The simple answer is intent. When Gilmour and Mason went about putting this work together, it was done as a conscious final statement from the players who devised the core sound of Pink Floyd. It’s also to some degree a love letter to their dearly departed friend, whose work was largely underplayed for most of the band’s later records.
Roger Waters’ songwriting and creative direction were essential to Pink Floyd’s identity during the height of their career, but the sound of Pink Floyd was never his alone. Just as Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford are Genesis regardless of who’s fronting the band, or just as David Byrne doesn’t sound exactly like Talking Heads without Weymouth, Frantz, and Harrison, the memorable and defining music of Pink Floyd was always chiefly in the hands of Gilmour, Wright, and Mason. The Endless River sees the band doing what they’ve always done best: making jazzy and contemplative rock music.
It’s an odd thing for this album to come 20 years after most of it was recorded, but that doesn’t seem to be of much consequence to Gilmour and Mason. In recent interviews, the band’s two remaining members speak of the project as if, for the first time in a long time, some tremendous weight has been lifted. In fact, the intent of The Endless River is made plain with their closing manifesto, “Louder Than Words”. The lyrics are without a doubt some of the weakest ever to find their way onto a Pink Floyd album. However, the statement of “Louder Than Words” is a poignant one — about friendship, ego, songwriting, and perhaps even public perception as to “which one’s Pink?”
The redemption of this recycled music is in the hands of the fans. For everyone who looks at post-Waters Floyd as glorified Gilmour solo albums, these instrumentals could be what you’ve been waiting for since 1983. For fans of Division Bell, it’s at the very least a killer bonus disc. In the tapestry of Pink Floyd, The Endless River doesn’t end on as powerful a musical statement as Division Bell‘s “High Hopes”, but it does end on a profoundly more personal note for a band that’s taken us on 50 years of incredible sonic journeys.
Essential Tracks: “Allons-Y (1)”, “Autumn ’68”, and “Eyes to Pearls”