Pink Floyd’s ‘The Endless River’ underwhelms

By Jack Nichols

 

Pink Floyd waited 20 years to disappoint its loyal and cult-like fan base.

The band’s new album, “The Endless River,” released Nov. 10, draws mostly from unreleased content the band recorded when it was whole for the last time. It is a compilation of instrumental tracks from the recording sessions of “The Division Bell” in 1994, which has been spruced up in the past year with additions from guitarist David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason. “The Division Bell” was a failed late-career attempt at proving the band could still function after the loss of front man Roger Waters nearly a decade earlier.

“The Endless River” was developed as a tribute to keyboardist Richard Wright, who died of cancer in 2008. After sifting through 20 hours of music, David Gilmour and Nick Mason created a continuous, flowing four-part album. Mason said that the album was an attempt to recognize Wright and his skills on the keyboard – skills that were crucial to the band’s sound and success. As such, the album functions well enough as a tribute, but also serves to disappoint fans on a variety of levels.

“The Endless River” creates a sound atypical for Pink Floyd, but it fails to really take the band in any new directions. Focusing solely on instrumental tracks, the album produces no standout songs, as the tracks literally flow into each other. This creates a muddled mess of strong keyboard playing and a weak combination of drums and guitar. The album is mostly quiet and ambient for its first 17 songs, with no particularly outstanding tracks.

The album’s only high note rests with the closing track, “Louder Than Words.” Being the only track containing vocals, it is sure to stand out to both casual and attentive listeners. With lyrics written by Gilmour’s wife, Polly Samson, the song shows an attempt at a return to form. Coasting though smooth guitar riffs, relaxing keyboard and light drums, “Louder Than Words” is the closest Pink Floyd comes to success in “The Endless River.”

The track is complimented by smooth vocals that are undermined by weak lyrics. Audiences reach “Louder Than Words” with the hopes that this will be the new blockbuster song, only to be disappointed once again. Traditional, critical and insightful Pink Floyd lyrics have been replaced by the superficial and meaningless lyrics, “We bitch and we fight, diss each other on sight, but this thing we do, these times together, rain or shine or stormy weather.” The song examines the band’s own struggles instead of following the group’s traditional critiques of the outside world and the struggles of modern society.

Due to the very nature of the album, “The Endless River” fails to distinguish itself. The instrumental tracks do not stand out and the album fails to bring forth any signature songs for Pink Floyd. There is no “Wish You Were Here,” “Comfortably Numb” or “Another Brick In the Wall, Pt. 2” present in this album. Instead, the audience is given a set of 18 songs that essentially listens as a single hour-long track. With very little differentiation between tracks, the listener easily becomes lost in the singular atmosphere that makes up “The Endless River.”

Fans of Pink Floyd looking for the quintessential sound of the band should stay a fair distance away from its newest album. However, those looking to hear an album focusing on the work of an amazing keyboardist may be in luck.

While “The Endless River” proves to be a flop for those looking for a new Pink Floyd album, it serves its purpose as a tribute. The album focuses mainly on keyboard and tends to lose the drums, guitar and vocals necessary for a successful Pink Floyd album. Fans looking for the band’s traditional sound will be underwhelmed by this disappointing modern effort by a classic band.

Jack Nichols can be reached at [email protected]