Pink Floyd - The Endless River

When the news broke about a final Pink Floyd record, many fans were skeptical. As a life-long fan, I had a different perspective. I think of the band's history in five separate eras: the Barrett era (The Piper At The Gates of Dawn, early singles), post-Barrett era (A Saucerful of Secrets, More, Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother, Meddle, Obscured by Clouds), mid 70s era (The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals), the Waters era (The Wall, The Final Cut), and the Gilmour era (A Momentary Lapse of Reason, The Division Bell, and now The Endless River). When hearing the base tracks for The Endless River were recorded during The Division Bell sessions, I knew what to expect...more Gilmore era music. Regardless, this swan song offers a few pleasant surprises and highlights the one constant throughout all eras of The Floyd...Richard Wright's evocative keyboards.

The first song is an ambient piece titled "Things Left Unsaid" that features a melodic EBowed guitar over synth pads reminscent of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part I)." Then "It's What We Do" fades in (there are no space between tracks) with a Hammond Organ and synth solos again similar to tracks on Shine On You Crazy Diamond. After the drums come in, the classic Gilmour melodic guitar solos begin. Gilmour again uses the Digitech Whammy pedal to slide the pitch up an octave to create a spacey effect (see "Marooned" from The Division Bell) while Wright's array of keyboards continue to develop memorable melodies. The less than two-minute track "Ebb and Flow" finishes out Side 1 (out of 4) with just a Fender Rhodes piano, more EBowed guitar and 12-string acoustic guitars.

"Sum" starts off Side 2 with slide guitar (lap steel) and "Welcome To The Machine" style synths over tom-heavy drum rudiments and Tangerine Dream-esque arpeggiated organThe next track "Skins" is a showpiece for Nick Mason with almost tribal sounding drums (including roto toms) and guitar effects akin to their improvised introduction to "A Saucerful of Secrets" on the Pink Floyd at Pompeii concert video. "Unsung" follows with a little over one minute of synth strings, bass heavy piano and Gilmour's dive bombing guitars. "Anisima" sounds like a refrain from a typical Gilmour era album except with addition of tenor sax and clarinet. Although the horns add a bit of a New Age feel, Gilmour's melodic and spacey guitar solos shine through as an emotional hook.

Side 3 begins with more classic Floydian ambience on "The Lost Art of Conversation" and a lo-fi piano obviously culled from a Wright outtake. "On Noodle Street" is a Fender Rhodes-led slow jam of sorts with more guitar solos and synths fading in througout another short instrumental. "Night Light" features more EBowed guitar and big synth pads providing dark ambient harmonies. "Allons-y" is essentially a "One of These Days" clone featuring slide guitar and electric guitar trading off solo over an upbeat groove and echoed clean guitar. The ominous pipe organ, cymbal swells, and gong of the next track titled "Autumn 68" again brings Pink Floyd at Pompeii and other post-Barrett era music (my favorite era)​ to mind. "Allons-y 2" starts with more ambience and quickly becomes a refrain of "Allons-y." Another obvious b-side from The Division Bell, "Talkin' Hawkin'" rounds out side 3 with a Stephen Hawking sample!  

"Calling" (the only track without Wright) leads off Side 4 with dark synths, low register piano sounds (potentially prepared piano), and fluttering effects. The next track "Eyes to Pearls" builds drama with spaghetti western style twangy and tremoloed guitars. "Surfacing" starts with almost country western acoustic guitars, synths and slide guitar. Vocal "oohs" provide a counterpoint melody to the slide. "Louder Than Words" is the final song on The Endless River and its the only song with lyrics (a smart move). It features 12-string guitars over an appegiated chords. Adult Alternative Floyd is definitely the feel here, but it's a decent song with lyrics about the in-fighting between the members of the band. Side 4 definitely has the most Gilmour-led songs on the album.

If you're looking for a Pink Floyd record that sounds like something from another era, this isn't the record for you. But if you ever enjoyed the more ambient passages of Shine On You Crazy Diamond and even slightly enjoyed The Division Bell, this is definitely a must own. I also strongly suggest purchasing the 5.1 version which includes in studio videos and extra songs. (Prog rock albums in surround sound are a great!)

All in all this is a fitting tribute to Wright, the architect of the Floyd sound and potentially one of the early influences of the space rock and ambient genres.