Released: February 1977
Chart Peak: #3
Weeks Charted: 28
Certified Triple Platinum: 8/9/89
For Pink Floyd, space has always been the ultimate escape. It still is, but now definitions have shifted. The romance of outer space has been replaced by the horror of spacing out.
This shift has been coming for a while. There was Dark Side of the Moon and "Brain Damage," Wish You Were Here and the story of founding member Syd Barrett, the "Crazy Diamond." And now there's Animals, a visit to a cacophonous farm where what you have to watch for is pigs on the wing. Animals is a song suite that deals with subjects like loneliness, death and lies. "Have a good drown," they shout dolefully as you drop into the pit that is this album: "Have a good drown as you go down all alone/Dragged down by the stone...stone...stone...stone...stone..." Thanks, pals, I'll try.
It's no use. Like all Floyd records, this one aborbs like a sponge, but you can still hear the gooey screams of listeners who put up a fight. What's the problem? For starters, the sax that warmed Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here has been replaced by a succession of David Gilmour guitar solos -- thin, brittle and a sorry substitute indeed. The singing is more wooden than ever. The sound is more complex, but it lacks real depth; there's nothing to match the incredible intro to Dark Side of the Moon, for example, with its hypnotic chorus of cash registers recalling the mechanical doom that was Fritz Lang's vision in Metropolis. Somehow you get the impression that this band is being metamorphosed into a noodle factory.
Even worse, however, is the bleak defeatism that's set in. In 1968 Floyd was chanting lines like: "Why can't we reach the sun?/ Why can't we throw the years away?" This kind of stuff may seem silly, but at least it wasn't self-pitying. The 1977 Floyd has turned bitter and morose. They complain about the duplicity of human behavior (and then title their songs after animals -- get it?). They sound like they've just discovered this -- their message has become pointless and tedious.
Of course, space doesn't offer any kind of real escape; Pink Floyd knows that. But spacing out is supposed to. (Spacing out has always been the idea behind space rock anyway.) Animals is Floyd's attempt to deal with the realization that spacing out isn't the answer either. There's no exit; you get high, you come down again. That's what Pink Floyd has done, with a thud.
- Frank Rose, Rolling Stone, 3-24-77.
I never cared much for the post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd until their last album. Without Barrett's psychedelic anguish and vision, the band's watery surrealism, aimless chromatic meanderings, and preoccupation with sound effects never communicated much to me. But Wish You Were Here was something else again. With its marvelously imaginative Abbey Road-ish musical trappings, it was a truly moving tribute to the founding member who had fallen prey to the dangers of a lifestyle Pink Floyd had once communally endorsed -- witty, bitter, mordant, and above all, honestly felt. I loved it.
I don't much love Animals, their new one, however. Musically and thematically it's constructed along the same lines as the last, but the subject -- their intense contempt for the business of selling art -- is just not important enough, or at least they don't make it seem important enough, to justify all the vented spleen. Pity is a rare emotion in a rock musician, but unfortunately self-pity isn't, and Animals comes off as just another boring entry in the same boring sweepstakes everyone from James Taylor to Elton John to Lou Reed to you name it has been dabbling in since the dawn of the Seventies. Splendidly played and produced.
- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 5/77.
Pink Floyd's rare gift is to be at its most commercial when it is being most true to its obscure, menacing, surrealistic vision. With a genius for creating full, rich studio sounds and later reproducing them on tour, Pink Floyd uses a diabolic inventiveness to sustain hypnotic musical textures that smoothly ease the listener into songs about axe murderers and a gallery of other nefarious characters. Its latest is a symbolic concept album that divides humanity into manipulative, lonely dogs, comically depressing pig rulers and rebellious sheep. Loving communion is the only way to rise above this animalistic existence, as expressed in a brief, quiet acoustic interlude that opens and closes the LP. The rest of the album consists of three ominously driving long songs, one for each animal mentioned above, which alternate intense instrumental passages with those quirky, sardonic lyrics. Best cuts: "Pigs On The Wing," "Sheep," "Dogs," "Pigs."
- Billboard, 1977.
Pink Floyd, the star-tripping heavyweight of space rock, has moved into the barnyard for Animals and mated its headphone-designed rock with Orwell's Animal Farm fantasy. To be sure, Floyd has crafted an album ideal for sharing with a potent joint of Colombian -- lots of reverberating voices and guitars -- but the trite lyrical execution, punctuated by oinks and barks, is for the birds. "Dogs" unleashes the best melody in an album otherwise devoid of sustaining substance. Check out the cover, though -- it's a stunner, picturing a 50-foot inflated pig strung between smokestacks of a British power plant. The punch line is that after the shooting, the pig escaped, causing bemused havoc for the air traffic at London's Heathrow Airport. Although Floyd hardly needed the publicity -- its albums are automatic 1,000,000 sellers -- the headlines did demonstrate that Animals is full of hot air.
- Playboy, 6-77.
This has its share of obvious moments. But I can only assume that those who accuse this band of repetitious cynicism are stuck in such a cynical rut themselves that a piece of well-constructed political program music -- how did we used to say it? -- puts them uptight. Lyrical, ugly, and rousing, all in the right places. B+
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Consisting of heavily reworked songs that had long been a part of Pink Floyd's live repertoire and were now given an Orwellian overview, Animals found Pink Floyd acting as a mouthpiece for Roger Waters' increasingly vitriolic takes on modern life. The result was one of its less successful later efforts. * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Fans of Pink Floyd had become well accustomed to the band's conceptual approach to their music by the time Animals surfaced in the early part of 1977, but few can have expected the quirky album that followed the electronic grandeur that was Wish You Were Here. Nevertheless, despite being positively "lo-fi" compared with earlier efforts, Animals continues the policy of thematic creativity to great effect.
An album seemingly about man's best friend and two of the more familiar farmyard creatures, as with all things Floyd there is more to this than meets the eye -- and ear. Using the animal kingdom as a metaphor for humanity's weaknesses, the band -- and songwriter Roger Waters in particular -- look at death, decay, avarice, sex, power, jealousy and more, much more. On "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" there is even a dig at Mary Whitehouse, the British personality whose crusading calls throughout the 1970s for a return to the wholesome "values" of the past landed her with the title of unofficial guardian of the nation's morals.
As well as themes, Animals contained other Pink Floyd trademarks such as numerable intricate guitar solos courtesy of David Gilmour, but the album appears to have struck less of a chord with US audiences than its immediate predecessors, peaking at Number Three on the Hot 100, while it managed Number Two in the UK. Animals spent 28 weeks in the charts and received its triple platinum certification in 1989.
As of 2004, Animals was the #53 best-selling album of the 70s.
- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.
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