on September 26, 2003
Many reviewers seem to consider The Final Cut a sequel to Roger Waters' masterpiece The Wall, but it has much more in common with his post-Floyd solo releases - even if it's much more focused than The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking or Radio KAOS. The only real difference between this and Roger's 'official' solo albums is in the personnel, but David Gilmour and Nick Mason are little more than session players on this release - and Rick Wright was entirely cast out of the band during the Wall Tour. Then again, The Wall was also mostly about Roger; contributions from Gilmour, though crucial in the final product, were not all that made The Wall great. Why is it then that the Final Cut is so very much less fulfilling and less memorable than that classic, groundbreaking piece of music?
Doubtlessly one of the most talented lyric writers in the rock world, Roger's lyrics always tended to be very personal, and at the same time very global - by keeping them abstract and nonspecific, Roger managed to keep some distance between himself and his songs. That's what he did to brilliant ends on Meddle, Wish You Were Here and mostly on The Dark Side of the Moon. On The Wall, though, Roger got personal - real personal. Fortunate for us, because that digging into his own soul got us one of the most important masterpieces of modern music. Perhaps less fortunate for him. Maybe digging up his own demons was too exhausting for Mr. Waters; maybe it was just a bit scary. I think that's the main reason Roger refused to perform any material from The Wall for the next ten years. At any rate, on The Final Cut Roger took a careful step backwards and again distanced himself from his music. But the wall was already broken. After The Wall, little more could be said; and anything he made during those years since the beginning of the 80s was, simply put, soulless. Sure, the lyrics are still great. There is some clever wordplay in The Final Cut, some biting social commentary. But Roger proves here beyond doubt that he is no Dylan and no Lennon - he is not a political songwriter. He can't write political or social lyrics to arouse the masses; he's at his best only when he writes about himself, in one way or another. And when he tries to write political satire, it always comes out as the rather pathetic sarcastic ranting of a deeply depressed middle-aged man. Not even the mandatory reference to his father's death (on 'The Post War Dream') can create the illusion of the spark that Waters once had.
Musically, of course, Roger is still in top shape for The Final Cut, and he has some first rate musicians around him. The arrangements and production are spotless as ever, and Gilmour makes a few more of his moving and melodic solos; no new musical statements are made, however. The instrumental work is not given the attention it deserves, and sound effects are greatly overused - it almost sounds like a tasteless parody on the sound of The Wall. Occasionally, though, The Final Cut does succeed in reaching true and genuine beauty. Two of the tracks stand up unmistakably, to my opinion, above the rest. One important exception is the title track itself - which, sadly, has little to nothing to do with the rest of the album - but it's the only song on the entire record in which Roger reluctantly dares to delve back into his own soul and come up with some real and genuine feelings. A rather simple arrangement and melody make for one of the most beautiful songs Roger had written, and a guitar solo that sounds like the Dave that we once knew completes it. The other standout track, my personal favorite on the album, is the closing track - 'Two Suns in the Sunset', the only song on the album that manages to combine clever and beautiful lyrics with beautiful music to make for a truly complete piece. There are several other songs that are interesting, but ultimately soulless and not good for more than a couple of listens - 'Not Now John' for instance is a nice rock piece with some good instrumental work and some clever, but shallow, lyrics; and 'The Fletcher Memorial Home' is good and smartly written satire, but ultimately a cliché. On the other hand, 'The Gunner's Dream' is a pretty song with nice harmonies and beautiful chord progression, but it doesn't really get to you, nor does it make any statement of importance.
'The Final Cut' is of course worth listening, especially for Floyd Fans; if you enjoyed any of Roger's solo expeditions, you're sure to like it. But know what to expect, and don't expect it to become a permanent favorite - it's entertaining for a few listens, no more. Songs like 'Southampton Dock', 'One Of The Few' and 'Get Your Filthy Hands Of My Desert' are filler material, no more, no less; and while on The Wall all the little tracks that don't amount to much by themselves become crucial when the entire album is considered as a whole, The Final Cut just doesn't add up. Likewise, the effects and spoken parts, which were an important part of the puzzle in The Wall, sound pointless and pretentious here. Compare The Final Cut to The Division Bell to hear the two different halves of the Pink Floyd legend, and understand why in their case the whole really was much more than the sum of its parts.