Daily Song Study

Roger Waters – What God Wants, Part I

In songs on January 3, 2012 at 9:35 am

I’ve mentioned Pink Floyd’s chief songsmith Roger Waters before, and I’ve been rather remiss in not covering him more in these studies. The trouble is that he is such a conceptual, long-form writer that it’s often difficult (for me, at least) to pick one section out of an album and study it without bringing in all the surrounding bits which support it.

So when at last selecting the first in the What God Wants trilogy from his 1992 Amused to Death album, of course I felt that it needed a proper introduction. Here, then, is the intro the album provides:

Followed by the tune itself:

A number of things stick out on this set of tunes, but probably the first is the fiery, elastic guitar of none other than Jeff Beck, who may be the only guitarist whose style suits Waters’ writing as well as Floyd’s own David Gilmour (and who Waters had considered calling to replace Syd Barrett, but chickened out). Second is the presence of machine noises in the drum track, a Floyd staple that Waters carried forward into his solo work, and which certainly helps to illustrate the theme of unquestioned religious and governmental authority that makes up What God Wants.

Presenting The Ballad of Bill Hubbard right before that track is an excellent way of bringing humanity and personality into what could be a general-purpose rant. It’s an approach which helps the album rise above his other solo work, and indeed above most other albums. Waters might be considered the modern Smedley Butler, for his continued contention that war is, in fact, a racket.

From a songwriting standpoint, it’s interesting to note that there may not be any actual choruses here. We have repeated refrains and recurring lyrical themes, punctuated by blasts of scorching guitar. It’s a powerful presentation, and quite unorthodox, which is a pretty good summation of its author’s career.

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