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Pink Floyd - The Endless River CD (album) cover

THE ENDLESS RIVER

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.36 | 644 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Yo dawg I herd you like "Marooned" so I marooned you in an album full of "Marooned"

I get the temptation to rate this album higher than I would, and perhaps even significantly so. During the sessions for The Division Bell, the Gilmour/Wright/Mason trio recorded a large chunk of instrumental material together, and Wright recorded some snippets on his own that weren't worked into full-band material at the time. Some consideration had been made in the aftermath of The Division Bell of collecting this material and releasing an hour-long instrumental album (tentatively titled The Big Spliff), but the band ultimately decided against it, and this material was shelved. Many years later, after Wright passed away, Gilmour and Mason found themselves feeling nostalgic about their final recording sessions with Wright, and they decided to revisit some of that material. Wright's parts were left mostly undisturbed (though there was some supplemental keyboard work added after the fact), but Gilmour and Mason reworked and added many of their own parts, and they also brought in a good number of session musicians to flesh it out. A curious and potentially intriguing aspect of the material is that, aside from a single new song at the end ("Louder Than Words," which is basically a slower version of "Lost for Words"), the album is entirely instrumental (aside from a couple of sampled vocals here and there), and the instrumental approach often hearkens back as much to the band's pre-DSOTM days as it does to the band's classic period. With the album's strong emphasis on the musical (as opposed to lyrical, which so often has been the main point of emphasis for people in their treatment of the band) legacy of the band, and especially with its emphasis on Rick Wright, it seems like this could work as a nice elegy for the band, and could justify reviving the band's catalogue after it lay dormant for 20 years.

Well, I tried, but I just can't buy into the need for this album to exist. It would be one thing for the various instrumental passages to have some echoes of the band's past, but these passages often mimic the band's history so closely that they sound less like actual music and more like elaborate warmup exercises to help get the band into the right mindset for the material that it would actually record. Among others, this album contains passages that sound like alternate early versions of the following: "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," "Welcome to the Machine," "One of These Days," "A Saucerful of Secrets," "Us and Them," "Comfortably Numb," "Keep Talking" (Stephen Hawking makes another guest appearance) , "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2," and "High Hopes." The thing is, the band did something very similar on The Division Bell, and I didn't mind it as much there: whether the band wants to admit it now, it's become pretty clear through the years that the purpose of much of The Division Bell was analogous to the purpose of much of Wish You Were Here, and all of the various stylistic cribs on that album made sense. Here, without any clear conceptual framing, the album ends up sounding like a series of unfinished fragments superglued together and justified as "atmospheric," and while I'm somebody who tries to give atmosphere the benefit of the doubt, I can't do it in this case. That said, there is an interpretation for this album that I found can give it a little more weight and cohesion: the album could be heard as Pink Floyd on its death bed and seeing/hearing its life flash before its eyes, with all of its various musical memories flickering by before giving way to oblivion. Hearing the album this way doesn't exactly save it for me, but it can make it a little more palatable. That said, even with this interpretation in mind, I still can't get all the way beyond the slight creepiness factor of Gilmour and Co. playing karaoke over a bunch of keyboard parts that Wright wouldn't be able to tweak in response to their suggestions; it's the closest thing in the world of art rock that I can think of to using Fred Astaire to sell vacuum cleaners.

Still, while I find the album unnecessary and a bit of a put-on, there's still something mildly intoxicating about hearing Gilmour and Wright (I'm ignoring Mason because he doesn't distinguish himself; I'd be shocked if that's actually him playing on "Skins," for instance) interacting (in a manner of speaking) one more time, even if it's in the context of second-rate imitations of the band's glory days. I should also note that the album works better as a series of extended suites (split up in the way the LP version splits the material across four sides) than as a series of tracks (often very short) that only stick around long enough to noodle a bit but not long enough to make a great impression. I'd rather listen to this than A Momentary Lapse of Reason (which has some genuinely good material but also a good chunk of material that's much worse than anything here), but if I want to listen to something that reminds me of the glory years of Pink Floyd, then I'll listen to something from the glory years of Pink Floyd.

tarkus1980 | 2/5 |

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