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Pink Floyd: Animals - Album Of The Week Club review

In the wake of Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here, Animals saw Pink Floyd show their disgust with humanity

Pink Floyd: Animals
(Image: © EMI)
Pink Floyd - Animals

(Image credit: EMI)

Pigs on the Wing (Part 1)
Dogs
Pigs (Three Different Ones)
Sheep
Pigs on the Wing (Part 2)

As stripped-back and direct as Pink Floyd ever got, perhaps – in the wake of Wish You Were Herebecause the band was now controlled by Roger Waters, with David Gilmour as his musical foil.

Animals shuns the widescreen musical soundscapes of their previous two blockbusters, and instead updates George Orwell’s Animal Farm for a bleak, withering observation of humanity.

Waters’ lyrical vitriol drips all over the greedy, conniving Dogs, the autocratic, self-righteous Pigs (Three Different Ones), and the downtrodden but finally rebellious Sheep. Those three epic tracks are book-ended by the disarming two-part acoustic love song Pigs On The Wing.

The prevailing musical atmosphere is sparse and brooding, with an occasional menacing edge when Gilmour’s guitar chords hack their way through the forbidding undergrowth. It’s not a pretty album, but then it’s not meant to be.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in January 1977

  • Flight Log - Jefferson Airplane
  • Hard Again - Muddy Waters
  • Leave Home - Ramones
  • Low - David Bowie
  • Playing the Fool - Gentle Giant
  • Festival - Santana
  • Forever for Now - April Wine
  • Fountains of Light - Starcastle
  • Live: You Get What You Play For - REO Speedwagon
  • Queens of Noise - The Runaways
  • Novella - Renaissance
  • Sammy Hagar - Sammy Hagar

What they said...

"The sax that warmed Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here has been replaced by a succession of David Gilmour guitar solos — thin, brittle and a sorry substitute indeed.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." (Rolling Stone)

"Animals is an echo-chamber for social unrest in the 70s. 40 years on, it still provides us with plenty of food for thought. As a work of music, it’s sublime. As a work of political allegory, it’s out of proportion and brutalist. Yet something in Waters’ imagined dystopia still chimes all these years later." (Oxford Student)

"Roger Waters' anti-establishment spirit was alive and well in Animals, even if Pink Floyd were in danger of being lumped into the arena-sized dinosaur circuit by the likes of John Lydon. Targets like morality watchdog Mary Whitehouse in Pigs (Three Different Ones) and the irreverent skewing of Psalm 23 on Sheep help the listener understand the gravity of the cynicism here and what it was like to truly piss people off back in 1977. If you wanted noise, you had the Pistols. But if you wanted to rattle cages, you had Animals." (Pop Matters)

What you said...

Shane Reho: From 71-79, Pink Floyd could do no wrong (probably should say 71-83, but The Final Cut is pretty divisive). Naturally, since this comes after Wish You Were Here and The Dark Side Of The Moon but before The Wall, it's bound to be overlooked, even though I wouldn't say it's underrated since just about everyone thinks this album is a masterpiece as well. 

And for good reason. Dogs is one of their best songs, not a single one of its 17 minutes are wasted. Pigs has a great groove to it, with some of the most intense lyrics Roger Waters ever penned, as well as having a famous Eric Cartman line. Sheep, like the other songs, is relevant in any political society, making a great point at the end about how people go back to normal after they get rid of the dogs who oppress them and the pigs who profit off of it, leaving those forces to return. 

Pigs On The Wing beginning and ending the album works perfectly as both the calm before the storm (this is their angriest sounding album, even more than The Wall or the Final Cut, which is saying something), and the relief after it, as well as being a simple plea for understanding or love. Animals has no weaknesses. 10/10 for sure.

Mike Knoop: I was filled with dread when this thumbnail popped up. The musicianship - especially David Gilmour - is excellent, but the lyrics are so bitter and depressing they make Welcome To The Machine sound like bubblegum pop. It's still not in my Top 5 Floyd, but I survived the experience. It is definitely a Top 5 Hipgnosis sleeve.

Gino Sigismondi: Animals is probably my favourite Floyd album. I don't know if it's their "best," but it's the one I still go to most often because the other ones out of the big four 70s releases are just so over played on rock radio. 

So, to put it in context, compare Animals to anything that came after The Wall or before Dark Side, and you realise how brilliant it is. Something that really struck me, though, was despite the length of the songs, how rooted in basic folk song elements they are. A few years back, I decided it was time to learn some of these songs, and was amazed by how they able were able to created these lengthy arrangements of a few simple chord progressions (OK, Dogs is not that simple, but still...) and craft them into epics that never get boring or seem repetitive. 

When compared to the over-the-top virtuosity and classical influences of bands like Yes and ELP, it seems ridiculous that Floyd got labeled as prog just because they wrote long songs that were thematically linked to a central concept. Gilmour's soloing on Dogs is brilliant, as usual, and the harmony solos are a nice, new element. Dividing up the verses between he and Waters also works so well, as you come out the other side of the spacey middle-section with a changed perspective. 

Gilmour takes the role of the sympathiser with the greedy corporate dogs, then Waters comes in and points out the hypocrisy. The fact that he does all the remaining lead vocals makes sense with the finger-pointing tone of the rest of the lyrics. Though I agree they are bleak, on the whole I don't find this album nearly as depressing as The Wall, or worse yet, The Final Cut! And ultimately, these lyrics have proven (sadly) among the most timeless of their catalog. 

On my commute to work the morning after the 2016 presidential election, this was my soundtrack. I drive through some very heavily hispanic neighbourhoods, and I kept feeling this urge to get out of my car and hug everyone I saw to let them know that they are loved and we're not all "Sheep." I wish I could say this album was a relic of the 1970s, but unfortunately we elected someone who is both a "dog" and a "pig." It was no surprise whatsoever that Waters leaned heavily on Animals for his last tour. I can't wait to see what he's got in store for This Is Not A Drill.

James Johnson After Dark Side, this is my favourite Pink Floyd record. A perfect blend of Roger’s lyrics and the bands musical input. A harsher, colder soundscape, with a sense of danger on the horizon. I like the way David’s guitar playing strays away from the bluesy towards a more aggressive angular style.

It’s worth checking out the Pigs On The Wing Part 1 and 2 edited together version. With a linking guitar solo by Snowy White, who would join them on the Animals tour.

Carl Black: I like my Pink Floyd like I like the annoying person at work who's been there for a dogs age and is quite happy to tell you the bad things or your mistakes, but rarely has anything positive to say, i.e., in small doses. The trouble here is there are no small doses. It's amazing how one riff or idea can last an entire side. As a wise man said "there is prog rock and there is sleeping on the job". So not a massive fan. One massive positive is the art work. Iconic, simple and brilliant. It's a 4 out of 10 from me and most of those are for the art work.

Chris Downie: When conversations are held on Pink Floyd's most seminal works, Animals has often been sidelined in favour of the usual suspects which came both before (Dark Side, Wish You Were Here) and after (The Wall) but it's Orwellian subject matter give it an increasing relevance in the modern era. It is also significant being arguably the last album in which they fully functioned as a cohesive band unit, with not only Gilmour and Waters but also the perennially underrated Wright firing on all cylinders.

While it is bookended by two simple acoustic numbers, which serve as a capable, foreboding intro & serviceable outro respectively, the album's beating heart lies within the three epics sandwiched between, with Pigs (Three Different Ones) in all its vitriol towards authoritarianism and abuse of power, being one of their darkest, but most pointed tracks ever recorded.

Like Bowie's Diamond Dogs, this album serves as one of the finest manifestations of the works of George Orwell in popular media. Like Bowie's effort, it also serves as a dark horse in their long and distinguished catalogue, revered by those with more than a casual interest in their works beyond the obvious hits.

Brian Carr: Whenever I hear David Gilmour’s lead playing it boggles my mind that there was a time that I didn’t like Pink Floyd at all. Eventually I began to appreciate Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here became one of my top three favourite albums, and the cinematic quality of The Wall blew me away. But I still wasn’t interested in delving into the more psychedelic (for lack of a better word) output, of which I thought Animals was before a few years ago.

One day I was watching an old episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. I don’t actually remember if I was watching a whole episode or just clips on YouTube, but Johnny Fever was playing Dogs and I was absolutely blown away be the guitar work. More than likely I was off to the library at the soonest possible moment to borrow Animals (I’m fairly certain this happened before the joyful convenience of streaming). What a tour de force from Mr. Gilmour. His playing alone makes me ponder giving this a 10. Ultimately I rated it a 9 because I felt the longer tracks dragged just the slightest bit, but to my ears, Animals is every bit as great as most of the reviewers here have posted.

Roland Bearne: Unlike some here gathered, I really am not qualified to give a professorial analysis of this album with its most iconic of covers. I was late to the Pink Floyd party being 13 when The Wall was released and at the time, whilst I enjoyed what I heard I was far too distracted with punk, Van Halen, Motorhead et al to really regard both it and Floyd other than as "nice stuff, but it's for those older guys who have beards and smoke funny cigarettes." Years pass and my love/appreciation of Floyd has grown immeasurably but still, however lovely I think this sounds, however profound and "clever" I acknowledge the concept and execution to be, it's never going to be "my" album. I will always regard it from a slight distance with a measure of respectful awe. Having had a concerted listen now, though, one thing is for sure; I'm getting it on vinyl I as I definitely need to live with it for more than a few plays in a week! CRAOW strikes gold again.

William Hastie: And punk rock's anarchists sneered at Pink Floyd! Few of them ever came close to the expression of snarling anti-establishment sentiment in this album.

It's never going to be a popular thing to say, but for me this has always been Pink Floyd's finest work. It has consistently been in my top five albums ever since I first got lost in its lattice-work of sound way back in '77.

Where Water's voice melts and disappears into a sustained wailing keyboard note, and that haunting, chilling jabbing of Rick's to create that desolate 'barking' sound.

Gilmour's guitar work coarser and more edgy than before, yet unmistakably Gilmour. Dark, brooding, textured, angry, iconic. Just wow! 10/10

Philip Qvist: This is my third favourite Pink Floyd album, and only because Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here just, and only just, beat it.

Just five songs (although Pigs On The Wing is actually one song, split into two), Sheep is still a favourite of mine, but it is the (mainly) Dave Gilmour penned Dogs that is the highlight of Animals.

I would say that this is when Floyd peaked - and the cracks started to become too big to be ignored. Follow up The Wall is a great album but the three before it are absolute classics. 9.8/10 for me

Jonathan Novajosky: I have to admit that as far as Pink Floyd goes, I'm not much more than a casual fan. I think The Wall is a masterpiece, I enjoy most of Dark Side, and then a couple of other songs. And that's about it. I was eager to give this another go, however.

I definitely liked Animals more on this listen, but to me it still lacks the power and magnitude of Dark Side Of The Moon and the storytelling and accessibility of The Wall. Pink Floyd albums generally contain different sound effects and solid production, but I don't care for the "animal sounds" in songs like Pigs or Sheep. I get that it adds something unique to the darkness of the subject matter, but it comes off a little goofy for me. 

Despite these criticisms I have, Animals is still a strong album. I love the opening and closing Pigs On The Wing 1/2; they add a nice touch of gentleness to an otherwise grimy and rough album. The lyrics and overall songwriting are obviously great too, as is the closing guitar playing by Gilmour on Sheep.

I'm pretty confident that I will like Animals more and more with each listen. But for now, I consider it a good (and sometimes great) album. 7.5/10

James Last: This is a straight 10/10 from me. My favourite PF album along with Meddle. It's not an easy listen by any stretch, and many would make a case for this record marking the beginning of the end, but there isn't another album quite like it anywhere. In my opinion it features some of the bands best individual performances (particularly Gilmour) And lyrically, especially, it's as relevant today as it ever was, if not even more so!.

Michael Porter: 10/10 for me and the last of their stretch of stellar albums that started with Meddle. This album is not the easy go to album, nor the lightest album, but the lyrics and musicianship is top notch throughout and in my mind not a weak moment in the album. The production as always is excellent and highlights the bleak soundscapes and subject matter.

If you want more accessible Pink Floyd, go for Wish You Were Here first before moving on to this album. I cannot recommend this album enough and it rewards repeated listening

Mauricio Telles: I absolutely love it, since the first time I've heard it decades ago, and never got tired.

Some of the best phrases Waters ever wrote are here, and to me, this is the best Gilmour guitar performance ever recorded. I've lost the count on how many trips I got listening to this and still resonates a lot to me.

From Floyd catalog, it is second only to the Dark Side Of The Moon. And as a bonus, you can have your dogs puzzled trying to find where is the dog barking around. No-brainer: 10/10.

Graham Tarry: Remember getting it at the time, loving the gatefold cover, and particularly loving Sheep, which became the anthem I played before going to band rehearsals! Pigs and Dogs took longer, but eventually grew on me. Their last great album?

Chris Burkill: Dogs is an absolute classic. From its haunting intro through the salesman viewpoint lyrics, to the haunting harmony guitar solo, to the inevitable, eclipse-like final verse, this is a one track equal to anything they've done elsewhere.

Billy Master: The last real group album before the dictatorship. With Rick Wright's keyboards very prominent, as they should be. This feels like a band. Not to be threatened by punk, and its short songs diktat, (no problem with short songs) we have proper prog length songs that meander and develop in classic Floyd style. All topped off with a truly awesome sleeve. Love it.

Will O'Neil: One of their best for sure. Lyrics are fantastic, instrumentals are great, packaging is awesome. The attitude as well. This is Floyd at their most cynical and angry. Love it. I’d call it underrated but only in the context of the middle years (1973-1979.)

Caleb Bradley: Dogs and Pigs on the wing are fantastic. The rest feels like bloated filler. But Gilmour's tone on this whole album is just godly. The second solo in Dogs is his best work, period.

John Davidson: I first heard this in the summer of 77. In typical fashion it was one of my friend's older brothers that was a Floyd fan (along with Tull and I've no doubt a few others). I was drawn in by Gilmour's guitar playing, and held captive by the lyrics.

As I've grown older and more worldly-wise, the lyrics have lost none of their potency. The album opens with a simple acoustic song that sets the scene and the tone for the album. which is bleak and portentous.

The next song is a 17 minute, guitar-led opus that examines the metaphorical Dogs. Salesmen, middle managers and those driven to succeed in business are the focus of the biting lyrics.

The music is imbued with a savage melancholy and while the rest of the band play their part - this is Gilmour's song.

Side two opens with Pigs (Three Different Ones). It's a less showy song than Dogs (or Sheep) but manages to hold its own. It's the most complete 'band' performance of the album, with Gilmour playing loose chords over a steady bluesy beat from Mason and Waters while Rick Wright fills out the sound with some nice piano and keyboard flourishes. The closing guitar solo is superb .

The titular Pigs are (I think) a mixture of authority figures including the UK's No1 busybody from the 1970s Mary Whitehouse - for our US based friends I guess she was the Tipper Gore of her time and place. A moralising person who thought standards were falling and that youths needed protected from profanity etc

Sheep continues to explore the theme with a focus on the ordinary people, the easily led, the fearful flock: Too quick to take orders, too quick to conform.

Musically this is driven by the counterpoint between Waters' relentless bass line and Rick Wright's tinkling keyboard. The mood of foreboding and repression is artfully created with guitar licks that crash across the melody like lightning strikes.The song builds, then slows then builds again as the sheep rise up to the sound of Wright's now powerful Keyboards before giving way to Gilmour's guitar through the outro.

The album closes with an unexpected note of reflection. After the outburst of fury and loathing that precedes it Waters presents us with a reflective love song. It's slight but it does lift the mood a little.

Less trippy than the (arguably) over-rated Dark Side Of The Moon and less showy than Wish You Were Here, Animals is my favourite Floyd album. Dogs and Sheep are two of the finest prog songs ever written and there's not a Greek myth or a hippy godhead in sight nor even a hint of a rainbow, warrior or court jester.

Sublime, timeless and utterly superb. 10/10

John Edgar: One of my favourite Pink Floyd albums. Like most of their releases, it begs to be played completely through in one setting. The sonics of this album are difficult to describe, but for me it's like listening to a dream. The ebb and flow of the songs is just perfect. I definitely call it an unquestionable 10.

Bill Griffin: This is the album that turned me on to Pink Floyd. Sure, I had heard Dark Side Of The Moon but Money always rubbed me the wrong way with that album; it seemed to break the momentum established by the first side. Maybe it should have been a non album b-side with something else taking its place.

Animals, along with Wish You Were Here, I think defines the band. They were never better, either musically or lyrically.

Dogs is their creative peak to me but the other two main tracks are excellent in their own right. Sheep was perfect as the show opener on the ensuing In The Flesh tour. Probably my greatest concert regret is never having seen Pink Floyd, particularly on that tour.

Animals is one of my "stranded on a deserted island" ten records.

Dominic Grierson: My memories of this are pretty lo-fi. As a teen in the 90s I had a cassette copied from vinyl with this on one side and wish you were here on the other. It was in my walkman on heavy rotation on most bus journeys to school and walks to my part time job throughout my mid to late teens. 

I listened to it to destruction and know every note on the album by heart with the addition of the occasional pop and crackle from the vinyl which I am missing just now as I listen on Spotify. Going back to it and listening to it as I type this is quite a strange experience. I cannot really be objective about this record as it is so entrenched.

I genuinely haven't listened to it through from start to finish for what must be close to twenty years for no real reason other than I think I scunnered myself with it. Lyrically, it still sounds very fresh and relevant to me - has the world changed that much in the 40 some years since its release? Clearly not. Probably the beginning of the end in some ways for the band, but in my view they hit heights musically here that many bands never even get close to. I will make a point of trying to look up some "In The Flesh" tour recordings that are on you tube. I cant believe I haven't so far.

My favourite tracks on the record are Dogs and Sheep. Pigs (On The Wing) and (Three Different Ones) are still excellent tracks though. I could expand on the impact of the lyrics and vocals from Waters, Gilmour's playing and the subject matter but there really isn't anything I can add that hasn't been said more eloquently elsewhere already. Some may complain about the lack of Wright's contributions but I like the leaner sound. Superb record in every way from artwork to content to sequencing. 9.5/10.

Final Score: 9.04⁄10 (537 votes cast, with a total score of 4858)

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