By Michael Waller
The history of Pink Floyd is one of the longest and most mystifying in music. Their transformation from sporadic psychedelia under Syd Barrett to out-there prog rock under Roger Waters changed the course of music and continues to shape it through acts like Radiohead and Tame Impala, who owe their inspiration to Pink Floyd.
After the departure of Waters in 1985, the band carried on led by guitarist David Gilmour, albeit to much less success. Now, after roughly twenty years since the release of the band’s last album, “The Division Bell,” Pink Floyd offers a final gift to fans through “The Endless River,” though with the absence of Waters, and Richard Wright, save for one song on which he appears posthumously, the offering seems more like a solo project from David Gilmour than anything else.
Running fifty-four minutes long, the album is largely devoid of lyrics. The opening track, “Thing Left Unsaid,” begins with a vocal sample about unspoken understandings, as well as shouting, arguing, and fighting — two themes explored, though not to a degree of depth, on “The Endless River.” After these vocal samples, the track doesn’t go anywhere, floating along for two minutes before, “It’s What We Do” attempts to recall the ambient genius of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” failing to do so in any meaningful way, as is the case with most of the album.
There are no vocals before the fourteenth track, bearing the most cringe-worthy title in recent memory, “Talkin’ Hawkin’,” on which Stephen Hawking’s appearance seems more like a gimmick than anything else. Sonically, the song is painfully trite with a less-than-epic build up of ooh’s and aah’s that serves only to create a longing for the far superior “The Great Gig in The Sky” coupled with Gilmour’s noodling that leads to an unexpected exhortation from Hawking on the power of language to unite humanity by achieving seemingly impossible goals.
The following song containing a vocal presence is the execrable, “Louder Than Words,” containing such painfully bad lyrics as, “we bitch and we fight/ diss each other on sight,” that make Gilmour’s age clear. On this song he seems self-conflicted, as his claim that the human experience is more important than words runs opposite the current of Hawking’s statements that words and the human experience are intrinsically intertwined.
“The Endless River” is David Gilmour run amok. It is Pink Floyd without any real creative direction and pretended themes. Sonically, it is fifty-four minutes of roughly the same thing: ambient keyboard and mystic drumming from Nick Mason that set the stage for the silk-smooth licks from Gilmour that begin to grow old incredibly quickly. The sound is pretty much standard for what one would expect of Pink Floyd, which, when stretched out to such a length, and holding no real coherent significance behind it, is almost insulting to the band’s legacy.
Michael Waller is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org