Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ticking Away: The Doomsday Clock

You got to be crazy, gotta have a real need
Gotta sleep on your toes, and when you're on the street
You got to be able to pick out the easy meat with your eyes closed
And then moving in silently, down wind and out of sight
You gotta strike when the moment is right without thinking.

And after a while, you can work on points for style
Like the club tie, and the firm handshake
A certain look in the eye, and an easy smile
You have 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.

Dogs: if this music doesn't raise the hairs on your neck, best see if your head's still attached. It's one of the more moving, shattering songs that PF created over the course of their decade of creative maturity. Waters' metaphor is savagely poignant: the corporate hound, in a career of backstabbing, life-sucking, money-hungry depredation, finds that his blood has congealed--calcified with the weight of his accumulated crimes--and it drags him down to inner death, drowns him in the pool of his own poison.

Guitarist David Gilmour, one of the purest musicians of our era, is also at his heart-stopping, inspiring best on this track, in which he combines acoustic and electric sequences in music that raises Waters' verse to a level of sublimity that is rarely touched in modern music.

There are amazing discoveries to be made throughout this album: Gilmour performs further wonders in his solos on Pigs and Sheep, and even the tiny snippets that open and close the album (Pigs on the Wing) are moving in their irony--parodies of the top-40 love songs that were (and are) the radio rage while PF continued their practice of creating long, carefully constructed pieces of music that could be explored rather than merely enjoyed.

Animals, on the whole, is perhaps the last great collaboration of these outstanding artists (and I include Wright and Mason there, whose contributions throughout the PF era have been generally underestimated). True, there is some great music on The Wall, but by that time Waters and his runaway ego had taken over the band, and it was no more the seamless unit that changed the history of music with Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Animals.

Personally, I wish they'd included Dick Parry on the recording sessions (he did accompany the band on the Animals tour). Parry is the saxophonist whose sound had become so central to the PF aura in Dark Side and Wish You Were Here. Yet even without him, Animals is one of the high points in the entire history of modern recorded music.

Click the graphic above and listen to the first few minutes of Dogs, and then remember, there's more after that. When most musicians are wrapping up a song, the Floyd are just getting warm.

Yet in the context of the themes of our blog here, the reason we honor Pink Floyd is for their message as well as their artistry. Isn't it cool to hear a band sing of things other than a wounded heart and a hardened cock? Isn't it refreshing to hear musicians with a sense for politics and social awareness? Well, back when the Dixie Chicks were twinkles in their Daddies' eyes, the Floyd were out there, singing a relentless lyric of truth to power.

As the planet heats up, we move a few steps closer to nuclear winter. In a week where the UN informed us that over 34,000 innocents were murdered in Iraq last year; when a vile new term entered public discourse ("troop surge"); when further evidence was piled onto what we already know about the rush to planetary genocide known as global warming; then perhaps it is time we had more artists like Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright to inspire us, entertain us, and rigorously remind us of who we are and where we are headed. The scientists have done their best in their own way, and today they were joined by Stephen Hawking:

"Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no nuclear weapons have been used in war, though the world has come uncomfortably close to disaster on more than one occasion," Prof Hawking said. "But for good luck, we would all be dead.

"As we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age and a period of unprecedented climate change, scientists have a special responsibility once again to inform the public and advise leaders about the perils that humanity faces.

"We foresee great perils if governments and society do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and prevent further climate change."

No comments: