Pink Floyd, simultaneously one of the most influential and popular bands ever and one of my favorite musical acts of all time, died three times by my count. First, principal songwriter Roger Waters left the group in the ‘80s under a cloud of (now-dissolved) acrimony. Everyone assumed that was the end. However, the remaining members carried on without him and released a couple more albums. One was pretty terrible, one was pretty great, but both were a shadow of what the band did when they were whole. They essentially called it a career in 1995 after a fairly epic tour. But in 2005, it rose from the dead again for a one-off reunion with Waters.
I thought that was really the end. I cursed not being there, and let it go. It turns out, I was wrong.
The announcement earlier this summer that Pink Floyd was preparing to release never-before-heard music was hugely exciting to me, but also something I had some reservations about. An album of new music so long after the band called it a day (with only half its core lineup) could potentially end up as a crass cash-in on one of the biggest brands in music — particularly if it’s a gutless, safe, or just plain bad recording that makes you wish the band left its career in the graveyard instead of dragging the corpse around to make a buck.
However, as is turns out, "new" isn’t quite truly new. The Endless River, which arrives on November 11th, has its basis in the 1993 sessions for the band's previously final studio album, The Division Bell — guitarist / songwriter David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason went back to those sessions in 2013, decided they were worthy of release, and then spent the last year recording new music and "upgrading" the ‘93 sessions to them to make a cohesive whole.
There won’t be anything as immediately memorable and timeless as "Wish You Were Here" or "Money" on this release — it’s a piece of instrumental and ambient music, with only one song featuring newly-recorded vocals. And you know what? I’m perfectly happy about that.
Ambient instrumental music? Only one song with vocals? Sign me up
Rather than the obligatory middling-to-terrible, late-career comeback attempt, we’re getting a look at the last time the main instrumental architects Pink Floyd got together in a studio and freely made music with no real agenda. That’s just what I want to hear. I want to hear my favorite living guitarist work his magic one more time, and I want to hear what is almost certainly the last recorded music by keyboardist and founding member Richard Wright that’ll get released (he died in 2008).
At the end of the day, this album won’t be more than an interesting footnote in the band’s lengthy history; the Pink Floyd name means it’ll attract some mainstream attention, but it’s not an album with hit singles or likely anything music critics will place alongside the group’s most influential work. (I expect plenty will criticize it as a needless indulgence; fortunately, I’m the indulgent type.) The unexpected surprise of getting to hear Gilmour playing "alongside" Mason and Wright one more time, even if it’s a collaboration born out of studio trickery, is almost worth more than the music itself. After spending years dissecting every bit of a three-decade career, getting one more piece of the puzzle is a pretty exciting prospect.