Pink Floyd – The Endless River
by Jason Levy (Undeclared), published November 18th 2014
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
Despite the fact that it is their final studio release, I highly doubt that people were trampling over one another at Best Buy around midnight to pick up a copy of The Endless River, Pink Floyd’s first album since 1994’s The Division Bell, on release day. While they are definitively one of the bestselling and most influential bands in popular music history, their time, long-lived and prolific as it was, came and went. Pink Floyd, like dozens of other mega-successful bands of their time (think Aerosmith or AC/DC) will never have the same impact today that they formerly did. But then again, that’s not really what Pink Floyd are going for with this album. On The Endless River Pink Floyd chose not go out with a bang, but rather a slow-burning, ambient and striking fuse.
The Endless River is predominately an instrumental project, stitched together from the many bits and pieces of unreleased material recorded during sessions for The Division Bell. The timing really shows, as most of the tracks here sound like they were ripped straight from under the linings of The Division Bell, but I suppose that was the point. There was a total of 20 hours of recorded material to cobble together, not an easy task, especially considering that lead singer David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason (the only constant member of Pink Floyd since its formation) were the only original members of the band present during the album’s making.
The album definitely reads as one cohesive effort; each song flows beautifully into the next with seamless transitions, and the album stays varied enough over its 53 minutes to stay interesting. Your mind will start to wander at times of monotony, but that isn’t the criticism it sounds like. For what it’s worth, there are few repeating melodies or sections throughout the entire LP, and despite the similar sound to their previous album, The Endless River actually feels more like an amalgamation of the many stages of their past work, a perfect way to both sum up and close their monumental careers.
While the album is consistent and unified, the mood of the tracks jumps around frequently, and many of them easily bring to mind an associated location or feeling. “Ebb and Flow” resembles ambient snake charmer music, while “Autumn ‘68” evokes the feeling of walking into a progressive church in full swing. “Sum,” conversely, will either make you feel like you’re in a Hollywood space epic à la Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar or an arcade, depending on your nostalgia value. “Skins” is intense tribal music at its most energetic and primal, and “Allons-y (1)” projects the listener into the middle of a cheesy 80’s movie, riding off into the sunset on a motorcycle as the credits role. Then of course there’s “Louder Than Words,” the closing track, and the only one with and lead vocals. While it is by no means the most memorable Floyd track, it’s a soft, quiet, and soothing way to close off the album, just as they intended.
It’s all quite immersive, but sometimes feels the album feels almost too composed, like the gang is trying too hard, with a lack of laid-back attitude that made “Comfortably Numb” such a mainstay. But considering this is Pink Floyd’s last studio effort, I suppose they are within their rights to give it their all.
Key Tracks: “Sum,” “Skins,” “Autumn ’68,” “Allons-y (1)”