Pink Floyd have been going a long time. And that sentence alone is a massive understatement. So here is a brief history. We have the Syd Barrett years, all psychedelic and sixties and quite quite mad. Ironically enough Syd himself went mad and was replaced with David Gilmour and the Floyd continued doing albums.
For me, they didn't come into their own until they released Dark Side of the Moon. Sheer brilliance as many others would agree. And it didn't stop there. Wish You Were Here was just as good but in a totally different way. And the exact same with Animals, which was the first album to reach beyond the topic of insanity and pushed for an Orwellian narrative throughout.
Rodger Waters decided to take a lead role during a period of financial turmoil and as well as aiding in kicking Rick Wright out of the band he came up with the concept of The Wall, a rock-opera masterpiece about a famous musician going mad. If you hadn't guessed already, Pink Floyd liked writing about insanity. After The Wall, Waters continued, focusing his efforts on his fury of the Falklands War. However all wasn't good, Gilmour was unhappy and felt that the direction of the band was crap. And as far as I'm concerned he was right, the album they made, The Final Cut, was kinda dull. In fact, it is the only post Dark Side of the Moon Floyd album I refused a place in my music collection. :o
A few years of nothingness passed and it was thought that Pink Floyd had split up. In fact, Waters had decided to depart due to tensions with Gilmour. In response, Gilmour invited Rick Wright back into the band, jumped onto a boat and recorded an album that would end up being A Momentary Lapse of Reality. Sorry, Reason. Not Reality, Reason. Anyway, its an okayish album, has some good tunes.
In 1995, still under Gilmour's musical direction, Pink Floyd, once again without Waters, jumped onto a boat and recorded another album. The Division Bell was actually a really good album and the perfect finishing bow for what was a long musical career.
And yet here we are, nearly a decade later, with yet another Pink Floyd album in front of me. The Endless River. With a perhaps predictable Pink Floyd-ian cover (simply a picture of some dude taking a boat down a mist-covered river without any clue as to who made the album or what it is called), I'd probably say that this album would be their most important album ever with the legacy they carry. I'm in the belief that the last album done should be fantastic, to end on a high and allow the legacy to drift away without a sour taste of 'well the last album is shit' like most have. And with The Division Bell already achieving this, I'm interested to listen to what The Endless River has to offer.
This bit really pains me. Because I love Pink Floyd. I based the title of my most recent book on one of their album titles.
The Endless River has two things. Atmospheric synths and endless amounts of Gilmour solos. In fact, only one song has vocals. Pink Floyd are known for their vast instrumental parts, or at least they were after Barrett went cukoo. But these instrumental parts are without context or feeling, they're all bland and soulless, samey samey samey samey throughout. It feels like the sort of music you'd expect in the background of a LucasArts point and click adventure game. In fact, fuck it, the soundtrack for Monkey Island II is better than this shit! Everything in this album feels forced as though the band members, even Gilmour, didn't really have their heart set into it and just kind of 'whatevered' the songs into existence.
And all this boils down to the three letter question that surrounds the entire album. WHY? Why, a decade on from their last album which most people saw as a great piece of work and a superb way to finish an already long career, did they feel the need to squeeze another compact disc out of their arsehole? Why ruin a perfect finish with an eternal black smudge? Why bother? I mean, don't get me wrong, there are some things I do like about The Endless River, but they're heavily outweighed by not only the shit things, but a previous career of excellence.
I can guess why. The most likely answer is Parlophone, their record label (dammit, why couldn't they still be signed to EMI so the three letter question could have a three letter answer). No doubt they wanted another slice of the Pink Floyd action before the remaining members fucked off and died and no doubt that was the reason for this album. A huge shame since its done nothing but put a downer on their mostly perfect legacy.
But this album could have been good and that is the painful bit. The music works and despite it being bland and boring, it wouldn't have taken *that* much to jazz it up a little and inject some solidity and excitement into the songs. You'd just have to prize the guitar from Gilmour's hands and point him in the way of the microphone. Without the quality Floyd lyrics, even if they were few and far between in the Wish You Were Here days, it feels like there is a huge hole in the void. Or the wall if you like. Lack of lyrics and substance and passion in the music makes it feel wishy washy. It feels they went into the studio with good intensions but couldn't pull it off. I listen to the album and hear nothing but missed opportunities for an excellent album. Another missed opportunity would be the fact that Roger Waters is still out the band. Wouldn't it have been brilliant for (some) of the original band members to be there for the last Pink Floyd album?
I don't think I want to write about this album much longer. I have a lump in my throat just thinking about it. If you're a diehard Pink Floyd fan, I suppose you already have this album and come up with your own opinions about it. For me, its tepid shite and a colossal shame. If you're looking to get into Pink Floyd, don't choose this album. In fact, avoid it altogether and seek out a copy of Dark Side of the Moon or Wish You Were Here.