Music review: The giants call it a day

Pink Floyd closes a chapter in music history with their new album that isn’t really new

Fyez Ahmed December 14, 2014

It’s strange how 140 characters have the power to awaken an entire spectrum of conflicting emotions. Elation, hope, optimism, regret — all these emotions were in play when Polly Samson, wife of Pink Floyd’s present leader David Gilmour, tweeted this July that the Floyd would be coming out with a new album in November. This would be their first studio outing in nearly 20 years and it would also be their last. The music world drew in a collective breath. Dreams do come true and they have a soundtrack — it’s called The Endless River.

To understand Pink Floyd’s final record, one has to know that it’s a record of largely ambient music and instrumentals. Only the last track, ironically titled ‘More Than Words’ has lyrics, save the robotic musings of Dr Stephen Hawking in ‘Talkin’ Hawking’ ala “Keep Talking” from The Division Bell. This is no coincidence. All the 18 songs that have made it on this record are actually fragments that did not make it onto that 1994 record, but that the band decided to re-play, re-master and release as a tribute to Richard Wright, Floyd’s keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist who died of cancer in 2008.

By the time ‘Things Left Unsaid’, the first track, is a few seconds in and you hear that ambient swell, leading in to the jingly jangly sound effects, there’s a singular thought that goes through your head: “It’s so Floyd.” And it is, unmistakably so. There is something about the band’s ability to trademark disjointed sounds where even if a portion were sampled into layers upon layers of unrelated music, the trained ear would know the original source, or at the very least, cite the inspiration.

Members of the band Pink Floyd during their early days.

Gilmour stated in an interview that The Endless River is a “21st century Pink Floyd album.” It does not come across as such at all. The entire album seems to be reminiscent of the days when Roger Waters was still at the helm, before the mansions and the antique car collections. Back when the band was playing impossibly long, improvised sets — to make up for their lack of rehearsing — to crowds in London comprising of spaced out teenagers tripping on LSD. Listen to ‘It’s What We Do’ and you hear ‘Wish You Were Here’. Listen to ‘Allons-y’ and there’s the unmistakable riff of ‘The Wall’. ‘Eyes to Pearls’ brings forth ‘A Saucerfull of Secrets’, as does ‘Skins’. For the uninitiated listener this will seem like a record without direction. For the rabid Floydians this will be a time machine.

And so ends the final chapter of one of the greatest and most successful bands in the history of music. A delicate swansong to lead in a new era that will continue in their absence. However, just like a river seeps into the earth, so will the legacy of Pink Floyd. The Endless River and everything that precedes it will be immortalised as an inspiration for the future — the source from which all things grow.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, December 14th, 2014. 


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