Pink Floyd highlights what might have been

Published 4:09 pm Saturday, November 15, 2014

Let’s get the obvious out of the way now: Pink Floyd’s “The Endless River” isn’t going to join the annals of classics like “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here” or “The Wall.”

But no one expected it to.

“The Endless River” is Pink Floyd’s first album since 1994’s “The Division Bell” and it’s reportedly the band’s last act, according to guitarist David Gilmour in recent interviews. The album has long been called a swan song and opus for keyboards Richard Wright, who died of cancer in 2008.

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The album is mostly taken from 1993-94 recording sessions around the time of “The Division Bell,” and the vast majority of the album features strictly ambient/instrumental music.

I’ll be the first to swallow my pride and admit “The Endless River” is better than I expected. At its weakest moments, the music sounds like a dated 1990s soundtrack. In its strongest moments, it’s a somber, subdued piece of nostalgia.

In fact, the music often feels like an eery memory of the band; Gilmour’s guitar shimmering at times like lost notes from “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” Nick Mason’s drums pounding ahead at peaks like lost rhythms from the band’s famous Pompeii performance, and Richard Wright’s keyboards adding atmosphere and shimmers of effect throughout.

What’s missing, obviously, is Roger Waters, the bassist, vocalist and lyricist who left the band in 1985.

The band is famous for its fights — many involved Waters — and this past instantly comes to mind on “Louder Than Words,” the only song featuring vocals. Gilmour, with lyrics written by his wife, Polly Samson, focuses on the band’s in-fighting and is a fitting career-closer if this indeed proves to be the band’s final studio album.

Unlike the late Waters-led albums of the 1980s, “The Endless River” is an album of collaboration. This music proves what most fans have suspected for decades: The band had a lot left to play if it could have collaborated and co-existed.

While this album showcases the band’s musical precision, skill and unique style, it lacks Waters’ angst that added an extra element to band.

Many of the songs feature eery reminders of the band’s prior albums. “Anisina” opens like a rendition of “Us and Them” before changing into something more like a triumphant film soundtrack. “Allons-y” surges forward like something off “The Wall”

If it feels like Pink Floyd sounds like a shadowy shell of their former selves on “The Endless River,” but the album still manages to serve as a keen reminder.

When I first heard about this Pink Floyd album, I was all sorts of curmudgeonly, writing in a previous column like an old man yelling for this old band to get off the lawn of my new fangled music. But I’ll swallow my pride and admit the band melted through my icy skepticism.

This album is not something just thrown together to make money. And it’s not a classic, but Pink Floyd has released something here that honors the band’s legacy.

Take it for what it is and enjoy it for what it is.

“The Endless River” track listing

1. “Things Left Unsaid…”

2. “It’s What We Do”

3. “Ebb and Flow”

4. “Sum”

5. “Skins”

6. “Unsung”

7. “Anisina”

8. “The Lost Art of Conversation”

9. “On Noodle Street”

10. “Night Light”

11. “Allons-y (1)”

12. “Autumn ‘68”

13. “Allons-y (2)”

14. “Talkin’ Hawkin’”

15. “Calling”

16. “Eyes to Pearls”

17. “Surfacing”

18. “Louder than Words”