Pink Floyd: Animals
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The context: The punk revolution of the late '70s elicited different reactions from rock's old guard, ranging from empathy (Neil Young's Rust Never Sleeps) to confusion (The Who's Who Are You) to confused empathy (Bob Dylan's Street Legal). Perhaps the most fascinating retort came from Pink Floyd, famously skewered by Johnny Rotten with his custom-made "I hate Pink Floyd" T-shirt (which got Malcolm McLaren's attention when he was recruiting pissed-off lads for the Sex Pistols). With 1977's Animals, the follow-up to Floyd's space-rock epics Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here, reigning curmudgeon Roger Waters set out to prove that nobody was about to out-hate him, and he penned his angriest (and hardest-rocking) songs to date.
The greatness: At first glance, Animals bears the hallmarks of past Floyd albums—there are only four songs (one of which is split in two to bookend the album, à la Wish You Were Here) and most stretch well beyond the 10-minute mark. But this isn't the zone-out stoner Muzak that made the bandmembers into stadium-rock superstars. Usual Floyd touches like celestial keyboards, soaring female backing vocals, and lush Abbey Road-style guitars are gone; on Animals, Floyd reverts to a slash-and-burn power-trio format, with keyboardist (and Waters nemesis) Richard Wright providing only minor relief. The harsher music goes with Waters' spiteful lyrics, which divide humanity into three groups: "Dogs," "Pigs," and "Sheep." Even at their most vitriolic, few punks approach Waters' misanthropic view of the world on Animals, which he elaborated on with 1979's mega-platinum The Wall, the ultimate insider's critique of dinosaur rock.
Defining song: Nowhere does the Floyd rock harder on Animals than on "Pigs (Three Different Ones)," where Waters bitterly spits out the opening line ("Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are") over a rollicking throb before letting out a spontaneous "Woo!" It's as sweaty as this notoriously buttoned-up band ever got.