Pink Floyd is one of the greatest bands of all-time and very few can debate this fact when one looks at their discography. For a band to release one record with the resonance of The Dark Side of the Moon would be an astonishing feat, however, why not add Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Wall just to show how bulletproof Pink Floyd’s legacy should be? Fans thought the band was done forever, with The Division Bell being the group’s last full length album 20 years ago, but The Endless River spawns from unused recording from that album, and the Roger Waters-less band decided to give fans one last look into their legendary output before saying goodbye forever. Like most comeback efforts based upon lost or recorded footage from decades before, it should have disappeared and never been released.
If you have an open mind for what The Endless River could present to the world, it is a decent effort. However, people do not buy Pink Floyd albums to get a decent effort. The instrumentation and song writing is fairly similar to what one might expect after The Division Bell. The guitars are solid as ever, bass is heavy and imposing, and drums are there to add a little dimension. The major difference between The Endless River and past efforts is the format. Resorting to story telling from the instrumental perspective, there are no clean vocals until the very last track. For the most part, there is a simple story to follow. A lot of space travel, war, and technological themes are present in all four acts. None of the acts are bad, but none really shine aside from the Stephen Hawking dedicated act which is fairly stout.
Part one is the longest act, utilizing a more majestic and whimsical set of instrumentation. The drums are faint in the distance along with softly strummed guitars, while the light drones and brass sections are the most boisterous segments, which is fine, but not completely interesting either.
Part two shows a much darker set of tones, introducing a powerful piano that breathes more energy into the album, as well as the guitars starting to pick up the pace, and the drums become a bit more stout, too. The act starts out with an ominous attack, followed by a fight to the skies, and a climax as the hero marches off after saving humanity.
Part three is the finest of the acts, being the most lush and concise musical passage. Coming closest to the most classic form of Pink Floyd, the rock atmosphere is more present while sections of organ and electronics give a good level of depth. Even if some segments are much too short and choppy, “Talkin’ Hawkin'” is the best track by a mile. This loving tribute to one of the brightest minds in science is what fans would expect from such an intelligent band, splicing soft piano aside vocal samples of Stephen Hawking praising what humanity can strive to become.
The closing passage is the most decidedly uneven part. The first two tracks are so slow to build toward anything tangible that it becomes a frustrating wait, but the result to end is worth it. “Surfacing” is a brilliant and hopeful track, giving a deep sense of hope and faith for the last instrumental of the album. The main problem is the closer, “Louder Than Words.” This is the only vocal led track, which is much worse at telling a story than the instrumentals before it. The lyrics are too vanilla for a band known for heady and smart songs, feeling suffocated by it’s simplicity.
Pink Floyd is not going to have a problem with taking a hit on their astounding legacy with The Endless River, but this is an easily forgotten record from one of the best musical acts of all-time. The concept fails to pay off as much as it should, the story is a bit too vague to be greatly appreciated, and the instrumental segments never quite live up the the hype a Pink Floyd album should. Despite being a passable effort from talented musicians, only hardcore fans should really navigate this endless river.
1. Things Left Unsaid
2. It’s What We Do
3. Ebb and Flow
8. The Lost Art of Conversation
9. On Noodle Street
10. Night Light
12. Autumn ’68
13. Allons Y(2)
14. Talkin’ Hawkin’
16. Eyes to Pearls
18. Louder Than Words