Pink Floyd - The Endless River
by Rob Scott
While I love Pink Floyd in concept (I mean, who doesn’t? Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, all that), I must admit that I wasn’t buzzing for this latest – and probably last – release from the veteran prog rockers. In my opinion, they haven’t released a really great album since 1977’s Animals. Note, I exclude 1979’s The Wall: a vastly overrated, unfocused hodgepodge of half-decent prog anthems alongside pop-rock filler. Since then, they have released some of their most tame, uninspired material, often in an embarrassing genre that can only be called ‘Dad-rock’. The fact that The Endless River, their first offering in almost 20 years, is essentially instrumental reworkings of off-cuts and outtakes from The Division Bell, probably their worst album, makes for a hardly appealing advertisement. I had low expectations. Pink Floyd are a band of the past.
The concept of The Endless River is a unique one among Pink Floyd’s back-catalogue. The album’s eighteen tracks form four ‘movements’ of continuous music, falling mostly around the two minute mark; desperately short for a band whose tracks have occasionally stretched to over twenty. The tone of the album is largely ambient, with old recordings of Richard Wright, the band’s late keyboardist, brought to the forefront. Bar the last track, and a monologue from Steven Hawkins, the album is entirely instrumental.
The first track grabbed my attention: a sparse, short, beautiful Sigur Ros-esque synth piece with an acoustic guitar lead played with an e-bow. It sounds like an introduction, or a build up to something good. It almost whet my appetite… But then the second, third, fourth, fifth tracks slip by with further offensively inoffensive pieces which just sound like intros or aimless brief jams. They start, then stop. David Gilmour’s guitar leads are sounding tired and lazy, despite his immediately recognisable style, with each solo immediately forgotten, even after repeat listens.
The first track to sound bold and ‘of itself’, rather than as a transition track or intro, is Anisina, coming at the end of the first movement. Unfortunately, it is the album’s most memorable moment for all the wrong reasons, falling flat on its face with the most unbearably cheesy sax solo, joined by an equally obnoxious guitar lead. I found myself turning the volume down in embarrassment, in case someone heard what I was listening to and questioned my credibility as a music fan. It sounds harsh, but seriously.
For a ‘progressive’ band, they’re painfully static. On Noodle Street features the same bass riff, the same drum beat, the same key chords, and wildly uninteresting guitar ‘noodling’ for its brief entirety. There’s nothing to be excited about. The track Allons-Y, a regrettable regression to the Dad-rock sound of The Division Bell, appears twice on the album. Why, I have no idea. Once was more than enough. The second occurrence cannot even be called a ‘version’ as it is almost indistinguishable from the first.
Vocals don’t feature on the album until the last track, with the lyrics recounting the band’s famously rocky internal relationships. It feels as if the album’s been building to this point. Will they redeem themselves? Will one track on this album not disperse aimlessly into the ether? But then Gilmour, in a depressingly weary voice, sings the skin-crawlingly cringey first line:
We bitch and we fight, Diss each other on sight, But this thing that we do… It’s louder than words.
Who says “diss” in a song and gets away with it? Whichever speaks louder – the “thing that they do” (music, I guess) or their “words” – both are equally uninspired. Few of the songs are horrible, but equally, there’s little to enjoy in listening to such a seminal band fade so dully and lazily into non-existence.