Pink Floyd – The Endless River

 Pink Floyd – The Endless River

Reunions and re-releases aplenty in our world today…and in 99% of those cases I’d usually advise some caution…but of course, 99% of those bands are NOT Pink Floyd.  Welcome back to your favorite, flawless band – they haven’t dropped an inch in creativity, tone or execution.  And while many of these songs come to us from the B-sides and writing sessions of their massively well-received album The Division Bell, every track on this album is completely all-new to all of us; if you’re still looking for a reason to turn up your volume in 2014 – Pink Floyd have certainly just laid one on us.

There are a couple things you’ll need to know here before we continue.  First and foremost – this is IT; this is ALL we get – this is the FINAL Pink Floyd album according to David Gilmour and his crew.  Following the death of their immaculate keyboard player Rick Wright, this album serves to highlight much of his contributions to the band.  While his posthumous work dominates and creates much of the swirling atmospheric texture you’ll hear on The Endless River, it left most of this album untouched by vocals…and my ‘peers’ in music-journalism scratching their heads for the right things to say.

And I don’t mind being the first to tell you – they’ve missed the mark entirely.  We live in a sad, sad world of music-reviewers that can’t digest music without words to spell out how they’re supposed to feel about the song; they’ve called it unimaginative, boring, meandering, self-indulgent…and they couldn’t be more wrong.  For all their publicized battles – Pink Floyd has ALWAYS been a band deeply shrouded by mystery and the unclear; and if you were to ask this particular music-reviewer, there couldn’t have been a more appropriate send off for one of the world’s most important and influential bands.

And so, yeah, SO WHAT if it starts in the absolutely quiet?  The average ear might not even hear a thing for the first fifteen seconds of the album…hell, maybe there IS just space at the beginning…consider that a reprieve from Pink Floyd before taking you into their universe completely for the next 65 minutes.  But as the opening track “Things Left Unsaid,” opens with a vocal sample & tranquil atmosphere – it’s impossible to deny that chill down the spine just nearly two minutes in as the song begins to gain ground with all its Pinkified-beauty.  Simple, perfectly-played guitar against the atmosphere.  “Things Left Unsaid,” could just as easily double as a title for the entire history of Pink Floyd – for you haters out there, I say you’re simply lucky this didn’t span out to be the ONLY song on this album.

For those looking for the classic mastery of Pink Floyd – you truly have to listen no further than track #2, when “It’s What We Do,” kicks in.  This contains that signature heavy melodic and space-like groove that PF literally made famous over the years.  TRY and find me another – there is NO OTHER Pink Floyd; while we all might want to throw that into our influence section on our social media (Cause it’s STILL true, no matter WHO you are…) – I still don’t believe I’ve heard a single band or artist come close to the clarity, tone, sound and songwriting of this legendary band.  “It’s What We Do,” shows that real bluesy aspect of Gilmour’s immaculate guitar playing; this is a man that can make those strings TALK – so again, I BEG of my peers to actually listen to what’s going on here…no words are necessary.

There’s an isolated feeling that can only come with the ending of a career, and the death of a dear friend – and it’s all over this album.  Tranquil moments, led by the keyboards of Rick Wright like the ones found in the short & sweet “Ebb And Flow” really go a long way to help you appreciate that despite the years of chaos in this history of this band – when it came time to make the music, they always found a different gear entirely.  It’s relaxed, but aggressive and all at the same time – check out the following track “Sum” to get a feel for what I mean here…you can’t imagine Pink Floyd ever really bursting into a sweat, but regardless, putting this much of your genuine heart & soul into something like this would leave you physically AND mentally exhausted by the end of the day.  “Sum” feels nearly like a nod towards that…a track of sonic adventure through the musical landscape of which Pink Floyd have roamed so freely…right to the final breakdown, and into “Skins.”

Again – to address my ‘peers’ for a moment….I just want to make sure I’ve got this straight….you’re telling me you somehow all actually LISTENED to this album and came to the conclusion that there’s nothing NEW to be offered here?  Why?  Cause the songs were written long ago?  If timeline is their only measurement tool…we’re in a worse state than I had previously thought…  LISTEN to “Skins,” and the thunder than Pink Floyd is bringing into the mix here!  For me, as a fan of the entire Pink Floyd catalog no matter which era you want to reference in their history – I can safely say I’ve never heard them quite hit the tribal beats as well as they have here, in what is TRULY one of the MOST diverse tracks you’ll find in their catalog from their overall sound.

“Unsung” is righteously awesome.  Gilmour plays screeching and vibrant guitar tones over a oulsing atmosphere in this extremely short interlude…but as a guy that could listen to this guitarist sit down and play all the right notes all freakin day long – what can I say other than that I was personally extremely happy to see cuts like this make their final album, when many might overlook these gems completely.  And then what?  They’d never have been heard?  That concept is beyond me.

As it blends into the beginning of “Anisina” you’ll probably notice one really significant factor…that uncanny ability for Pink Floyd to make a cohesive album that still contains a tremendous amount of diversity in sound.  Though each piece manages to find its way to perfectly compliment the songs around it, the changes in sound happen so effortlessly that you drift through ambient, rock, synth and ballad sounds without straining your eardrums for a single moment in time.  “Anisina” is one of the more ‘upbeat’ songs on The Endless River…and while I do appreciate it as much as the rest…I’m a bigger fan of when Pink Floyd finds themselves venturing into the unknown of the ‘Dark’ side…

With that being said – here’s comes my favorite point on the album so far, the ingenious combination of “The Lost Art Of Conversation,” and “On Noodle Street” back to back.  These two tracks work incredibly well together, both short cuts, but MAN do they fit well together!  The piano-led, slow pulse of “The Lost Art Of Conversation,” is a heartbreaker without any words and left to your own imagination.  There’s so much of the theme of communicatory breakdown over the body of work of Pink Floyd…you can’t help but somewhat feel badly for them despite all their success.  Their failure to communicate as a band of individuals has always been incredibly well documented sonically, through their music.  As “On Noodle Street,” carries on immediately where “The Lost Art Of Conversation” ends, the bass takes on the lead and supplies a steady, impactful groove…it’s distant…way out there in the space again…and a complete stand-out track that really comes out strong, and as perfect as you could ask for.

“Night Light,” is a track that I can hear would divide a few of us out there.  With its innovative mix, a lot of those signature emotion-filled Gilmour guitar notes come way, way up in the mix.  It’s melodic, beautiful and personally I love hearing these notes bend and resonate the way they do.  Against Rick Wright’s perfect backdrop, it seems like Gilmour has never been able to do anything wrong…what a shame in the sense that we’ll never hear these two be able to play together again, but what a gift to have this final album.

“Allons-Y” = Pink Floyd at their most familiar.  This track could have very well fit onto The Dark Side Of The Moon, nevermind The Division Bell.  Classic theatrics of PF here all throughout in one of the most up-tempo tracks you’ll find on this hazy-dream of an album.  Before I was kicked out of French-class once and for all, I still managed to retain about 5 or 6 partial phrases….”Allons-Y” was one of them…as far as I understand it, it means something like “Let’s Go,” in English…a perfect title for this moving track.  After a brief excursion into the organ-laden, ominous –sounding “Autumn ’68,” you end up in the second half of “Allons-Y (2)” which sends you right back into the intensity of the first half.  Again, you have to admire not only the writing and playing of the songs, but the production and the entire layout of this album as a whole.  The insane talent they’ve always had for drifting and melding track into track…”Allons-Y (2)” starts with a completely subtle intro carrying on from “Autumn ‘68” before launching into one of the most vibrant guitar solos and structures you’ll hear on The Endless River.

Hmmm.  I wonder if ‘Ooooooos’ and ‘Ahhhhhhhhs’ count for those out there that desperately NEED some vocals…if so, MAN is “Talkin Hawkin’” the track for YOU!  All BS aside, this track is pure brilliance.  A clear reference to their own past work, as well as of course Steven Hawking and their shared views of space & time…you get a ‘speak & spell’-style robotic voice delivering you some wordage…important information here for sure as it all completely ties into the history of their band.

As “Calling” begins into its swirling, somewhat devastated atmosphere…I can’t help but imagine what other reviewers were thinking when they pushed play on The Endless River….were they expecting an up-tempo pop-rock album for some reason?  Pink Floyd goes Emo perhaps?  Like, C’MON – aside from the lack of vocals – this is all Pink Floyd at their very focused best, creating an album that has real emotional depth through tone & sentiment, playing and assembly.  Were the vocals of Barrett, Waters or Gilmour ever the REAL draw of the music of Pink Floyd ANYWAY?  I really don’t think so.  They’ve always fit…but it’s never been the lynchpin.

“Eyes To Pearls,” is another quick departure in sound from PF as they dive into a HUGE sound filled with blank-space.  This is a band that has always completely understood that the space in between notes is just as crucial as the notes being played…and the result here again in “Eyes To Pearls,” is that the mood, tone and feel matching every aspect of the song perfectly.  Again, so many of these songs serve to perfectly set-up the next one coming, and this is no exception; as they play on into “Surfacing,” they stumble into a real gem here.  A little bit on the lighter-side, excellent rhythm and lead guitars really working well with the baseline vocals harmonies…still no words, but they certainly help tie it all in together in that perfect Pink Floyd way that only they can make happen.

Now, unless you’ve got the bonus edition of the album, your experience with The Endless River will stop at this next track, “Louder Than Words,” where Pink Floyd, and Gilmour finally let the vocals rip.  Even I’ll admit, it’s fantastic to listen to – I’m certainly not going to mock it for simply having vocals – they come through as excellent as they always have…melodically intuitive and with the familiar rasp/whisper you know and love.  And as far as send offs go…it’s about as perfect an ending as you could ask for.  If the instrumental beginnings of this album confounded you…they spell it all out for you here in this final track…again, this is a track that encompasses the entire legacy of the journey of Pink Floyd.  For a band that has nearly seemed hell-bent on convincing us of their own inability to communicate…I sure seem to at least feel like I’ve never missed a message in their music…it all comes through crystal-clearly from lyrics to music, every time.

If anything…I might have maybe should have stopped at this point myself, as the assembly is perfect.  As much as I appreciate the three bonus tracks of “TBS9,” “TBS14,” and “Nervana,” if I was listening to The Endless River as a whole entity, I would have wanted each of these tracks to occur earlier within the album, but as they’re bonus tracks…you can’t really fault the songs for feeling slightly out of place in comparison to the mighty assembly contained within The Endless River.  Each of these three tracks really do extremely well to present the ‘jam’ aspect of Pink Floyd…we forget that, just because their tracks come out like the immaculate conception itself, that they all still have to start somewhere.  These three tracks, especially the latter two, “TBS14,” and “Nervana,” really help you appreciate that this band was legendary for about a million reasons; and they could truly do it all.  As these jam-style tracks carry out the final sounds I’ll hear from Pink Floyd…it was almost like they took it back to the very beginning at the very end, giving you a glimpse into the very magic that made them.

I know this review has been lengthy…and thank you for sticking with me through this entire rant & rave.  A band this ingratiated into our very musical fabric for now and for all-time deserves as epic send off, and despite what those other reviewers are telling you out there, Pink Floyd gave us their own epic finale here with The Endless River – the very least we could do was get to the heart of this album in full, and say THANK YOU Pink Floyd, for the new incredible music, and for the entire catalog of life-defining music they’ve created along the way.

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