The Endless River Review TL;DR: Not Pink Floyd’s best effort but not a failure either. There are some songs that feel incomplete and some that just don’t fit what I expect from the band but overall it’s worth getting.
I can’t remember the exact date the first Pink Floyd experience hit my ears but I do remember being very young, under age 10 for certain. My older brothers both listened to a lot of 60’s and 70’s rock (what is now called Classic Rock) and Pink Floyd was among the artists they had spinning. Floyd’s dreamy and ethereal tone and vibe were what first drew me in. The music gave me the feeling of flying through a tunnel with just about every human emotion displayed throughout the journey. There have been countless people who claim that you have to be stoned to enjoy Pink Floyd’s music to which I say, poppycock! With the right imagination, feelings of sorrow, inadequacy and longing for joy Floyd’s tunes could launch you into a world beyond this one.
When Pink Floyd first formed they were known as The Pink Floyd which later got shortened to The Floyd by fans and finally just Pink Floyd. Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright took up their instruments to create some insanely psychedelic tunes in the mid and late 60’s. Floyd shows were an unpredictable potpourri of trippy music and homemade lighting effects using an overhead projector. One of the commonalities of almost every band of the 60’s was the use of drugs and The Pink Floyd certainly used their fair share. Syd Barrett was particularly fond of using mind altering substances so much so that he could barely function during shows which led to Waters and the others reaching out to David Gilmour to play Syd’s parts. Eventually Syd just couldn’t function with the amount of dope he was consuming and the band forged ahead without him and placed Gilmour in the lead singing and lead guitar position.
For me the sacking of Barret and pick up of Gilmour was the most pivotal point for The Floyd. Barrett had been the chief song writer for the band, with assistance from Waters and the others. Now with Barrett gone Waters took over that role and brought in Gilmour to help with the music portions. Waters was almost exclusively the lyrical genius but without Gilmour’s musical sense there would be no Pink Floyd as we know them now. The combo of Waters and Gilmour (with some input from Mason and Wright) was on the same level as McCartney and Lennon. While I appreciate the Barrett years for me Pink Floyd really became what they are now when they released the album Meddle. That is where I began my journey with Floyd and Meddle remains my favorite to this day.
The Floyd would go on to produce and record some amazing ground breaking albums and songs such as The Wall, Dark Side of The Moon and Wish You Were Here. In the early 80’s the band had been going through some rough patches when it came to personalties. Waters and Gilmour pretty much had a falling out and The Final Cut was to be the final album all of them would be on, albeit mostly a Waters production with a peppering of the others. In the mid 80’s Gilmour chose to forge ahead with the Pink Floyd name and take Waters and Mason along with him to record Momentary Lapse of Reason, despite objections from Waters and a court battle of the name Pink Floyd (which Gilmour won). Since Momentary Lapse of Reason Pink Floyd has had a few things come out and Gilmour has had some solo projects as well.
Fast forward to today and the reason you’re reading this article now (apologies for the long winded intro), Gilmour and Mason decided to make one final (so they say) Pink Floyd album. With the loss of Richard Wright (RIP) on keyboards I suppose Floyd just couldn’t be Floyd as they should be. The Endless River was built on studio sessions that were never used featuring much of Wright’s keyboards. So much of the keyboard work you hear on the album was recorded by Wright. The Endless River bangs out 21 tracks with the longest clocking in at just over six minutes.
The album starts out in a very Pink Floydesque way, that feeling of dreamy lost in the clouds looking into the world and every emotion known to man. So far so good, it’s what I come to expect from Pink Floyd and that’s a great thing. Through the first few tracks there are no lyrics to be found, so far all has been musical which is fine because I have believed that Floyd’s strength was in their music. Soon you’re down to track seven (“Anisina”) and things start to change just a bit, a deviation from the traditional Floyd I expect. There is still that slight original Floyd sound but there’s also some other sounds I’m just not used to. Onward down to track eight and nine and things become, lighter, for lack of a better term.
The next few tracks take some getting used to, while not horrible they are different and when you first listen you’re not expecting what you’re hearing. On 1992’s “Divison Bell”, Gilmour used the voice of Stephen Hawking on one of the tracks, it was pulled from a commercial and used on the track “Keep Talking.” This time around Gilmour asked Hawking to voice over a new track for The Endless River and the track “Talkin’ Hawkin'” was born. It’s an interesting track but probably one of my least favorite of the whole album. The addition of Hawking’s voice makes it unique but it didn’t grab me like “Keep Talking.” “Eyes to Pearls” is one of the more emotionally heavy tracks, a sense of brooding and sorrow linger in its notes, while short I love the simplicity of the guitar work married around the effects and keys. Ironically my other least favorite song “Louder Than Words” is one of the few with lyrics.
Overall The Endless River is a good album but not my favorite from Pink Floyd. I was truly excited to have a new fresh batch of music from them and was excited to listen to this album. It has taken me this long to write a review about it because I needed to digest it. My first reaction was no, no, no this isn’t what should have been recorded. But I needed to step back and listen again and unpack the 21 track album slowly and dissect each song. Gilmour has been my favorite guitar player since I first heard him many years ago and I have much respect for the man. While I will listen to The Endless River, it is probably one of the only Pink Floyd albums I won’t listen to all tracks of.