Pink Floyd: The Endless River

Disclaimer first: I’ve been a Pink Floyd fan since buying the Another Brick In The Wall single in 1979 at age 11, know their work quite well and can relate to most phases of their career.

So Pink Floyd (or what’s left of them) decided to release their final album The Endless River. It consists of recordings from 1993 from the times of the Division Bell sessions that were intended for an abandoned ambient project called The Big Spliff, finally overdubbed by David Gilmour, Nick Mason and some additional musicians in 2014.

When I first heard about the emergence of this album a few weeks ago, I didn’t expect much. I just finished listening to it for the first time, and though it’s often too soon to evaluate a record after the first listen, I think I was right. With the exception of the last song Louder Than Words, it’s completely instrumental and builds mostly on ideas and motives from their back catalog. You hear sketches and variations on Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Us And Them, A Saucerful Of Secrets and some more (I’m sure I’ll catch some more in further listenings). The problem is that these are the only redeeming moments of the album, but OTOH inferior to the originals. The only song that really stuck was the aforementioned Gilmour-sung Louder Than Words which is quite nice.

In other words, as I feared, it’s a totally superfluous project and a weak testament for one of the most iconic bands in rock history. I’d like to know the motives for this release, IMHO they can’t be artistic.

I know we have many folks here who care a lot about the band, so what do you all think about the album?

I largely agree with you. I think the motive for releasing it wasn’t financial —Gilmour’s turned down enough reunion offers that when he says he’s not in it for the money, I believe him. It’s more about releasing a belated tribute to Rick Wright. It’s pleasant to spin once or twice, and there are a few pieces that made me think, “That would have been a nice Pink Floyd song. Too bad Roger Waters wasn’t there.”

I like it. Regardless of the “why” of the release or whether it’s a “real” PF album, I’m glad to have the chance to hear Rick’s keyboard work again (not to mention seeing him smiling and goofing around on the bonus DVD). And I’ve always loved Dave’s guitar work. In my book it’s a fitting and worthwhile epilogue/coda to the band’s career. Roger’s absence doesn’t bother me at all.

Not so much Waters per se, just someone to flesh out Dave’s ideas into songs.

I didn’t want to imply a financial motive with my question (I don’t think there was), that’s why I’m really curious about the sense of this release. A tribute to Rick Wright is a noble intention, but he deserved better. Of course he plays well here and is heavily featured, but we knew he could play from much better songs and albums. You can tell that there must’ve been a reason why the project wasn’t completed the first time.

Awww, looks like this will be the only album I won’t get. I don’t mind long songs with few lyrics if they’re good but they have to have at least a verse, so I like Echoes, The Narrow Way, and SOYCD, but not Atom Heart Mother. (Instrumental tracks that sound good before the next actual song also get a pass such as Signs of Life.)

But Atom Heart Mother had that magnificent big choir (Ok, no lyrics, but still!).

Right, the Floyd without Roger are like McCartney without Lennon: nice music, but no focus and nothing to say. On the other hand, the Floyd also sucked when Roger got too much control. I eagerly bought “The Final Cut” when it first came out, played it through once, and never wanted to hear it again. Still, they had good a run, roughly from “More” to" The Wall", where the balance between Roger and the rest was just about right, and that produced several masterpieces.

To be honest, I think even “The Wall” might have benefited from having been Rogered a little less hard. On the other hand, things also got pretty bad when the other members were given too much individual creative control, viz. all the tracks on the studio disk of “Ummagumma” that aren’t Roger’s. The Floyd were at their best when they worked as a band, with Roger taking the leading, but not dominant, creative role. (Yes, Dave wrote a few decent songs over the years, but never consistently or prolifically.)

(And then there is the Syd Barrett Floyd, which was another thing again.)

It’s a tribute album by Gilmour and Mason to Richard Wright is all. Basically a sonic soundscape involving the three with a couple of tracks with vocals. Not intended to be huge, or anything really.

[QUOTE=Nonsuch;17899727… and there are a few pieces that made me think, “That would have been a nice Pink Floyd song. Too bad Roger Waters wasn’t there.”[/QUOTE]

That was my impression of The Division Bell as well.

Gilmour has been quite open about why they released this. I haven’t poured over every Gilmour interview the way I would have 25 years ago when I would sit in my room trying to get my acoustic guitar strumming to sound exactly like the recording of Fat Old Sun but I gather that it comes down to a couple of things.

First he has admitted that he isn’t as “precious” as he used to be about the state of recordings released under the Pink Floyd name. He’s come to realise that the really serious fans will get hold of all sorts of stuff and that he’d rather they had the best quality recording available instead of something that’s been copied multiple times on analogue equipment. So we start to get releases such as a special Wish You Were Here that includes live versions of Shine On, Raving and Drooling, and You Gotta be Crazy, the latter two became Sheep and Dogs for the Animals album. In the past that kind of material was only available via mediocre quality bootlegs. He’s come to terms with the idea that it’s ok to have imperfect material floating around as long as it’s the best imperfect material available.

Second they wanted to give tribute to the role that Rick Wright played in the band. I think he probably feels a bit guilty for taking Wright for granted when he was alive.

I haven’t had a really good listen yet, so far it’s been in the car on my commute and a couple of tracks have only had one listen, but I think it is an album for die hard fans. It’s for those who have 10 different live versions of Careful With That Axe Eugene in their collection and probably know more about the band than the band members do.

I think it’s nice to listen to and it’s interesting because it’s a bit of a look inside the song writing process, however it really is just a collection of polished Division Bell out-takes (with the exception of Louder Than Words which is a complete song.)

You can hear that Gilmour had a couple of new toys when they were recording The Division Bell, the Digitech Whammy pedal which he used for the octave “bends” on Marooned and an E-bow which features prominently on Take It Back. The presence of the same toys in the Endless River definitely dates it to the Division Bell era (not a bad thing IMO).

You can also hear that a song starts with a musical idea which is then added to, fleshed out etc. Sometimes one musical idea might be finished off by combining one or more others. Echoes is a very obvious example of this but there would be lots of songs that came about from two or more separate ideas that later become verse, chorus, bridge.

The Endless River reminds me of what I get when I sit down with my guitar, my keyboard, and my Roland RC590 looping pedal. I end up spending 30 minutes or more noodling around, over, under, and through a single musical idea. The end result is something that might sound great, there may be some really nice moments in there, it may have been lots of fun creating it, it may never be possible to create something quite the same again, but ultimately it is a single idea that leaves you wanting a lot more. You want it go somewhere, to get some resolution. It never does because it’s just a single moment in time, existing without having been put through the process of being turned into a “song”.

So the Endless River is, IMO, one song at the end of a polished up collection of musical ideas. That’s not to say it is bad (as I said I think it’s a nice listen), it is just not what you might expect from what’s left of Pink Floyd.

I think it’s good that it was released. Gilmour has had enough of Pink Floyd. There will never be another Dark Side of the Moon, or Meddle, or Wish You Were Here. Even if Waters, Gilmour, and Mason were to work together again, it wouldn’t be like the 1970s. You can’t recapture those moments and I think it is futile to try. There was some left over material from the Division Bell and it didn’t have a home. Rick Wright has died we will never hear anything new from Gilmour, Wright, and Mason. So it’s nice that they saw fit to give the fans what they could. I think it is a tribute to Rick Wright and a tribute to the die-hard fans who know what model transistors each of Gilmour’s Big Muff pedals have. It is not for the casual Floyd fan and I think in this case the definition of “casual” is broad.