Let me start of by saying Pink Floyd has been one of my favorite bands for many years. I own every one of their official albums and a lot of the members’ solo works. But I am not a blind fanboy, and have cringed and criticized when they have put out work below their standards, like “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” and “Ummagumma.” I refuse to accept that trash as listenable. I’m often embarrassed by their presence in my collection.
I will start this review off by saying this is my favorite post-Roger Waters Floyd album. This really sticks to what made Floyd’s music so great in the ’70s, the interplay between Richard Wright and David Gilmour (and to an extent, drummer Nick Mason). They were excellent at creating narrative atmosphere musically, which was key to an album like “Dark Side of the Moon.” The music helped move the concept along on that album.
It also reminds me of their material prior to “Dark Side.” Albums like “Meddle” and “Obscured By Clouds” really came to mind when I listened to this. To better phrase this, it sounded like the instrumentation on those albums (more lighter and upbeat), with the phasing of “Dark Side” that allows each track to bleed into one another.
And this kind of cool interplay is what was lacking on the album these tracks were left over from. “Division Bell” was a good enough album, better than the one that came before it, and had some excellent songs on it. But it just never felt like they were comfortable enough to just let loose musically on it . Which, oddly, “Endless River” does supply. The last time they, as a band, sounded this good was “Animals.” And it’s nice to hear Wright (who died in 2008) playing so well again at the time. Heck, even Mason sounds more confident on the drums.
Now to my critique. This is a fantastic sounding concept album. But there is no concept. There is no narrative. Honestly, if they would have thrown some vocals and an overarching theme (like “Division Bell’s” lack of communication theme, which I thought was fantastic) this would seriously have been the Pink Floyd album I think a lot of fans had been waiting for after the grand implosion of the group during “The Wall” era. It takes you musically to these different areas, but with no map as to what exactly these areas are. It’s like listening to “Dark Side” with no vocals and lyrics. Almost like classical music, but it’s lacking a key component.
The one theme I kind of picked up on was the little winks and nods toward their older work. There are elements from each album (minus the “Final Cut” but nobody expects Rick Wright’s swansong to be looking back at the time he was fired from the band) which is nice. But since this was recorded in 1993, and they had no idea this material would be their last, I highly doubt they were super inclined to give those nods originally and were probably the newer stuff recorded by Gilmour and Mason.
Not every track is great. There are some boring moments (if you’re not a fan of instrumental music, this is not for you. It’s 99 percent instrumental) and some not so good calls at times with which instruments are used and how they are used. The first time I listened to “Endless River” it bored me. The second time I liked it better, and the third even more. I’ve already listened to it more than the previous two Gilmour-led Floyd albums. Which isn’t too hard, seeing that it’s not a very long album.
Now to the elephant in the room. How it ends. I’ve written before that what made “Division Bell” great was it went out with such a perfect track as their final song, “High Hopes.” This ends with “Louder Than Words,” which also is the one song on here with vocals.
And it is no “High Hopes.” Not by a long shot.
The lyrics are OK enough, but it kind of sounds like some world beat song from a .99 cent compilation album you’d find in a gas station. I like the sentiment that it’s about moving on from this band’s historically petty beefs and pays tribute to Wright. But man, it’s just not a well executed song. I’d rather they just ended it on the track before “Side 4: Part 3 Surfacing.” That would have been better.
It’s a nice tribute to Wright, who was a founding member. It’s enjoyable (minus “Louder Than Words”). It’s not the best Pink Floyd album, it’s far from their worst album. It’s a nice farewell and I’m glad they decided to release it.