim it to be the first Roger Waters solo effort. Richard Wright had already left, Gilmour only sings on one of the tracks and Waters is credited for the writing and composition of every song so maybe there is an element of truth in the criticisms. This album was originally intended as part of the soundtrack for 'The Wall' and could therefore be viewed in some respects as a series of offcuts from their previous work. But that would be rather unfair. Waters rearranged the material to become a general critique of the futility of war, and also what he considered to be the betrayal of his father, and the project took on a life of its own.
In spite of the general sense of apathy towards this album among Pink Floyd fans I will come straight out and say that I dearly love it. It obviously doesn't bear comparison to the undoubted classics from their golden era during the 70's but there is a subtle intensity and deep melancholic substance to this album that makes 'The Wall' seem puerile by comparison. Yes, there is no 'Comfortably Numb', Gilmour is often reduced to a bit-part player and the music itself is largely withdrawn and retrospective in nature but the lyrics demonstrate such heartfelt sincerity that I am drawn into this every single time I play it. There is little of the biting social commentary that characterised 'Animals', this is a far more personal affair. 'They flutter behind you your possible pasts, some bright-eyed and crazy, some frightened and lost' laments Waters on 'Your Possible Pasts' on which he explores the 'what might have beens' set against a backdrop of wartime England. There is also a contribution from Gilmour on lead guitar on this song with an awesomely emotional and tasteful solo. 'Paranoid Eyes', a contemplative examination of the effects of wartime service on veterans, contains some of the most gut-wrenchingly emotional lyrical work ever penned by Waters. 'You put on your brave face and slip over the road for a jar, fixing your grin as you casually lean on the bar, laughing too loud at the rest of the world, with the boys in the crowd, you hide hide hide,behind petrified eyes' sings Waters as our protagonist bravely faces the post-war world that he feels so detached from and attempts falteringly to fit back into society without daring to 'let the shield slip'.
Waters pays a homage to the family members and potential widows that are left behind in wartime on the emotive 'Southampton Dock' as 'in quiet desperation, knuckles white upon the slippery reins, she bravely waves the boys goodbye again'. Some of the old biting satire comes into play on 'The Fletcher Memorial Home' where Waters postulates an old age sanctuary for the likes of Thatcher, Reagan and Brezhnev where 'they can polish their medals and sharpen their smiles, and amuse themselves playing games for a while, boom boom, bang bang, lie down you're dead'. Another fantastic solo from Gilmour here. It has never ceased to amaze me how the man could produce more emotion in two notes than most guitarists could conjure up in a lifetime. Musically the standout song could well be the title track with its gorgeously plaintive piano sections and a Gilmour solo that approaches near perfection. However, this is an album needs to be played through from start to finish to be fully appreciated.
Forget the nonsense about this not being a real Pink Floyd album. Forget the fact that Gilmour is underused. Don't compare this with the undisputed classics such as 'Animals' and 'Dark Side of the Moon'. Take it for what it is, a highly personal lyrical journey examining the futility of war set against beautifully subtle arrangements and some wonderfully emotive contributions from Dave Gilmour on lead guitar. You can feel the tension on here. A dark and forbidding masterpiece dripping with melancholic angst.