Arguably one of the most highly regarded bands throughout the history of rock music is Pink Floyd, and there’s really no solid argument refuting the declaration. Not many bands have released perfect albums and Animals would be their third in a row followed by a fourth.
Released in 1977, Animals came right in the midst of Pink Floyd’s apex in the music world just four years after Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and two years before The Wall (1979), both of which are two of the most critically acclaimed and best selling albums of all-time regardless of genre. And let’s not forget Wish You Were Here (1975) – a pretty impressive run.
Always known for their unique approach to making music, Animals certainly fits that same thread. A concept album quite unlike any other, the five track, 42 minute album delivers in every aspect that an album can offer: musically grasping, thought provoking lyrics, and a message powerful enough that only a select few bands have ever been able to replicate or mimic. Adding all these qualities to the fact that it’s a concept album makes Animals just that more praiseworthy.
Some considerable time could be spent discussing the intricacies what the concept of the album portrays, but to keep it fairly succinct, Animals is a critical commentary on the nature of capitalism in the same nature that George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a literary critique of communistic society. For those familiar with Orwell’s masterpiece, the dogs/sheep/pigs similarities come as no surprise. However, Animals departs from the former in that its critique focuses on the destructive nature of class within capitalistic society a la Marxian theory. To really understand and appreciate Animals for what it really is, it’s crucial to look at each of the five tracks individually before piecing them together into the story it creates.
The first of these tracks “Pigs on the Wing (Part One)” is a short track that sets the stage for the forthcoming tracks. Originally a full three minute song, the band decided to split it into two segments: one to begin the album and one to end. What’s unique about “Pigs on the Wing (Part One)” is its gentler, less gloomy delivery than the following three tracks before picking back up into the second part of “Pigs on the Wing,” which brings back the more lighthearted sound.
“Dogs,” the album’s second and longest track, comes in at 17 minutes and embraces the more melancholy approach that listeners hear in the follow two tracks as well. This “chapter” of the album is purported to focus on the dark side of capitalist businessmen. The galloping music gives way to a more somber style featuring synthesizers about halfway through the track before reverting back to the rhythmically guitar driven sound featured at the beginning of the track.
“Pigs (3 Different Ones)” is an 11 minute song that differs from the other album tracks in its more bluesy, bass driven approach. Still featuring a dreary sound to fit the theme of the album, the lyrics fit very closely with Orwell’s Animal Farm in that the pigs are the “leaders” of the society that are, unsurprisingly, disliked.
“Sheep” is the album’s final marathon-like song at 10 minutes and is a much more edgy rock sound. More powerful vocals and a more prominent lead guitar lead to a brief interlude of synthesized, downtrodden music before picking back up again into the “victorious” sound that the track embodies. The victorious sound is to represent the victory of the lower class becoming triumphant in their overtaking of the bourgeois. The album then concludes with “Pigs on the Wing (Part Two),” reverting back to the lighthearted, hopeful sound featured in the albums introduction.
The story in Animals is a good story within itself. However, it’s the music behind the lyrics that make it truly unique in that they replicate the feeling of the moment such as the “Sheep” becoming victorious in the final segment. The energy filling the music meshes incredibly well with the lyrics, creating what can easily be considered one of the greatest concept albums of all time.
Although Animals didn’t receive the same level of praise the two previous releases Dark Side of the Moon or Wish You Were Here did, it still went on to receive high levels of critical acclaim. The album peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 charts and went on to be certified 4x platinum.
What is more noteworthy is the David Gilmour quote expressing that he felt the band had nothing more to prove after Animals, which lead into the Roger Water’s written The Wall, and ultimately the bands break-up shortly thereafter.
Probably the most incredible thing about Pink Floyd during the 1970s and 1980s is that Animals might have been their least well-received album out of the four aforementioned albums listed above in terms of sales, but to many Pink Floyd fans it is their favorite album.
The Wall, which followed Animals in 1979 has gone on to sell 33 million albums worldwide making it one of the most commercially successful albums in history. However, the departure of Roger Waters in 1985 and the newly led Pink Floyd under the stewardship of David Gilmore wasn’t ever able to capture the same magic as the mid-60s through mid-80s Pink Floyd. And although the band’s ability to collaborate deteriorated in their final few years, what music fans are left with are some of the best albums one can ever listen to.
Reviewer: Carl Whitaker
IRC: Bill Pulice
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