The Endless River
Rating: *** (3.25)
Earlier this year in July, many were surprised to hear that Pink Floyd would be releasing a studio album. The album, The Endless River, isn’t exactly a brand new album: most of the album was originally recorded in 1993. Now with newly recorded parts from guitarist David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason, The Endless River not only serves as the band’s official swan song but also as a tribute to keyboardist Rick Wright, who passed in 2008. While this album didn’t need to be released, it’s good that Pink Floyd will finally have some sort of closure.
As mentioned before, The Endless River not an entirely new album. The album was recorded sometime during the time The Division Bell was being recorded. This wasn’t originally meant to be a Pink Floyd project but instead a side project leaning more towards an instrumental ambient sound (so that means with the exception of one track, the entire album is instrumental) . These sessions were referred as “The Big Spliff.” The band considered releasing the album but it was shelved until two decades later. Gilmour and Mason went into the studio to record new parts for the songs, trying to make them sound complete. Bassist Roger Waters, in case you are wondering, is nowhere to be found on this album. Given Waters had left in 1985, he didn’t need to be on this album (though admittedly, it would’ve been neat to have seen Waters contribute to Floyd’s last album).
With it being almost entirely instrumental, it’s hard to review an album like The Endless River. There are 18 tracks, many of which only last for a little over a minute. Even for the CD version, the tracking list is labeled as a four sided album as if it were a vinyl record. Sometimes, the album can be boring to listen to. While songs such as “Unsung,” “On Noodle Street,” and “Eyes to Pearls” have nice melodies, they end up going nowhere else musically. Some songs on the album take a while to kick in. “It’s What We Do” features some great keyboard work from Wright but it’s not until halfway through the song that we hear Gilmour’s screeching guitar. This is also the case for “Sum” and “Talkin’ Hawkin’.” The former showcases all three members playing together while the latter samples words from Stephen Hawking.
I personally enjoy “Skins,” which allows Mason to show off his drumming skills. Wright also shines throughout the album, especially during “Autumn ‘68” which features Wright working his magic on the Royal Albert Hall pipe organ. I also enjoy both “Allons-Y” tracks as they’re the most “Floyd-ish” sounding of the 18 tracks. However, I wish the tracks were longer as both only last for less than two minutes. The album does end on a high note with the powerful “Louder Than Words.” Written by Gilmour and his wife Polly, it’s the only song on the album with vocals. The song is well written and even 20 years after The Division Bell, Gilmour’s voice still sounds great.
While it doesn’t feel like a completed product, The Endless River still manages to be a solid album. As mentioned before, I don’t think it was necessary for this album to be released. The Division Bell, while not intended to be the band’s original last album, did end their discography well. Still, this isn’t a bad album and it is a touching tribute to Wright. My concern for the album is if it will age well. Will people go back to this album years later and say great things about it? For the time being, The Endless River is good for what it is.