By Nikki Pena
“The Endless River,” by Pink Floyd, has brought the band, minus Roger Waters, back from a pile of ashes into a glowing phoenix. Listening to it brings back memories of how my love for Pink Floyd has defined me as person.
Every avid music lover has an awakening, or a slap in the face that will get them on the right path to find what they truly love. For me, that happened when I was 12, a goth-wannabe living with my grandparents during the worst year of my life. My grandma was my best friend, but at the time, she was overprotective, and I was a hormonal nightmare in the midst of puberty.
I wanted to get my grandmother a Christmas gift. It couldn’t be just anything, it had to be special. I struggled until I overheard a phone conversation between her and my mother. Talking about their impressive vinyl collections, my grandmother expressed how upset it made her that she lost her vinyl record of “The Dark Side of the Moon,” when her best friend, and roommate, snapped it in half, in the heat of an argument, almost 40 years ago.
I thought the name sounded cool (my seventh grade mentality), so I looked it up on the computer. I might not remember my exact reaction, but I do remember thinking, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.
So I went through her vast C.D. collection, full of “new wave” and ambient treasures like Enigma, Enya, Yanni, as well as a lot of classical, instrumental, jazz, and opera. “The Dark Side of the Moon” wasn’t in sight. I saved up my change and bought her a special-edition copy.
Our friendship was restored on Christmas morning, which we spent listening to her new C.D., my grandma excited beyond logic. “You know why the clock noises come in at such a weird time? They were really stoned when they made this,” she said, coming from a woman who used to play classical music to her many house plants to “make them happy.”
I share this story because this is how the new generation of “Pink Floyd” fans are bred. We may never see them in concert, but we have aging fans that teach us to appreciate the band’s music. There are a plethora of musicians and bands, of all different sorts, of which Pink Floyd is their main source of inspiration, opening the doors to hundreds of new genres. Floyd is so much more than a sensation or a cult, it’s a groundbreaking movement in rock-and-roll history.
“The Endless River” is almost completely instrumental, the exception being the song “Louder than Words.” The group didn’t deviate much from their usual intimate sound—the relaxing, ambient, drawn-out synthesizer with carefully calculated drum beats, boldly outlining mesmerizing guitar riffs—which is comforting for fans.
As close as they come to sounding like a compilation of their complete discography, all songs are unique and provoke new feelings in the listener, with different concepts to match their weathered lives. Concepts include coping with bad relations, reminiscing about the good ol’ days (“Autumn ’68” and “Louder Than Words”), finding the voice of reason ( “Talkin’ Hawkin” was a series of sound bites by Stephen Hawking), and coping with the death of beloved bandmates.
It’s been 20 years since the release of the group’s last studio album, “The Division Bell,” which, like their previous albums “Momentary Lapse in Reason” (1987) and “Delicate the Sound of Thunder” (1988), did not make nearly as big a splash as “The Wall” (1979) or “The Dark Side of the Moon” (1973).
When Rogers left the band, in 1985, three things happened. Both Waters and Gilmour started solo careers. Gilmour and Nick Mason, the drummer, rehired keyboardist Richard Wright, who was fired, before they started working on The Wall. Then Waters sued Pink Floyd for using intellectual property of the music he created with the band and props used during their tour of “The Wall.”
Both Waters and Gilmour experienced nearly the same success in their personal endeavors. However, Pink Floyd struggled for a couple decades. Richard Wright died, in 2008 and, four years later, Waters admitted regret for suing his former bandmates. “The Endless River” was made as a tribute to Wright, yet Waters still refused to have any part of it. At this moment, the twenty-first-century “Pink Floyd” album is topping the charts in the United Kingdom.
“Things Left Unsaid” is the first song, starting out with a delay like “The Dark Side of the Moon.” Within the first 30 seconds, you hear sound bites of Richard Wright’s voice—an eerie effect.
Each song has a spacy balance of tremolo, synthesizer, chimes, slide guitar, and chord progression. Then, you get occasional bursts of percussion. Returning to my grandmother’s comment about their “stony time measures,” I’m not saying I’ve ever thought of them as unpolished, but you do get the feeling that they’ve gotten sharper over the years.
The album is short in length, but worth its weight in gold. The songs are separated by “sides,” each side having its own introduction. This does not mean that the disc is double-sided when you purchase it. The “sides” imply sides to a story, and each song is a different part.
The band are known for having biographical themes in their albums, like “Wish you Were Here” (1975), a tribute to Syd Barrett, and “The Wall,” which was based on Roger Waters’s own life. It makes sense that six years after the death of Wright, they dedicated the first “Pink Floyd” album of the twenty-first century to him.
Many musicians were credited with helping the production of this album, yet a lot of the material came from Wright in the years before his death. Since it’s still the original material, this is considered a posthumous release of Wright.
“Louder than Words” is the last song and part of the physical album. If you go on Spotify, you have an additional three songs (for reasons I’m not sure of), which aren’t completely unrelated but are not part of the series of “sides.” I thought “Louder than Words” was a beautiful way to end this album. You have this whole instrumental story, beautifully done, with Wright’s work completely undisturbed, then you have this ballad-like piece. I believe they did this out of respect to Wright, but also felt that a reflection piece was necessary. The lyrics speak years of experience:
This thing we do
These times together
This might be a response to the way that Waters reacted when he left the band. Gilmour and Mason were left in the rain, and they made it work after all these years, with the help of Wright. They may have fought a lot and faced some roadblocks along the way, but they know what they’re doing is worth it. It’s worth it, not just for their fans but also for themselves.