Pink Floyd, Animals

If George Orwell had played bass in an English rock band, he'd probably have written this album instead of Animal Farm, but instead we have Roger Waters ripping him off. Pigs, dogs and sheep all, it's the oligarchs versus the proletariat split into three lengthy tracks that the solid prog rock backing somehow avoids making self-indulgent, plus the two bookends serving as prelude, epilogue and afterthought all at the same time. Waters has never shied from wearing his politics on his sleeve, part of what made his later solo output often dreary, but if the album is merely a thinly disguised excuse to bark at the exploitation of the working class and the scheming of puritanical censors (especially "Pigs: Three Different Ones") it mostly manages to avoid beating people over the head with it. David Gilmour is hauntingly soulful and almost sympathetic to the people's erstwhile oppressors in "Dogs," and the sheep ("Sheep") even triumph over them; only "Pigs" gives Waters a bit too much lyrical leeway, though his grinning delivery and the closest thing this album has to a groove save it from breaking down into reverse moralizing. Less gritty than The Final Cut and less narratively constrained than The Wall, Animals is a uniquely transitional album that manages to be relevant and thought-provoking without being painfully transparent or losing sight of its musical goals. (Content: some stylized violent content and an F-bomb.)