[released Jan. '77]
Pigs on the Wing (part 1)
Pigs (3 Different Ones)
Pigs on the Wing (part 2)

    This is probably the most "Rock n Roll"ish album in the Floyd discography, perhaps as a response to the Punk trend dominating England at the time.  (That included the Sex Pistols, who had trashed the Floyd as too "establishment".  As If!) (The Punks, being into Speed, were certainly different from the LSD/Pot-inspired Pinks.)   It is  probably their most underrated work.  Coming on the heels of the tremendous success of the DARK SIDE OF THE MOON and WISH YOU WERE HERE albums, it seems inevitable that the band would disappoint a great many of their fans.  In fact, I owe the band an apology in regard to this work, for foolishly listening to a friend of mine who was obviously not prepared to change along with the members of the band.  Having been told how lousy this album was, I avoided it for a number of years, a choice I now greatly regret.  Today, ANIMALS is one of my favorites.
    There is much more edge to this album, both musically and philosophically than the two preceding works.  Dave Gilmour finally gets to show off his technical skill, and comes up with some licks that are as good as anything you'd expect from Jimmy Page or Jeff Beck (though different). Rick Wright's dreamscapes take on a little more structure, and his synthesizer gets put to some interesting uses.  Nick Mason gets to kick some nice rhythms, so there's a touch of irony here.  According to what I've read, neither Dave nor Nick was particularly thrilled with this album, which I find strange, since they are the two who get the most chance to shine artistically.
    Though this album is much different musically than anything else in the Pink Floyd collection, it must be most closely linked to THE WALL in its construction.  Roger has taken on a pseudo-Orwellian approach here, comparing people to animals.  In this oversimplified arrangement, Roger sees people as either Pigs (pontificating fakers, moralizing tyrants), Dogs (cutthroat pragmatists, users of others), or Sheep (passive followers), and writes songs to reflect his view of each type.  Generally, he dislikes all three types, causing one to wonder what he thinks of himself, but he is hardest on Dogs, and shows nothing but contempt for Pigs.  In the end, he lets the Sheep off the hook, giving them the chance to be triumphant in the story.

    Pigs on the Wing leads off the set with a plaintive, acousticballad that reminds us (in only 1.5 minutes) to care for each other, and watch out for flying Pigs.  Rather mundane.  It was this song that gave rise to the huge, inflatable pig that the Floyd used on this album cover and in concerts for the rest of their careers.  (Dave says it represents "Hope", but...)  It creates the left half of an unusual set of musical "bookends", since another segment of it follows the 3 main pieces. {CPFS} (A typical Floyd loop)  Much of the music for this album was previously written, and reworked when the Floyd needed to get something on the market.  Rumor has it that there is a bootleg copy of this song on the Internet that connects the two pieces, and has additional guitar soloing in the middle, done by Snowy White.  This would not be unusual, since the Floyd nearly always tried out music in live concerts and on the road, just to see how it would play.  There is even a preliminary live version where Roger screams at some idiots in the crowd who aren't "getting into" the feeling of the song.
    Dogs is a very typical Floyd piece in some ways, and yet quite unique.  Like many Floyd works, it has an almost Classical element in its construction.  Though many rock bands use a formal structure in setting up their songs, Pink Floyd takes this structure (as they do with everything) to another level.  Dogs is basically a 5-part song (ABCAB-Coda) that gives you a complete look at the Floyd concept.  It begins as a folk-rock up-tempo piece that cruises on longer than most songs you hear on the radio, then segues into a slower blues-rock melody that could stand on its own as a separate piece.  The lines "You've got to be crazy.." begin the lyrics, and were the title of a previous incarnation of this piece.  There is a version of this song by that title, one recording of which came from a 1975 concert, which has substantially different lyrics from Dogs.  The third section is one of the Floyd's patented dreamscapes {CPFS}, in which Wright makes some eerily realistic dog sounds with his synthesizer (do NOT play this part in earshot of your pet dog, unless you are willing to reenact a scene from Cujo!).  In another interesting experiment, you will also hear effects from Sheep being mixed into the background, providing a harbinger of the later part of the album.  Here you hear that Rick has given in to a much greater structural component than he usually does, and Mason provides some amazingly simple rhythmic changes that keep the pace moving (listen closely to the rhythm of the cymbal taps).  Even the return to the A & B parts of the song seems different, because they are subtly altered {CPFS}, leaving you with the feeling that you just got 5 songs for the price of one.  In all of them, Dogs get ripped for being materialistic, ruthless, and shortsighted.  Then, the Coda sums the whole piece up, using another Floydismic technique - the repetitive sequence {CPFS}.  Virtually no other rock band can repeat the same musical passage once without making it sound worthless, but the Floyd can continue a line again and again, giving you just the right amount of nuance to keep you listening.  In the end, you almost feel sorry for the Dogs, because they have been so effectively demeaned, but that's only because you haven't heard Pigs yet.
    Pigs (Three Different Ones) changes the musical context completely, but the mood stays the same.  This is a rock-jazz-funk fusion that tears to pieces those who set themselves up as the measure of society and its values.  The piece has a much more traditional rock structure, though there is a rather unusual break in the middle.  If you have heard Peter Frampton's Show Me The Way or Do You Feel Like We Do?, you know that the Voicebox can make a guitar produce incredible sounds, but Pete never imagined what Dave Gilmour would do here (and thank goodness!).  In keeping with one of the musical themes of this album, animal noises are obligatory, and Dave provides some truly nauseating sound effects on this tune.  You can't help listening to the incredible technique (much like you can't help watching a train wreck), but you may need something to settle your innards when it's over.  You'll also find the most stomach-churning ambient sounds ever used by the Floyd, and end up wondering just how they got real pigs to be so disgusting.  On the other hand, the ambient sound added for "shafts of broken glass" is probably the very worst effect ever used in a Floyd recording.  In an interesting note here, the Mary Whitehouse referred to (3rd Pig), was a social reformer who tried to shut down anything to do with Rock 'n Roll, drawing the ire of more than just our Roger.  One of my favorite Deep Purple tunes is entitled Mary Long, where the band trashes a pretentious woman who "tells us what to do".  Ironically, DP altered the name (maybe because Long is easier to rhyme and rhythm than Whitehouse - thus more evidence of Floyd's superiority).  Again, the distaste Roger has for these people is so evident that you have to wonder how he could perform these songs in public very much.  (Actually, I don't think they did.)
    Sheep brings us the most straightforward rocker on this album, but it also has its unusual characteristics.  In another life, this song was entitled, "Raving and Drooling".  Somewhere in the construction of it, Roger got into a 23rd Psalm mode, and the theme is carried throughout.  When he parodies the Psalm near the end, it fits perfectly well, and is worth both a "Hmmm" and a "Ha!", if you can figure out what he's saying.  (See the lyrics pages.)  Dave gets in some really good licks, and Nick adds some interesting rhythms.  Again, the album makes a loop of sorts, because you can hear Dogs effects in the background.  Rick makes incredible use of his synthesizer again, getting into the disconcerting habit of catching Roger in mid-lyric, then finishing the phrase in such a way that you lose track of who's singing and who's playing.  It's an awesome effect.  Roger also tosses in the most enthusiastically warped laugh in Floyd history, an effect that hearkens back to Careful with that Axe, Eugene.  Irony abounds here too, because the bass line throughout Sheep was learned doing One of These Days..., which also fits that same genre.  The closing instrumental passages of the last two minutes are, I think, the most triumphant-sounding licks in rock music history.  Very appropriate.
    The album closes with a reprise of Pigs on the Wing, which completes the loop effectively, but now seems a bit out of place, considering how nasty Roger has been in the interim.  Perhaps he is trying to make us feel, as kindred spirits, that we are exempt from his wrath, because he knows that we care about him.  The acoustic, folky piece does help sort of wind down the intensity, and the "let's all care for each other" lyrics help ease the distaste we feel for these animals, and maybe, for ourselves.

    All in all, ANIMALS is a very satisfying rock album, which served several purposes.  It gave the Floyd a musical product at a time when they were not fully prepared to move on, and gave them an income to allow them to continue living well while letting their music "mature" into its next phase.  It certainly gave Floyd fans something to debate about, while they waited to see what would happen next.
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