PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Roger Waters: Is This the Life We Really Want?

It’s not quite a lost Pink Floyd album, but it gives a sense of what they might sound like now.

Roger Waters

Is This the Life We Really Want?

Label: Columbia
US Release Date: 2017-06-17
UK Release Date: 2017-06-17

The first track, “When We Were Young”, begins with a muffled loop of Roger Waters speaking. As the loop progresses, his voice rises in the mix as other spoken loops become audible. A sound, like a clock, ticks in the background, as if to remind us that time never stands still but is always moving forward (and backward since “Time” from 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon also begins with the sound of a clock). The track concludes with Rogers stating, “I’m still afraid / Our parents made us what we are / Or was it God?” Fear, the influence of overbearing parents, the power and presence of religion -- all of the familiar themes are here along with patches and remnants of psychedelia. Why not use them? They’ve worked for plenty of Pink Floyd and Waters albums. As the track concludes, “it’s never really over”.

“Déjà Vu” hits the ground running discussing God, religion, technology, and ecological disaster to a backdrop of subtle acoustic guitar, piano, and strings. Heavy stuff, but as this is his first album in 12 years and he is now in his 70s, a sense that time is of the essence circles around the album. However, while building out from past sounds and themes, this is an album very much of the present moment and immediate concerns, namely political. The title track, for example, begins with an excerpt of Trump. Does this guy ever lighten up? Not really. But we know this going into any work by Waters. It’s not quite a lost Pink Floyd album, but it gives a sense of what they might sound like now. For sure it’s better than The Endless River and it’s one of the best solo albums by a Pink Floyd member.

Waters even pushes for and finds the classic, high, angry voice of earlier years here and there on various tracks. Not quite as high, not quite as powerful, it still makes a statement. “The Last Refugee” with its piano, drums, fuzzy synth, and strong vocals makes us long a bit for guitar. “Bird in a Gale” give us some vocal echo effects, background mumbling zooming from side to side, and some of the classic Floyd feel.

The rest of the album follows the blueprint established by the first few tracks. The only exception is the album’s best track and one of Water’s finest solo tracks, “Smell the Roses” in which all of the vocal, musical, and lyrical elements come together. It’s a grooving, rocking plea to all of us to get it together before somebody else finishes making all the decisions for us. The record’s sound is cohesive, but not varied. The songs glide and fly, but not all of them soar.

One song epitomizes the album. “Picture That”, track four, picks up the pace, swinging and finally rocking. As it approaches the end, a slow, delayed guitar drops in some notes. It’s a good approximation in terms of style and sound of what Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour might have played on the song. But it’s still an approximation. Like so many tracks, the lead guitar or lack thereof hangs in the air like an unanswered, phantom invitation to Gilmour reminding us that while Waters wrote many of the songs, played bass, and sang in Pink Floyd, Gilmour provided the central guitar and also sang plenty of lead vocals. While in the past Waters has portrayed Pink Floyd as more or less his band, one must remember that the other band members made important contributions. For example, Gilmour created the demo for “Comfortably Numb”, one of Floyd’s most enduring songs and originally reserved for his first solo album. Waters helped develop the final version. Whichever one is Pink, the other is definitely Floyd.

While the solo work of Gilmour and Waters improves with each release and suggests that each is getting more comfortable working on his own and figuring out how to work without the other, their solo albums are also a painful and tantalizing reminder of just how good the music they made together once was.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.