It’s safe to say that a vast majority of today’s popular music wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Pink Floyd. Of course their influence doesn’t really stretch through to the “popular” Top 40 music of today, but it does wrap itself all around a majority of rock music. The highly successful London group formed almost 50 years ago and have gone on to sell in excess of 250 million records worldwide. Most people will know and recognize the likes of A Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, with the latter featuring the classic Another Brick in the Wall. There’s so much to say about the legacy that Nick Mason, David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Syd Barrett have left on the world of music that it’s hard to pick and choose what to include in this article. This year, Pink Floyd (or what’s left of them) announced a surprise album called The Endless River, which originated from sessions at the end of the Division Bell-era circa 1994. Despite no involvement from Roger Waters (who has found fame of late with his massive The Wall stadium show), The Endless River is still Pink Floyd through and through. Read on for a full review.
Spanning a total of 18 songs and 52 minutes (over four sides), it’s by no means a short journey down the river. In fact, with The Endless River set to be their final ever album, it seems quite apt that it’s so long. Album opener Things Left Unsaid begins with vocal samples and ambient noise, as a whole host of reverb and waspy synths help the record proceed on a subdued note. A lot of the album (which also features 3 extra bonus tracks) is instrumental and ambient, with a clear focus on hypnotic noise and melody. A sitar makes an appearance towards the end, swirling beautifully around an organ-esque synthesizer as very faint percussion enters the frame. It’s What We Do follows with a haunting church organs and an equally ambient mood which is led by another horn-esque synthesizer. It picks up some pace 80 seconds in as proper percussion joins in alongside a jubilant melody and some classic Floyd-sounding guitars. It might be fully instrumental thus far, but that really makes no difference. Sometimes no vocals are just as good an alternative, with It’s What We Do being extremely beautifully crafted. A splicing guitar solo jumps in and out of consciousness throughout the remainder of the track, before seguing into the short interlude of Ebb and Flow. This one is more piano-centric, with spacey sounds and a reverb-laced xylophone taking the lead. It sounds more like a child’s lullaby which has been given the Mason and Gilmour treatment, as a nylon acoustic guitar provides some substance alongside the layered keys and ambient noises.
Sum kicks off side two of the album with blurry synths and a jumpy melody straight out of an acid trip, as a haunting distorted guitar makes way for a pounding bass drum and wavy solo. You can sense a bit of urgency here, as the ambient hypnotism of side one is laid to rest. This sounds more like Pink Floyd at their best, even if Sum doesn’t get much more exciting than its first two minutes. The absurd drones and wails of Skins follows, with the sense of urgency even more noticeable. This is where the percussion really enters the foreground as crashing cymbals and loud snares accompany a whole host of tribal drumming and eerie noises. As the song slowly dies down, 60-second interlude Unsung proceeds to introduce some horn-like synths and another splicing solo. Dark piano chords and an occasional wailing sound make way for side two closer Anisina, which showcases happier piano chords and a more solid structure. Each side on The Endless River can be considered its own mini-EP, as they all demonstrate rather different sounds. Anisina gets very glorious and anthemic around halfway with a harmonica taking the lead alongside a cacophony of instrumentation. A trumpet leads the song towards its end every so sweetly, before the guitars take over one more time.
Side three opens with an eerie piano melody on The Lost Art of Conversation, which is given substance thanks to the flowing river samples which underpin it. It segues into the jazzy On Noodle Street, encompassing marimbas and a mellow synthesizer. Night Light (which is now the third consecutive track shorter than two minutes) proceeds to make use of another sitar as faint strings crescendo in the background every now and then, before Allons-y (1) introduces us into classic Pink Floyd yet again. The Wall-esque guitars and a less ambient feel help the track travel along quite nicely, before more church organs take the helm on Autumn ’68. This one is darker and more haunting than its predecessors, even if it is only 90 seconds long. It’s followed by Allons-y (2), which is equally as interesting as (1) is, mainly due to the splicing, effects-laden guitars and underlying synths. Talkin’ Hawkin’ brings side three to an end with a very unorthodox special guest in physicist Stephen Hawking, who contributed vocal samples to this ambient song. It’s the first song on the album to actually feature some sort of vocals, as calm choir-like vocals feature in the background.
Calling opens the fourth and final side with bleeping synths and another eerie melody, before the short Eyes to Pearls sees a nice plucked guitar melody take the lead. It gradually builds up throughout its course, with bombastic drums adding some interest and ensuring the song doesn’t tail off. Penultimate song Surfacing does much of the same, with plucked guitars and whooshing ambient noises preceding some “ooh’s” and “aah’s” from Gilmour and co. helping the song achieve an emphatic ending. A total of 16 people were involved in bringing The Endless River to life, with closing track Louder Than Words being the only non-instrumental track on it. Spanning just over 6 minutes, this one sees Gilmour sing “we bitch and we fight, diss eachother on sight” before claiming that “this thing that we do” is what ties the band together. Unsurprisingly, this is the best song on the whole album simply due to the fact that there are actually some vocals. As the song comes to an end, it all gets rather epic with another splicing solo from Gilmour. It might not be the most bombastic ending to band’s career, but it has certainly done them justice.
The Endless River may be 90% instrumental and sound quite repetitive, but it does the job and is exactly what you’d expect it to be – a coherent album from Pink Floyd.