The Endless River
Loss is a recurrent Pink Floyd theme. First there was the loss of original leader Syd Barrett to mental illness. Then Roger Waters, architect of the band’s greatest successes, exited after falling out with his colleagues. Now the remnants of the Floyd, guitarist David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason, revive the band for their first album since 1994’s The Division Bell in order to mark another loss.
The Endless River commemorates keyboardist Rick Wright, who died in 2008. Its 18 tracks, all instrumentals bar one song, are adapted from unused music from The Division Bell’s recording sessions, with Gilmour and Mason laying down new parts and Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera helping to reshape the material.
It opens with an unidentified voice talking about the “unspoken understanding” in the band but also admitting that “we shout and argue and fight like everyone else”. What follows is a series of ambient instrumentals in the spirit of the band’s pre-Wall work, the shifting moods capturing the volatile dynamics of the band’s history.
Some are fragmentary, their origins as studio sweepings audible, but others strike an authentically Floydian note, rising into full pomp-rock majesty or drifting off into graceful reverie. (The working title for the album was The Big Spliff.)
Wright is present posthumously, his keyboards going from grandiose chords to jazzy fills. Meanwhile Gilmour is central to the action, his guitar-playing full of emotional intelligence, its tones alternately inquisitive, mournful, fierce and dreamlike, unfolding with a deep sense of space.
“It’s louder than words, this thing that we do,” he sings in the only song, the stately finale “Louder Than Words”. The sentiment could be taken as an implied rebuke to Roger Waters, the band’s erstwhile chief wordsmith, who fired Wright as a full Floyd member in 1979.
But I sense something else – an act of relinquishment, the final utterance from Pink Floyd in what Gilmour says will be their final album. How fitting that a band so accustomed to loss should close their account with an engrossing elegy to their own past.
‘The Endless River’ is released on November 10 on Parlophone, pinkfloyd.com
Get alerts on Arts when a new story is published