Is it still possible, in the age of free digital streaming, for a band to rip off its audience? The new Pink Floyd album – or, more precisely, the “new” “Pink Floyd” “album” – makes you think so.
The pioneering psychedelic rock group’s first studio record in 20 years, “The Endless River” compiles brushed-up instrumental outtakes from 1994’s “The Division Bell,” itself a late-career document that felt like a collection of scraps cobbled together by the guys left behind after Roger Waters quit a decade earlier.
The band lost another member in 2008 when keyboardist Rick Wright died, which means that Pink Floyd now amounts to drummer Nick Mason and singer-guitarist David Gilmour, the latter of whom wasn’t even around for the group’s 1967 debut.
None of this presents an insurmountable problem.
The dubious use of a trusted brand name is justified in my book by a delivery on that brand’s promise. Think of “Love Never Felt So Good,” the Michael Jackson single released this year by the late King of Pop’s estate. It’s so great – and so identifiably Michael-ish – that it neutralizes any concern over its origin.
The aimless fragments on “The Endless River,” on the other hand, are so excruciatingly dull (even by Pink Floyd’s often-dull standards) that the band’s name on the cover feels like a straight-up bait-and-switch. After listening on Spotify, I wanted my time, if not the pennies destined for the band’s coffers, back.
Gilmour seems eager to ward off this kind of reaction in an explanatory video posted on YouTube. The record, he says, is “a continuous flow of music that builds gradually over four separate pieces.” Put another way, don’t expect bite-sized tunes like “Money” or “Wish You Were Here” or “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II).”
Further justification comes in the only track with sung vocals on “The Endless River.” It’s called “Louder Than Words” – of course it is! -- and it finds Gilmour insisting that what he and Mason do transcends the need for lyrics.
What’s crazy is that the song’s words, about Pink Floyd’s web of famously fractured relationships, are so terrible that you end up agreeing with him, since maybe that'll prevent him from writing more.
“We bitch and we fight, diss each other on sight,” Gilmour sings over a dreary soft-rock groove. Then he rhymes “these times together” with “stormy weather.”
This is the dark side of rock-star entitlement.
“The Endless River”
1 star out of 4