It’s a concept album, an abandoned soundtrack to The Wall movie and the last straw between the increasingly controlling Waters and his bandmates. It’s also a mess of a record, a sprawling indictment of war that plays like fragments of frustration built over years by Waters and uncorked in a dizzying display of untethered emotions. More than anything, though, The Final Cut is essentially Waters’ first solo album.
But is it any good? Released on March 21, 1983, Waters’ last Pink Floyd album sounds like the record Waters, who left the band not long after The Final Cut came out, needed to create to make his clean break. David Gilmour sings on only one track and keyboardist Richard Wright had already quit. The story is Waters’ and he’s the one who tells it. The remaining members of Pink Floyd, plus various studio musicians, are just along for the ride.
And as far as antiwar concept albums that bridge World War II and the Falklands Crisis of the early ‘80s go, The Final Cut has its moments, but all 12 songs must be consumed at once. A story develops about loyalty, betrayal and fallen World War II British soldiers, including Waters’ father, who was killed in battle and whose ghost haunts every note of the record. This isn’t an album for best-of pillaging.
That’s why it’s so easily dismissed among Floyd fans. A handful of songs managed to receive some airplay in 1983: “Not Now John,” “Your Possible Pasts” and “The Hero’s Return.” But these tracks make little sense outside of the album’s concept and even less wedged between classic-rock staples. The melodies are thin; the music is complex. Still, The Final Cut made it to No. 6 and eventually sold more than two million copies. But it’s a complicated record with a thorny history. Is it Pink Floyd’s worst album or Roger Waters’ best solo LP? Probably yes on both counts.