It’s taken me a little while to work out how I feel about this album, and it’s taken me even longer to find the words to express those positive and negative feelings. However, despite sort of working out what I want to say, this review may be a bit waffle-y, so bear with me, and we’ll get through this together.
In 1993, Pink Floyd (minus Roger Waters, the bassist and main lyricist) released their album ‘The Division Bell’. An album that many believed to be the last the band would release under the Pink Floyd name. However this year, over 20 years later, they have released their fifteenth studio album, and I think it’s fair to say that this is most definitely their final effort. This swan song of an album is titled ‘The Endless River’.
Now, Pink Floyd have been my favourite band for years, ever since I first listened to their ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ album, but when I heard they were releasing this I was a little worried. I was worried that it would end up being a disappointing end to such a larger-than-life career. And it kills me to say it, but I think I might have right. However, then I think about it again, and I listen to the album again, and I just keep changing my mind about it.
Being an almost fully instrumental album, it of course lacks the biting and emotive lyrics of their other works (as did ‘The Division Bell’, since Waters was not involved in it). Those poetic lyrics were one of the main reasons Pink Floyd had such a huge influence on the genre of rock and the music industry as a whole. While you can’t say that Gilmour, Mason and Wright are lacking in their respective musical areas (as they are all musical geniuses), the lack of lyrics/the quality of the lyrics present, means that this album just doesn’t compete with their other efforts. If you look past this, however, and listen to the music created by these three men, it’s very easy to become confused in your opinion. They truly are incredible musicians. And it’s not like Pink Floyd are strangers to instrumental pieces, almost all of their albums feature at least one lyric-less song, and some of these songs are among the best they’ve ever created. E.g. “The Great Gig in the Sky”.
While this album may not be the best that Pink Floyd have ever created, there are a few select pieces within it that really are great examples of the band’s talent. Gilmour’s guitar work is on form as always, with its emotive screaming and crying, Mason is there with his reliable beats and fills (apart from “Skins”, where he really shows his talent), and the late Richard Wright’s piano pieces are as understated and beautiful as they’ve always been. “Sum” is probably my favourite piece on the album; its style is reminiscent of their ‘Animals’ and ‘Meddle’ albums. With heavy, distorted guitars and pounding synthesisers, it’s most definitely the stand out track for me, along with its immediate successor, “Skins”, which musically references their chaotic, instrumental song “A Saucerful of Secrets” with its extravagant drums and squealing guitars. As for a lot of the other songs on the album, they generally fade into one as it moves on. Admittedly, the more you listen to it the more differences you notice, but first impressions go a long way, and this album gave a bit of a lacklustre one. But like I said, it’s definitely improved the more I’ve listened to it.
The one thing I’m the most disappointed about is the final song, “Louder than Words”. It’s the only song on the album to feature lyrics by the band (more specifically David Gilmour and his wife), and it’s honestly just not that great. It’s a good song, I’m certainly not saying it’s bad, but it just doesn’t have the grip or focus of the other pieces. It’s just a bit too bland in its performance and lyrics than a Pink Floyd song should be, and there’s actually very little emotion put into it, considering that it’s essentially their farewell song. I don’t know… maybe with time I’ll appreciate it more. I will applaud it on its title though. “Louder Than Words” could easily be seen as a dig at Waters’ lack of contribution to the album and the critics of the lack of lyrics (me included), but I think it’s also putting an emphasis on the fact that while Gilmour, Mason and Wright aren’t strong lyricists, it’s the feeling and power they put into their music that counts. It’s louder than words.
So I guess that’s my rambling view on ‘The Endless River’. It’s pretty clear to see that my feeling about the album are pretty conflicted, but I hope you can get a sense of what the album is like through this piece. Before I say goodbye, I wanna add just one last thing.
I love that every song features a style or motif used in one of their old albums or songs. From the eerie and chaotic ‘Saucerful of Secrets’ to the political and angry ‘Animals’, or the philosophical, all-encompassing ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ to the despairing and brutal ‘The Wall’. Every album features somewhere in ‘The Endless River’, even if it’s just a clip of church bells ringing or a particular tone of electric guitar. So, if you think about it, this album is an attempt to encompass almost 50 years of musical history into one farewell. I guess if you look at it that way, they didn’t do a bad job. In fact, I think I can say that it’s a pretty good effort.
Shine on, Pink Floyd.