Music » CD Reviews

Roger Waters

In the Flesh (Columbia)

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While he was no Syd Barrett, singer-bassist Roger Waters made a better frontman for Pink Floyd than singer-guitarist David Gilmour, who took control of the band after Waters left in 1983. On his subsequent solo records, Waters explored the same heavy-handed themes of abandonment, paranoia, and disillusion that ran through Pink Floyd's albums, while Gilmour has steered Floyd into new-age territory, littering its last studio effort, 1994's The Division Bell, with dull orchestral movements. With In the Flesh, a two-disc set recorded last year on his first tour in 12 years, Waters tries to stake his claim to the Floyd legacy by playing a selection of songs from the albums that he was primarily responsible for writing (particularly Wish You Were Here, Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, and The Final Cut). That there's a paucity of Waters's solo material (only one song from The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking) suggests the extent to which Waters has made In the Flesh into a pissing contest with his ex-bandmates, whom he once took to court over the rights to the Floyd name.

Opening with a sequence of four songs from The Wall -- "In the Flesh," "The Happiest Days of Our Lives," "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2," and "Mother," Waters plays the old tracks as the grossly overblown anthems that they initially were. While this stuff might have had a place in the concept-album-obsessed late '70s and early '80s, it doesn't hold up, and Waters doesn't seem to notice the difference. Trudging out "Welcome to Machine," "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," "Time," and "Money" with all the trappings (choir-like backing vocals, ticking clocks, and ringing cash registers) only shows how dated the material really is. "Each Small Candle," the one new song included here, is a theatrical elegy to a political prisoner that's likely indicative of Waters's next solo project, an opera he's calling Ça Ira. And with a DVD version of In the Flesh in the works, it's not likely that this is the last reminiscing we'll hear from Waters, who would do well to follow Barrett into seclusion and stop trying to revisit his past.

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