It’s no secret to those who know me that I am a massive fan of Pink Floyd and have been since the age of about 10. I got teased about it, and then when people got sick of Avril Lavigne, I became really cool all of a sudden. Kids are weird.
Anyway, I was obviously really excited about The Endless River, but also kind of nervous – it’s their ~LAST ALBUM~, so I almost didn’t want to listen to it in an attempt to fool myself that the band would last forever. Except, in a way, they will last forever. Pink Floyd are one of the greatest rock bands of all time, from their psychedelic 60’s beginnings in the UFO Club, to the departure of the beautifully mad Syd Barrett, to The Dark Side of the Moon, the game-changing album with the longest-running chart presence ever recorded, and The Wall, a wonderful and terrifying rock opera that delves in to the dark depths of madness and beyond, following which Roger Waters left the band in a storm of diva dramatics. Their legacy is enormous. However, that was decades ago. The Division Bell was released fairly quietly after Waters’ departure, and Gilmour’s solo work has attracted comparatively little attention. So I really wasn’t sure what to expect with this one.
When my friend asked me about it a couple of days after its release, I said, eloquently, “It’s…nice?”
It is nice. It’s gentle, and soothing, and relaxing, for the most part, with the odd exception. It’s not a bad album. It’s not completely mind-blowing either.
It has all the Floyd hallmarks – long, melancholy, reverb-y guitar riffs, suspenseful build-ups of intensity, and atmospheric synths on a bed of cymbals and simple basslines. However, it uses these old, familiar sounds, and sticks to them exclusively. There are definite stylistic nods to The Wall in ‘Allons-y,’ and ‘It’s What We Do’ could be a joint reprise of ‘Welcome to the Machine’ and ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ from the album Wish You Were Here. It’s a bit like a scrapbook of old riffs and synth noises that’s been cut and pasted together to create something which is vaguely different to what you’ve already heard, but ultimately there isn’t a new note in the whole album.
Most songs fit together seamlessly, another stylistic feature of the band’s previous work. However, some of the tunes (such as ‘Anisina’) sound a little tired and cliched, and with only one vocal track out of 18, it’s dangerously easy to tune out for a little while. Nevertheless, most tracks hold some interest, and are generally well-excecuted. A personal favourite is ‘Sum,’ a driving, intense tune that sounds uncharacteristically angry and breaks up the first half of the record nicely. Featuring Gilmour’s vocals on just one track at the end also builds up excitement toward it, and ‘Louder Than Words’ doesn’t disappoint. He still maintains his smooth, liquid phrasing, but his voice has gotten considerably more gravelly since we last heard him sing. It works though; it gives the song a bit of an edge.
I’ve always said that there is no band in the world that can capture the feeling of longing that Pink Floyd can, and this is no different. The Endless River is an album of longing, for days gone by, for old friends – indeed, ‘Things We Left Unsaid’ is the vast, dreamy opener of the album, with lots of reverb and thoughtful space between notes.. Ultimately, it’s a tribute. Keyboardist Rick Wright was tragically taken by cancer in 2011, leaving only David Gilmour and Nick Mason left in the band.
At the end of the day, Pink Floyd are not a band seeking to expand their horizons. They are not heading in new directions, they are not seeking to widen their fan base, they are not changing the world, although they have done all of these things many times.
Pink Floyd are retiring.
So while I wasn’t blown out of the water by the Endless River, I completely understand that this was never their intention. David Gilmour and Nick Mason are two old men, shaken by the sad death of their band mate Rick Wright, who looked at each other and said: “Go on then. Once more, for old time’s sake.”
And that’s exactly what it sounds like: a farewell. A wistful nod to albums and band members past that reminds us one more time of the legendary group, whose influence has spanned decades and will never be forgotten, before the legend is laid to rest. It’s by far not their greatest work, but a fitting end to an awe-inspiring career that changed the face of music forever.
The Endless River is out now via Parlophone Records.