"Button your lip, and don't let the shield slip."
By this point in their career Pink Floyd were only a band in name. While building his wall, Roger Waters ego had crushed all before him. Richard Wright had been usurped, David Gilmour was losing interest in Water’s material and Nick Mason’s position in the band was looking increasingly fragile. The Wall had been an enormous commercial success though and the public were eagerly awaiting the next misery-laden epic, regardless of the band’s animosity towards each other. Things weren’t looking promising, but against all odds Roger Waters pulled a rabbit out of the hat once more.
Like its predecessor, The Final Cut is not about drawn out epic tracks and ambiguous lyrical content. This is an album with a purpose and a message which is unshakable – there had been a chance to make the world a better place following the end of World War Two, but Britain had stuffed it up big time and Roger Waters was more than a little unhappy about that. The Final Cut is Water’s album through and through, despite Gilmour playing some of the best guitar work of his career (mainly because he doesn’t get a chance to use the cliched languid technique that he had gained a reputation for). Over the decades much has been made of the fact that Waters penned everything here and Pink Floyd performed it, with Gilmour asking for his production credit to be removed and Nick Mason being ousted from the drum stool for the brilliant closing track. It’s even dedicated to Water’s father who perished in World War Two.
Perhaps it’s these factors that makes The Final Cut such a fantastic album. It’s the one Pink Floyd album that doesn’t sound much like Pink Floyd and it makes no apologies for it, as Waters was going to make this album regardless of what the rest of the band thought of it. Given the selfishness of Waters attitude, it’s odd then that this is an album that is so generous in spirit. The Final Cut doesn’t just mourn Water’s loss, it mourns for a world that could have potentially been a better place if a few people had been less selfish (oh the irony!).
The personal subject matter inspired Waters to write the most vivid lyrics of his career, making this one of the most lyric-driven of all Pink Floyd albums. The loss of Rock Wright is neatly sidestepped by the brilliant piano playing and orchestrations of the great Michael Kamen, whose string arrangements throughout the album do so much to make it the stirring piece of work that it is. Despite it being the one Pink Floyd album that always gets panned by fans and critics alike, there are some enormously strong songs here, particularly the almost spoken-word “Paranoid Eyes” and the hard-rocking “Not Now John” and if you’re going to bring a curtain down on the career on the most successful progressive rock act of all, you may as well do it with a song about the effect of the inevitable nuclear holocaust, thus allowing “Two Suns In The Sunset” to become one of the very best closing tracks on any Pink Floyd album.
While The Final Cut may be the least popular Pink Floyd album with many fans, it’s far stronger than many would have you believe. While it’s hard to escape the fact that this is Roger Waters venting his spleen without caring what those around him think, it’s this single-mindedness that makes The Final Cut my personal favourite Pink Floyd album.