Review: Pink Floyd – The Endless River

Earlier this year, when the news leaked out that there was a new Pink Floyd album on the way, there was a feeling bewilderment among fans, rather than excitement. It simply did not compute, as most people assumed the band was completely defunct. Since the death of Richard Wright four years ago, only David Gilmour and Nick Mason remained as ‘official’ band members, and the latter was never force as a performer nor a composer. And it was highly unlikely that former bandleader Roger Waters had reconciled with the others enough to record with them. So what was this new release to be? It seemed likely that it would just be Gilmour and Mason, like A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987), which is one of the worst-reviewed releases of the band’s long career.

A Momentary Lapse of Reason’s ill-advised inner sleeve

However, it was soon revealed that the album would be mostly made up of music recorded for, but ultimately rejected from, The Division Bell (1994). It was heartening that it would feature contributions from Richard Wright, but at the same time disappointing that music that didn’t make the grade 20 years ago was now considered good enough to release. Many fans were willing to give the record a try, as it was ‘new’ material, and possibly a chance to celebrate Wright’s life and work. But was this album worth reviving the Pink Floyd moniker for?

The Endless River begins just as Dark Side of the Moon does, with disembodied voices floating in and out. This time around the voices are the band members’ own, and they reference band’s troubles over the years. However, unlike the first track on DSotM, which builds to crescendo, this track peters out to nothing. That is an ongoing issue throughout this new release.

The second track ‘It’s What We Do’, is where things really start to get a Pink Floyd vibe, but unfortunately it’s all too familiar. A sixties-esque Hammond organ gives way to ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ synths, with acoustic guitar crashes straight out of ‘Welcome to the Machine’. Later, Gilmour’s guitar screeches in an eighties-fashion like something from A Momentary Lapse. It’s hard to say they were trying to encapsulate the feel of their entire career in one song, or if they were simply out of ideas.

From there, the record ambles along in no particular hurry, from one familiar-sounding instrumental to the next. It is clearly bunch of old tracks stitched together, albeit with a lot of judicious overdubbing. Wright’s influence is apparent, even without reading the liner notes. Before Waters’ takeover, Wright’s input was crucial to the band’s sound. He was responsible for the some of the band’s most melodic, expansive, and other-worldly moments. But here, neither his nor Gilmour’s work is interesting enough to hold the listener’s attention. On the other hand, it’s not quite chilled-out enough to work as ambient music. The result sounds like little more than a dog-standard TV-movie soundtrack.

Listeners might be crying to hear some lyrics, but they should be careful what they wish for. Only the final track is an actual song, but it’s an unsuccessful paean to people overcoming their differences to make music together. It doesn’t seem appropriate, given the circumstances.

We bitch and we fight,
Diss each other on sight,
But this thing we do,
These times together,
Rain or shine or stormy weather,
This thing we do

The word ‘diss’ in a Pink Floyd song is absurd in the extreme, especially with David Gilmour’s mellifluous voice. His voice was always too syrupy for the band’s subject matter, but as the decades have gone by, he now sounds like an aged crooner.

And on that sour note, the album comes to an end.

Overall, The Endless River seems feels little more than elaborate cupboard clearing. It works neither as a celebration of Richard Wright nor as a sombre requiem to his memory. All this criticism will, of course, fall on deaf ears, because Floyd fans are generally very loyal to the band. Or should that be ‘brand’? The album entered the UK charts at number one, but that says more about the demographic that still buys music than the quality of the work.

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Posted on December 15, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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