In 1983, Roger Waters left Pink Floyd declaring the band 'artistically dead.' He abandoned the selling power of the name Pink Floyd in favor of a solo career and artistic freedom. In the following eleven years he has released four albums and has fallen millions of album sales and hundreds of millions of dollars behind the three remaining members of Pink Floyd. Despite these lower sales, Roger Waters' albums stay truer to Pink Floyd's original sound and meaning than the current Pink Floyd because his evaluations of man's position in today's society provoke reflection while continuing with the musical innovations that made Pink Floyd popular.
Following his departure from Pink Floyd, Waters released The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. Just as Animals is an evaluation of society and The Wall is an evaluation of the walls a man puts up to screens himself from others, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking evaluates a man's place in society. The album chronicles a man's journey through his dreams as he has an affair, sees his marriage fall apart, and finally discovers that his marriage is something that he treasures.
The songs, lyrics, and storyline in The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking are not didactic, but rather require close scrutiny for the listener to discern the meaning of the album. This album was a risk --- as were most Pink Floyd albums at the time of their release. This type of album stated artistically what Roger Waters meant for it to convey, but was not guaranteed to sell. The new Pink Floyd didn't take risks or really express anything with their album A Momentary Lapse of Reason. Except for 'On the Turning Away' and 'Dogs of War,' A Momentary Lapse of Reason doesn't deal with any problems in today's society. The album only capitalized on the name Pink Floyd and on the popular music of the time with its pop/rock single 'Learning to Fly' (as discussed in 'Remember a Day').
The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking and A Momentary Lapse of Reason do have one area where they share common ground...their music. A Momentary Lapse of Reason lacks anything beyond a basic rhythm in its songs (as discussed in 'Remember a Day') and Roger Waters takes this lack of nuance a step further by not having any rhythm at all in most songs. In all but a few songs near the end, Waters has only a few notes to keep the pace of the song. This is nothing like any of the songs from the seventies and only shows a lack of effort on the part of Waters to produce an album with relevant music as a complement to the lyrics.
In Waters' next album he makes more of an effort to fit music to his lyrics. The music in Radio Kaos consists mainly of drums and synthesizer. This is a return to the Wish You Were Here album; which is the only Pink Floyd album that has a large amount of synthesizers on it. Waters also adds some things to the music that make this album original. There is a Japanese flute throughout the album as well as a radio announcer speaking in between every song. The announcer, along with the album's topic gives the album character and separates this album from A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell.
Radio Kaos' topic is the absurdity of today's governments and weapons. The album doesn't offer any real way to solve this problem; rather, it evaluates the government and leaves it for the people to solve. Radio Kaos mirrors The Final Cut in that it specifically attacks Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan as 'incurable tyrants and kings.' Waters sees their actions such as the bombing of Libya as 'an act of political entertainment; fireworks to focus attention away from problems at home.' This use of real people and real situations in the music makes the ideas expressed in this fictional album more believable, but a more general approach such as the one taken in Dark Side of the Moon would give the songs additional meaning for more people. A subtopic of this album is also opposition to format radio --- the vehicle that Pink Floyd has used against Water. Stations play Pink Floyd's music while Waters' music gets only occasional airplay. Waters feels that this is the fault of format radio and he champions the cause of renegade radio where anything goes and the station is playing good music rather than the music that will get them money. Despite, or possibly because of, these topics and innovations in Waters' album, Pink Floyd's A Momentary Lapse of Reason and the following tour outsold Waters' album and tour.
In spite of these failures, Roger Waters again produced a serious album in 1991. Amused to Death is an album that deals with war, god, sports, love, television, and money. With most songs, Waters returns to using the general, or fictional case rather than an actual one. By doing this he makes the songs more relevant for everyone regardless of their history, nationality, or social status --- but the album begins and ends with a true story told by Alf Razzell about his abandonment of a mortally wounded Englishman in no-man's-land during World War I. Waters explains the reason for this during an interview with Rockline in 1993 :
...what struck me about Alf Ruzzell was the extraordinary humanity of his story in that he had been living with his concern, having left his friend in no-man's-land 74 years before and that he had carried this kind of burden with him...I think that's one of the great things about human beings, is that they carry those feelings with them, but also, when you hear one individual's experience like that, it lends support to the notion that we need to be compassionate with one another and help one another.
The use of a man's haphazardly spoken story is effective because it gives the other, more general songs added meaning. This type of innovation occurs in The Wall with the neo-nazi rally adding to the story or in Wish You Were Here with the man playing along with the radio in the title song. As the album continues there are many sound bites such as a woman wishing she had gotten a bigger pot, Marv Albert announcing a futuristic war game between a sub and a tanker, or a television evangelist asking his audience for more money to be 'united financially, united socially, united spiritually and in all possible ways through the power of money and the power of prayers.' These bits combine reality with fantasy to show Waters' listeners the insanity of today's television saturated society. This use of sound bites and samples was used by Pink Floyd effectively in The Wall, The Final Cut, and Dark Side of the Moon, but the current Pink Floyd rarely used them in A Momentary Lapse of Reason and they used them ineffectively in The Division Bell (as was discussed in 'Remember a Day').
Along with the use of a variety of sound bites, samples, and backwards messages, Roger Waters has also put more time into producing an album that come closer musically to his works from Pink Floyd's glory years. The songs again contain a melody while not relying totally on one instrument as Waters did in Radio Kaos. The music contains guitar solos, choruses, guest vocalists, and many of the other effects that have characterized Pink Floyd's music. As with most of Pink Floyd's albums, the tone of the album is somber with only the occasional rock sound.
More than a decade has passed since the departure of Roger Waters from Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd has continued to sell millions of albums and sell out 60,000+ seat venues, while Waters has sold less than two million albums and has been forced to cancel shows because of low ticket sales. He has not benefited financially from leaving Pink Floyd, but his albums continue to have meaning while Pink Floyd's have only the scarcest of relevance for listeners. Although Waters produces under his own name, his music --- not the current Pink Floyd's music --- continues the work and tradition begun by the Pink Floyd from the seventies.