Pink Floyd: The Endless River

Ryan Reed on November 6, 2014

Pink Floyd’s fifteenth and most likely final studio LP fizzles out with “Louder Than Words,” a cringe-inducing arena-rock ballad that’s more comfortably numb than “Comfortably Numb.” “We bitch and we fight, diss each other each on sight/ But this thing we do” sings frontman David Gilmour, referencing his longtime bandmates (drummer Nick Mason, late keyboardist Richard Wright) between by-numbers electric guitar squalls. “The sum of our parts/ The beat of our hearts/ It’s louder than words.” Gilmour and lyricist Polly Samson clearly envisioned this six-minute piece as a thematic swan-song for the psych-rock legends—suggesting that, in spite of the band’s endless internal combustion, they’ve always managed to fall back on their true strength: conjuring mesmerizing atmospheres.

That sentiment rings hollow on the lukewarm “Words,” which awkwardly misfires in an attempt to canonize the Pink Floyd Sound with recycled riffs and on-the-nose lyrics. But it speaks volumes elsewhere on The Endless River—a fluid, 53-minute suite that finds Gilmour, Mason and a gang of co-producers (Phil Manzanera, Andy Jackson, Martin Glover) breathing new life into “The Big Spliff,” a set of unreleased ambient material recorded during the sessions for 1994’s The Division Bell.

The results gently re-explore territory from the band’s ‘70s prime—from Wright’s blissful, “Welcome to the Machine”- like synth on “It’s What We Do” to the Dark Side-styled gospel-rock of “Anisina,” filled with sultry piano and saxophones. Elsewhere, the trio ventures into intriguing new terrain, planting seeds for where they could have gone next. On percussive showcase “Skins,” one of Mason’s finest achievements in the Pink Floyd catalog, the drummer blends tom-tom flourishes and marching snares into a tribal texture. “On Noodle Street” saunters into a jazzy Fender Rhodes groove; “Things Left Unsaid” updates the band’s textural drift into a modern post-rock setting, with eerie e-bow piercing through billowing clouds of reverb.

Closer aside, the album is purely instrumental—a series of bewitching widescreen soundscapes. And ironically, the synthesizers, guitars and drums emphasize Pink Floyd’s strengths more than “Words” ever could. At its most transportive, the band’s music has, indeed, always spoken louder than words—arriving at a place of sonic spiritualism. The deepest gulfs of The Endless River are defined by that same distinctive yearning. It’s a tranquil coda to a turbulent career.

Artist: Pink Floyd
Album: The Endless River
Label: Parlophone / Columbia