- Sep 20, 2020
- United States
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head re: Animals being “one melodic centerpiece song away from being an all-time 10 out of 10 classic”I haven't voted on this one yet only having listened to it once, but I can only echo the sentiments of most of the other posters here in that I was extremely impressed.
I'm not really a Pink Floyd completist - I have a bit of soft spot for Pompeii and Meddle thanks to having worked with Adrian Maben, but I really like Dark Side of the Moon, (and Wish You Were Here even more) and Animals always felt like an album I should like, but I could never get inside it thanks to the grungy "recorded on a cassette tape" kind of fidelity.
I think the biggest musical revelation this remix provided is that thanks to the increase in fidelity and clarity, Animals now feels like one of the sets of rock 'n' roll "twin" albums alongside WYWH. It seems like when bands are in the midst of their powers they often do this, record two consecutive albums that sound like two sides of the same coin - the Beatles Revolver and Rubber Soul and Black Sabbath's Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage are just a couple of examples that spring to mind. Obviously in this case there's good reason for it, given that both Dogs and Sheep date back to the WYWH era, but each has their own distinct identity - the ethereal WYWH and the driven, muscular Animals. I've seen this album referred to as having "punk rock" energy, but to me that's a really reductive way of describing this album, especially given that the majority of the musical content found its genesis (ha ha, no pun intended) before British punk was even a thing. Just because tomatoes are red, doesn't mean that everything red is a tomato - what I hear on this album is a band simply at the height of its powers playing with the confidence and telepathy that comes with 10 years of collaboration, rehearsal and touring. I think Animals is maybe one melodic centerpiece song away from being an all-time 10 out of 10 classic, but it's still very good, and sounding as it does now, eminently re-listenable.
With DSOTM and WYWH, my go to versions are the quad mixes - I wasn't expecting much given the lackluster nature of the surround content in James Guthrie's 5.1 mixes, so again like most people I was more than pleasantly surprised with this one. Either he's gotten more adventurous in his old age, or he's taken onboard some of the listener feedback on his previous mixes, but either way we're all winners for his adjustment in philosophy. In the last 10 years or so it seems like there's been a raft of 5.1 (and now Atmos mixes) by engineers that don't even seem competent enough to engineer a stereo mix, with (variously) terrible tonality, elements missing, wrong takes, not enough surround content or a variety of other problems - it feels like there are more ways to get a surround mix wrong than there is right, and we've heard all of them. Guthrie's work on this album is a reminder (to me anyway) of the value brought to the table by 40+ years of experience - I think you can quibble with how aggressive he chooses to be with surround placement sometimes, but with Elliot Scheiner seemingly in semi (or maybe full?) retirement, there aren't many 'elder statesmen' of surround who have this kind of attention to detail.
This mix actually gave me a lot to think about - generally speaking I'm a "lets have some main elements in every speaker, please" kind of guy, but the way Guthrie seemed to constantly expand and shrink the size of the surround field yielded some stunning results. I think Greg Penny talked about this in an interview on mixing Atmos, about how with the Elton mixes he'd start almost in mono, and have the soundfield get bigger (and more surroundy) as the song built up, and it's a really effective technique. Guthrie does this a lot on Animals, but instead of only using it in a linear fashion like Penny where the song starts small and gradually gets bigger as it goes on, he seems to do it multiple times in each song, At least for me, it was so masterfully done that I never felt like "hmm, nothing coming out of the rear speakers" - it was more like I'd be focused on the interplay going on in front of me, and then bam, a guitar part or keyboard line surprises me from behind. Obviously there's precedent for Pink Floyd employing this technique, having used it in the quad mix of WYWH during the transition from Have a Cigar to Wish You Were Here, where the quad soundfield collapses down to one-corner mono as the radio broadcast plays, but it's not something you see all that often, and given how effective it is (the first time I heard that part in the quad mix of WYWH I thought my system was broken, only to be stunned when the full band kicked in) I hope other surround mixers take note of it.
Having said that, I think from a surround perspective there were probably a few moments for me where I wish Guthrie had pushed the soundfield even more into discrete four-corner territory, but given how huge the overall sonic upgrade is, I can forgive it for not meeting my own expectations in these handful of instances. Like I said I still need to give it a few more listens, but I think it'll probably get a well-deserved 9.
Oh and lastly, @R8der 's photo reminded me of what is probably just an interesting coincidence in the lyrics:
And any fool knows a dog needs a home,
A shelter from pigs on the wing.
I used to travel along the railway line you can see in the middle of that photo at the bottom, from my girlfriend's place in West Dulwich to Victoria station in London - as you'd ease in to the city you'd see the Battersea Power Station menacing on your left (at the time derelict and unoccupied, and it didn't have all those new apartment blocks surrounding it) and on the right, this building:
View attachment 83923
The Battersea Dogs Home ...a dog needs a home.
Like I said, probably a lyrical coincidence, but a cool one nevertheless.
I have always thought this album was fantastic, but put it a notch (maybe 1/2 a notch?) below DSOTM & WYWH…I suppose that is the reason why…on the other hand, I love the hard edge on Animals (being a recovering metalhead…)