OK, we're here less than 2 months, and I'm about to break a cardinal rule of Dave's Place: I'm reviewing an album I can't say, hand-on-heart, that I genuinely like.
"The Endless River" (nice title, although I don't see how it applies ... and I really don't find myself motivated to find out ... although the unbreaking flow of each track to the next might be all there is ... I dunno ... or care) is a major disappointment ... as an album. If this was a carefully assembled bonus CD in a Pink Floyd box set, fair enough. I could very well be mildly raving a bit about the odd track.
It clearly has had a lot of work put into it. It is finely mixed and engineered, sounding pristine and suitably nebular.
It may be good as background music, but for what activity I have no idea, and I doubt I'll have it playing often enough to discover what that activity is.
Michael Engelbrecht of Manafonistas.de (good stuff! Investigate!) doesn't like it, and already is calling it "the worst album of the year". I wouldn't go that far, myself. However, I can, knowing Michael, understand why he wouldn't like it. He alluded to an article by Andy Gill (of The Independent - one of the best UK newspapers that manages to have one of the worst websites - my browser goes into slow motion if I have more than a couple of tabs open at the same time when I visit it ... so I rarely do: probably why I read The Guardian more) and one I discovered Michael felt motivated enough to join in on an "argument" that was precipitated by Gill's opening remark: "Ah, now I remember why punk had to happen." That irked me, too, I must say. The reverence shown to punk as a "movement" is ridiculous. Was there a corollary moment where "new romantics had to happen" in response to punk? Not at all. Punk was something that happened at the right moment, alright, but aside from The Sex Pistols and a few others, it mostly happened in the heads of a few journalists, albethey influential ones. The music we now regard as punk has its classics and its rubbish, much like any other genre. Saying that Pink Floyd needed to be eradicated by punk is like saying The Sex Pistols needed to be eradicated by Kylie Minogue. Or better yet, by Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. But I digress (as I so often do).
"The Endless River" is simply too amorphous to be considered an album. It is effectively a remix made of spare parts. Obviously, it is meant as a tribute to Rick Wright, but that doesn't elevate it as music. For what it is, it is fine. But what it isn't is an album. The musicianship on display is great, as always, but the compositional side of things is almost completely absent. As Gill points out in his review, "On Noodle Street" is an unfortunate, yet utterly descriptive title for everything that goes on here. Until "Louder Than Words" arrives. It's a SONG. The lyrics made me cringe: that use of the word "diss" annoys me immensely, for example. Aside from that, it sounds like Pink Floyd, yet it does so in a way that makes it seem inauthentic.
Leaving all of this behind, what is most interesting about the album - in the long run - is the fact that it has generated such interest. Massive pre-orders, already Spotified into submission, swirling through torrents and clouds, and appearing when you're about to have a qualified stranger poke around your gums or remove bits of your hair - previously unlikely scenarios for "The Floyd" to appear in the past 30 years (except when the odd track popped up on BBC Radio 2).
For all that I could say about why I think it's not a great album by any measurement I can come up with, there's a part of me that likes it a little. But only a very tiny miniscule little. I would still rather listen to "Atom Heart Mother" or watch "Live at Pompeii", or bask in the holy trinity of "Dark Side Of The Moon", "Wish You Were Here" and "Animals". For me, the only "new Pink Floyd album" that might have worked would have involved Waters, Wright, Gilmour and Mason as a unit. And even then, from all the evidence I've heard since "The Wall", that would have done little to improve matters. Sometimes, when you have a band as distinctive, a band that has achieved so much, as Pink Floyd, it is better to snuff the flame rather than desperately try to keep the remnants of the wick alive without wax.