Parlophone [Release date 10.11.14]
A new Pink Floyd album – 4 sides of ‘new’ material – fan-tastic! Or is it?
The hype, or at least expectation, surrounding the release of The Endless River – the first Floyd album since The Division Bell 20 years ago – would have you believe so, but the truth is this is not a Pink Floyd album.
There’s been too many other cooks in the kitchen in its making, namely Phil Manzanera, Youth and David Gilmour’s wife Polly Samson. Culled from the cutting room floor of the Division Bell sessions, stitched together initially by Manzanera, tweaked by Youth and then garnished by Gilmour and Mason, and with Samson providing the lyrics to the only ‘song’ on the album, hopes may have been set unrealistically high.
It’s when you see the track listing that it becomes apparent just what a tapestry The Endless River is. Only two tracks hit the six minute mark and an alarming nine clock in at less than two. Of course they’re all seamlessly segued so that it’s not apparent on blind listening, but it does serve to demonstrate that this not a lost masterpiece.
‘Ambient’ is a word associated with the album, and for good reason – the material meanders gently along, and while all rivers eventually reach the sea this one never gets there. It is, of course, as Jeremy Clarkson would describe the latest Lamborghini, very beautiful – wherever you choose to dip your toe, and yes, there’s echoes of days of yore – like of Wish You Were Here on ‘It’s What We Do’.
But once you’ve pressed ‘play’ (or dropped the needle in the groove if you’re an audiophile) it’s strange how, unlike most releases these days, there’s no temptation to press ‘skip’. There may be no great ‘wow’ factor, but the blurred reflections of the band’s past are, in equal measures enthralling and comforting. It does, however, have to be listened to as a piece. The Endless River is not an album for dipping in or out of, or hitting the ‘random’ button.
First impressions were, I’ll admit, underwhelming, but each repeat listen reveals new depths. It may not be a new Pink Floyd album – in truth they were done before The Wall came down, with The Division Bell doing little more than keeping the brand alive.
And it may not be the epitaph fans were hoping for, but in some ways it is, nevertheless, a rather fitting swansong and final salute to Richard William ‘Rick’ Wright (28 July 1943 – 15 September 2008). ****
Review by Pete Whalley
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