Set the controls for the heart of every Pink Floyd fan: We’re celebrating Roger Waters’ highly anticipated return with a week of Floydian features that will make you wish you were here forever. Today, the staff collects the band’s songs that aren’t so obscured by clouds.
The time to reconsider and reaffirm our appreciation for Pink Floyd could hardly be more apt. Not only does this summer mark the 50th anniversary of the group’s acid-tinged debut, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, but it also brings us the return of former Floyd lynchpin Roger Waters in the shape of a concept album entitled Is This the Life We Really Want?.
That question, vague yet pointed, reflects the kind of prompt the band excelled at during their ‘70s heyday. Waters, along with David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright, and, briefly, Syd Barrett, set their controls for the heart of, well, the heart, feasting on the chemistry that fuses the intellect with the soul. They pondered the difference between heaven and hell, contemplated England’s destiny with Orwellian overtones, and explored the outermost reaches of a genre — psychedelic rock — that threatened to grow stale after its late-’60s peak. The 1970s were the years of Vietnam, Watergate, and Britain’s emerging populist right. Pink Floyd found ever more inventive ways to address this widening gyre of chaos and cynicism, whether through the tension of being and non-being in Waters’ lyrics or the sense of space-age isolation in Gilmour’s breathtaking guitar solos.
Why does all that matter now, though? Because time, my friends, is cyclical. Because for one glorious day this summer, residents of Chicago will look up and see four golden pigs obscuring the name TRUMP and think, for a moment, that no image could be more fitting. Because a band that taught our parents everything they ever needed to know about the insanity of modern life makes a lot of sense in the fucked-up world of 2017, when pulling the sheets over our heads or taking the longest bong rip we can muster sometimes seems like the easiest solution.
Waters’ latest effort may not go on to have the same cultural impact as Animals or The Dark Side of the Moon or even The Final Cut, but at the very least it stands as a reminder of his former band’s potent creative flame. In the interest of keeping that flame healthy and alive, we’ve revisited Pink Floyd’s 20 greatest songs in the following list. This isn’t the place to bask in deep cuts, but rather to celebrate the most undeniable, timeless compositions of the band’s six-decade-long career.