There are going to be two distinct camps on either side of The Endless River. One side is going to see this album as a lazy collection of snippets which weren’t good enough to make it onto an album the first time around, but are now worth paying money for in the vacuum created by time and a lack of any new material. On the other side are those fans like me who will see it as a rather fitting (likely) end to an incredible legacy of work.
There are no suprises on The Endless River. I can’t imagine anyone who isn’t already a fan buying it, and I definitely can’t imagine anyone who isn’t already a Floyd fan enjoying it. Geeks will thrill over nods to old albums such as the Stephen Hawkings voiceover on the prosaically titled Talkin’ Hawkin’, the throwback to Atom Heart Mother via Autumn 68 and the intro of Sum bringing Time clearly to mind. I thought I was listening to an extended instrumental into Shine On You Crazy Diamond on the second track It’s What We Do, a highlight for me, along with the tense synth backing of Unsung.
Low points for me were the musak quality of Anisia and a fairly random fragment The Lost Art of Conversation, which doesn’t quite fit, but seems to be included in order to display a nice piece of piano work by deceased keyboard player Richard Wright, in whose honour the album was supposedly put together.
The band’s waves of psychedelic sound and Nick Mason’s melodic, echoing percussion become hypnotic when unbroken with lead vocals. Final track (and only song to feature lead singing) Louder Than Words was, for me, an uneccessary addition. Gilmour’s wailing, string bending guitar throughout feels like going home – or perhaps more accurately, feels like going to Mark Hobart’s basement at age 16, skinning up and listening to Floyd at full volume to cover the crunching of endless packets of Doritos (suuuure his parents didn’t know what we were up to).
As with all later Pink Floyd albums, The Endless River is lacking in the edge and substance that Roger Waters’ angsty lyricism brought to the table. However it is a well-produced and atmospheric nostalgia trip that allows the group to fade away in classic prog rock style, rather than burn out. And that’s not a bad thing.