Roger Waters hadn’t released a new studio album in 25 years. Styx hadn’t released new material in 14 years. Each are missing key ingredients to their respective sounds. Roger Waters is missing David Gilmour (and the rest of Floyd for that matter) and Styx is missing Dennis DeYoung. So with no real NEED for new music, it was a surprise to me that each would even bother.
I am glad they did! This year has been a year of odd disappointments for me. The new Steven Wilson material has been iffy, I don’t like the new Anathema album (again) and to have both “Is This the Life We Really Want?” and “The Mission” to be so DAMN GOOD is a shocker to be honest. Waters proves that he still can write a great song and even his somewhat weak vocals actually sound good throughout the album!
Styx not only go back to the concept album but did it without the guy who loved the whole concept album idea. But while “Kilroy Was Here” was just bad high school music theater, “The Mission” is a 42 minute, intelligent and damn catchy ride! The album relies enough on the Styx sound of old but never gets cheesy. Yes some of the songs are too short but many of these songs are some of the best Styx have EVER done. Yes I said it!
Waters knows a thing or two about concept albums and while “Is This the Life We Really Want?” isn’t a story line like “The Wall,” it is very observational like “Animals.” And that’s why it works so well. For me it’s not about specific politicians, even if you know who Waters is singing about. Rather this is about how we keep fucking up, the same ways, time after time. He is pissed off and so am I, which is just another reason I love it. And yes it sounds more like Floyd than any of his solo albums. That doesn’t hurt either.
If you have ever been a fan of Styx or Pink Floyd (or both like me), you need to check out each of these albums. It’s refreshing to me that artists that don’t NEED to make new music have not only made new music but have made some of the best music of their careers. And that’s why there’s hope.
Ratings for both: 9.5/10