Today, Nov. 10, Pink Floyd released their fifteenth, and likely last album, The Endless River, making the record the legendary band’s swan song of sorts. As with the trend of their recent outings, Roger Waters is not present, leaving David Gilmour and Nick Mason to jam with the ghost of Richard Wright. The new collection of songs is an intriguing dip into the pool of Pink Floyd’s brand of atmospheric rock, directed by Gilmour’s fierce leadership and musicianship.
The entirety of The Endless River is instrumental, with the exception of a few random vocal samples, one of which was provided by Stephen Hawking, and the final track that Gilmour lends his voice to. This immediately creates a difficult space for Pink Floyd to occupy, one that runs the risk of boring the audience quickly and one that must be maintained at all times to remain consistently interesting. A poorly written instrumental record can suffer heavily from listlessness, droning on without much motivation or direction. An exceptionally written instrumental record does the opposite: the instrumentation removes a need for vocals by expressing the same emotion and telling the same story. Pink Floyd’s new record falls a bit haphazardly in the middle of the two.
The Endless River, Pink Floyd’s potential swan song, struggles to remain interesting throughout. At times, it feels like an hour-long excursion through Gilmour’s guitar technique. That is wonderful in some ways, because Gilmour is one of the greatest guitarists alive. The final product, however, proves a bit less fruitful, because the album as an entirety drones on a bit as a result. There may not be a place for this record outside of soft background noise to everyday activities since it is difficult to remain captivated by.
The band has claimed that the record is a final tribute to Richard Wright, the Floyd keyboardist who died in 2008. He performs on many of the songs, since they used lots of outtakes dating back to the early 1990’s. In this regard, The Endless River makes a lot more sense. The droning nature of the album becomes endearing when this sentiment is realized, because Wright’s significant contributions to Pink Floyd’s music were in the realm of instrumentation and devising the unique sound of the band. Since the whole record embodies the band attempting to recapture that experimentalist musicianship, it can act as a beautiful tribute to a lost friend and talented band mate.
With all of that said, The Endless River is a haunting record, one worthy of being Pink Floyd’s swan song. The tracks are mystifying and introspective by nature, with the end of the record, Louder than Words, a fitting goodbye. It is a track reminiscent of the band’s glory days with Gilmour’s vocals, and is much more impactful after a full album of voiceless soundscapes. As Neil Young once famously sang, “it is better to burn out than to fade away.” Many bands of Pink Floyd’s era fall into the latter category with endless greatest hits tours and horrible modern albums. If this is indeed the last outing of the legendary group that brought us Dark Side of the Moon, then it is a fitting swan song. The Endless River is an endearing goodbye, one that allows Pink Floyd to burn out bright.
Review By Brett Stewart