Pink Floyd – Animals (1977)
Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo! This week we’re taking a look at one of Pink Floyd’s concept albums, Animals. The five-track album is a critical commentary on the socio-economic and political environment of late-1970s Britain. In particular, the album criticizes Margaret Thatcher’s government and the concept of capitalism through its use of allegory, comparing the different levels of the society to animals in a manner inspired by George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm. The album broadly splits society into three groups; the blind common people led by the pigs (the sheep), the businessmen (the dogs), and the greedy political leaders of the sheep (the pigs). Throughout the album, we hear descriptions of each group of society and what each group stands for. Starting with the dogs, our villains, they are the capitalistic businessmen that “[have} to be trusted by the people [they] lie to…” The pigs are the “big man, pig man.” The band describes them as charades, cheats, and liars multiple times throughout Pigs (Three Different Ones). The sheep are the most dynamic characters who, despite starting out as followers that are keen to “hopelessly pass [their] time in the grasslands away,” ultimately rise up against the capitalist dogs.
Animals is a complex album that could inspire essays on the dissolution of capitalistic societies in favor of socialist ones through the elimination of private business. Musically, this album is some of the band’s best work in my opinion. Pink Floyd began experimenting with new sounds and techniques that enhance the storytelling ability of the record and better frame their ideas. Amongst music lovers, this album is oft-forgotten and overshadowed when placed next to The Wall (Pink Floyd’s next studio album), Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Meddle. I believe this album should be included in those works, not overshadowed by them. Taken in context, Pink Floyd released fantastic concept albums and this is one of them. This review is also not enough to fully explain the intricacies of the record, but nevertheless, I hope you enjoy it and maybe find a meaning to it that I didn’t have time to discuss here.
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
Pigs on the Wing 1 and 2: I’m going to lump the first and last songs on this record into one for two reasons: Firstly, both songs are used to frame the rest of the album, and secondly, musically and lyrically these are one song split into two. Starkly different from the meat of the album, Pigs on the Wing 1 and 2 are the short prelude and epilogue to this story. They are simple songs with complex messages that attempt to convey Roger Waters’ love for his wife and stand against the bleak portrait painted by the middle three songs. Listening to both of these, the overt message that I get from them is that love can overcome anything and that anyone is capable of loving, even Waters, a self-described “dog” in the second part. The song also notes that love can bridge societal gaps and insulate people from stereotypical societal pressures. Having said that, I believe that there may be more than meets the eye to this song as Pink Floyd was never known for making it easy to decipher the meaning of their songs. If you start with the title Pigs on the Wing, it describes a flying pig, in reference to the saying “when pigs fly,” noting an impossibility or something so farcical as to believe it could never occur. Listening to the song, the message is almost spelled out and it’s a simple instrumental accompaniment, almost as if Waters wanted the listener to hear that message, like “sheep.” I believe that the point the band is actually trying to get across with this song is the opposite of the overt message, that even if you love someone, societal norms will often put a stop to it, and getting the chance to be with someone you love outside of your social class, well, you have a better chance of seeing a flying pig. Dad’s Rating 7/10
Dogs: Dogs is the first introduction we have to the main characters of the album, the predatory businessmen that will do anything to get ahead. There’s a lot to love about this song and it’s not as deep as Pigs on the Wing 1. Musically, this song will give you a little bit of everything to listen to. Some of the highlights for me are the first guitar solo at around two minutes in (I particularly like how Nick Mason used the drums to give a stronger presence to the solo), the funky downtempo portion of the song about halfway through, and the final build towards the end. The opening acoustic guitar carries throughout the song and is used as a transition between different musical themes to tie the whole piece together. Dad’s Rating 8/10
Pigs (Three Different Ones): This isn’t just my favorite song on the album, this is one of my favorite songs period. Starting with the characters, we’re introduced to the political elite in this song, the pigs. In particular, Waters and Gilmour wrote this song as a critique of pro-nationalist, pro-capitalist policies. Musically, Pigs displays some of Pink Floyd’s most experimental work, most notably the use of a squawk box on the guitar during the solo to mimic the sound of a pig snort and a voice modulator during the bridges. Not only did the band re-create pig sounds, they sampled actual pigs before coming in with the squawk box in what I think is an effort to show how close they were to art mimicking life. I can’t say enough good things about how masterfully this song is played, how well everything works together, how it swells or how different licks carry throughout the song giving it continuity. Every bit of this track deserves the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award,” listen to it for yourself! Dad’s Rating 10/10
Sheep: Sheep gets is often overlooked because of its proximity to Pigs on the album and it really shouldn’t be! This is another dynamic song that will hold your attention both lyrically and musically. Starting with the former, the song introduces the third main character, the sheep. The sheep here fill the same role here as they do in the source material, George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The sheep are supposed to embody the common folk who are fed lies by the pigs and preyed upon by the dogs. In this version of events, the sheep rise up to overpower the capitalist dogs, much unlike Orwell’s novel. Musically, the song opens with a great keyboard introduction overlaid over the sounds of birds to emphasize the peacefulness and naivety of the sheep. The guitar steadily builds to a climax throughout the song as the sheep begin to rise up and there are two major solos throughout the piece that allow David Gilmour artistic freedom. I rate this higher than Dogs because I think it’s more musically interesting to listen to and tells a better story than the former. Dad’s Rating 9/10
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