This isn’t The Floyd’s most popular album but it is my personal favorite. The psychedelic pop sound of their early “Sid” Barrett-era releases is nowhere to be found. The ethereal progressive space rock led directly to Dark Side of the Moon is also absent. Instead there is Roger Waters and more Roger Waters, full of bile, paranoia and musical domination. And you know, I’m completely okay with that. While somewhat based on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the record shows Waters’ anger at British Conservative politics and a society he felt was increasingly brutal (Dogs), manipulative and greedy (Pigs) and stupid (Sheep). Each of these animals comprise a 10 minute+ track on the album. There is a ton of guitar here and some is the best David Gilmour ever played. The outro solo on Pigs (Three Different Ones) is unlike anything he had done up to that point and while it may have been eclipsed later by the outro to Comfortably Numb, I still prefer the former.
Gilmour’s Dogs is almost eighteen minutes long and is also a guitar extravaganza. The acoustic guitar riff that the song is built on along with the acoustic Waters plays on the first and last song on the album give the disc a more organic and “now” feel compared with all of the effects (clock sounds, cash registers,) that are on other albums. Even today something like Dark Side of the Moon still sounds “futuristic, while Animals sounds “current”. The song Sheep also rocks like Floyd had never done with it’s insistent, chugging rhythm, slashing guitars, and rocked out vocals. Gilmour plays bass on this song as well as guitar (which he also does on Dogs) and the riff he does at the fade out is so cool even though it’s really just a simple upper register chord progression. Since Rogers plays rhythm guitar on this it might be him, but it sounds like a Gilmour part. He has built a career on making very simple, spacious, parts sound really bold, effective and memorable.
The three main pieces are bracketed by Waters’ Pigs on the Wing which two versions of the same hopeful, plaintive plea for love, sanity, help maybe? All of Waters’ lyrics on this record are very tight and hit like a roundhouse punch and combined with killer music and guitar work how can Animals be anything but a great album?