The Endless River – Pink Floyd
In most people’s list of rock gods Pink Floyd are likely to be there in the top echelons. But which Pink Floyd?
There are many amongst us who feel that the original band was the bees-knees and lost much when Syd Barrett lost his way. They hit popular acclaim when stereo systems came within the reach of every man, The new record production technology enhanced their mumblings and doodlings and made the sounds moving from speaker to speaker exciting – better, anyway, than those God awful records of steam trains that we used to balance the speakers of our new systems.
But Roger Waters is now brooding Achilles like in his tent. Richard Wright who was forced out of the band during the recording of the Wall and whose contribution to Floyd’s musical oeuvre is perhaps under-rated, alas, died in 2008 and Storm Thorgerson, who designed their album covers – remember album covers? – pegged it in 2013. So essentially we are left with Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason, slim pickings indeed upon which to base a 15th and, according to Gilmour, final album.
What we have here is a rather touching tribute to Wright and is essentially a rework of some outtakes from the 1993 album, Division Bell. This statement should immediately give us some pause for thought in that the Division Bell wasn’t one of my favourite albums – they declined after Wish You Were Here, in my view – and you’ve got to wonder about something that didn’t make the final cut. But there are no turkeys in this collection and it makes for a pleasant if unadventurous listen. The trade mark Floyd features are trotted out – Gilmour’s ethereal and sparse guitar work, Wright’s keyboard work and Mason’s metronomic drumming. All the tracks are (broadly) instrumental with only the final number, Louder Than Words, featuring lyrics – written by Gilmour’s wife – although we have Stephen Hawkings reprising his contribution to the Division Bell in Talkin’ Hawkin’.
Indeed, the album is self-referential – the opening piano riff in Anisina sounds distinctly like the opening to Us and Them and Skins with its heavy rhythmic drumming is very reminiscent of Saucerful of Secrets. I’m sure if I listen through the album a few more times I will discover other quotations.
Is this what you expect from an album that is in the top 10 selling albums of 2014 and was the highest selling vinyl album of the year? There is some comfort in sticking to your knitting and there is no doubt that Floyd do what they do well. Production is crisp. It is a sonic delight and will test the dynamics of your speaker. But, despite the title, this album marks the point at which the band has exhausted the well of their collective talent.
Not a shoddy farewell and given Wright’s travails with the band it is fitting that they should remember him in a similar way to the Crazy Diamond. But to bail out now is the right decision.