It has been slightly more than twenty years since the release of the last album by Pink Floyd. In the last two decades, one of the founder members, Richard Wright sadly passed away. The Endless River is seen as a sort of tribute to the easy, melodic style that typified his output during the earlier years of the band and a sort of swan-song for the group as a whole. Most of the material on The Endless River is a collection of sessions, demos and other unreleased material mostly recorded for The Division Bell back in March 1994. There is also a section recorded as far back as 1968 which will delight their fans across the world. The Division Bell was the second album since the group split during the 1980s from original member Roger Waters, a driving force in the band’s former glory years and responsible for most of the lyrics on their work.
Enough of the past. How does the album sound and more importantly, is it even necessary? Your answer is going to depend to a large degree on how much of a fan you are. There are many who would buy anything with the Pink Floyd name attached. For these fans, this material is absolutely wonderful - an insight into the creative process and the deft but assured touches that David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright brought out during those sessions. The tracks all flow together in a way that one would expect from Pink Floyd and the album cover actually fits rather well with the music. The artwork is simply a metaphor - as befits Pink Floyd. It is left for you to decipher its meaning. As to how you feel when you realize mostly all of The Endless River is instrumental will again be down to the individual. Sound quality, mastering and production on the album are what you would expect from Pink Floyd - absolutely superb.
For myself, I found the album wanting. Yes, the music is nice but it never really feels like anything other than Pink Floyd simply going through the motions. For me, it is a little too obvious that a lot of unsubstantial music was worked up into shape simply for this release. Tweaking music that was weak in the first instance has not improved it. One or two of the pieces would have worked better with some vocals although judging from the lyrics on the one and only vocal piece, maybe that wouldn’t have worked out so well. Again, if you are a real Pink Floyd fan, it’s all going to be good.
As a listener to Pink Floyd for more than thirty years, I am not sure I would have wanted this as their epitaph - it’s simply more a gentle whisper than a statement. There were a good many occasions when I felt that tracks simply meandered away and were not really memorable in a way I would expect from them - simply because they were always a band that set the bar so high. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of former glories - there are. Gilmour's playing is emotive and melancholic, Mason's understated percussion suitably accompanies Richard Wright's keyboard playing. The artistry is all there - it's just that the whole album lacks cohesion. While there are moments that are pure Pink Floyd, there are just too few to do the band justice. The final track, featuring a nice vocal from Gilmour is unfortunately spoiled by utterly dreadful lyrics.
The Endless River pales away compared to say ‘Meddle’, ’The Dark Side Of The Moon’ or ‘Wish You Were Here’ but at this point would it really be fair to expect that kind of quality? I think not. I imagine most fans will be grateful for what they got - which is to say not a great deal, but again, it’s down to the individual and how much they love Pink Floyd. For myself, The Endless River is far from a classic but serves its purpose very well in as much as it acknowledges the creative input of Richard Wright and gives Pink Floyd fans one final listen to one of the best rock bands of all time.