When Pink Floyd announced in July that they planned to release a new album, I was filled with both excitement and skepticism on the idea. Partially excitement because Pink Floyd remains one of my favorite musical groups since first listening to “Dark Side of The Moon” at the age of 12. With albums like “Animals” and “The Wall” as some of my favorite albums of all time and also ones that I hold close to my heart, I was skeptical about their new album because of the material Pink Floyd released and the road they went down post “The Wall.” Their story is a classic power struggle between two opposing views on where the band should go. When bassist/vocalist/songwriter Roger Waters left after “The Final Cut,” guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour took on the role as band leader. The albums released after ‘The Wall’ are considered some of their weakest material from the band and even their last album released in 1994, “The Division Bell,” (which I personally liked) was considered a weak ending to a diverse and grand musical career. Nonetheless, to hear that Pink Floyd planned to release their final album for good, whether I felt more skeptical or excited, was something I had wanted to hear.
The album reunites David Gilmour (guitar & vocals), Nick Mason (drums) and Richard Wright (keyboard & synth) posthumously. Roger Waters is absent on the album and when asked about “The Endless River,” he told fans, “I left Pink Floyd in 1985, that’s 29 years ago. I had nothing to do with either of the Pink Floyd studio albums, Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell, nor the Pink Floyd tours of 1987 and 1994 and I have nothing to do with Endless River. Phew! This is not rocket science people, get a grip.”
The album stylistically is a continuation where the “The Division Bell” left off. The tracks on “The Endless River” were actually made from pre-existing recordings from sessions during the time they recorded “The Division Bell,” specifically meant to highlight Wright’s contributions during those sessions and now turning them into new songs and ideas. Just as “Wish You Were Here” paid homage to former band mate Syd Barrett, “The Endless River” does exactly the same for Richard Wright, possibly more so. While this is most likely the last album from Pink Floyd, rather than making a statement about the ending of their career, it is a statement about their friend, bandmate and contributor, Richard Wright.
The album is mostly instrumental and cut up into four sides/pieces, which are each cut up into smaller pieces and then includes three separate compositions: “TBS9’, “TBS14, and ending on “Nervana.” Vocals aren’t contributed by David Gilmour until “Side 4, Pt 4: Louder Than Words,” which contains a similar feel as “Comfortably Numb,” and contains elements of Gilmour’s piercing leads, Wright’s prominent keys and a beautifully as well as powerfully sung hook where Gilmour proclaims, “It’s louder than words, this thing that we do.” Some of the songs on the album feel more like sketches rather than whole ideas, especially the last couple tracks “TBS9” and “TBS14.” While for each of the four sides the pieces flow into each other and make a somewhat cohesive whole, sometimes they just feel too short or don’t go anywhere at all. They could have been extended and more thoroughly thought out. Overall though, when listened to as a cohesive unit rather than separate pieces, you get a much better feel for the album as a whole.
You can hear parts in songs that touch upon every part of Pink Floyd’s musical history such as the saxophone solo in “Side 2, Pt 4: Anisina.” This reminds me of elements from “Us and Them,” and contains the same feel as “Dark Side of the Moon.” The synths on the album remind me of the experimentation on “Wish You Were Here,” and some songs groove just as hard as songs like “Young Lust” or “Run Like Hell” from “The Wall.” It’s not that these are new ideas, but memories of each element that defined them as a band captured in these musical ideas on the album. These are familiar ideas we heard before and came to expect from the collaboration of Pink Floyd as David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright.
I think a lot of people and fans are going to miss the point of this album. The driving point of this album is not their last effort and final statement. Instead, see it as I previously stated: a tribute to keyboardist Richard Wright, an integral part of the band. Instead of scoring or listing songs I particularly liked from this album, I urge you to sit down and listen to the album, cover to cover, the way Pink Floyd intended.
words_mike gardell. album artwork_pink floyd, “the endless river”.