Rarely does one get to hear a band that has had so much resonance in the world. They have sang through the speakers of time and the entire world has listened to them in awe and surprise. The basses and trebles were intimidated through the messages coming out of the notes and lyrics, and it was the somewhat darker side of the melodies that awoke us into a state of high and dreamy agreement. The Endless River opens up to the world in a fluid and continuous way and the feel erupts back from the past to reignite the thrill of listening to Pink Floyd tunes.
The Endless River became one the most pre-ordered album of all times, and debuted at number one in several charts. That is a lot of weight and speaks much about a band that was formed 50 years ago. One has to have enjoyed the ride on the Floydian waves to be able to connect and float smoothly along the Endless River. A tribute to Richard Wright, rightfully so, as some of the compositions reflect that, this material is originating from 1993 when Division Bell was recorded. It has also a lot to do with things of the past – Things Left Unsaid, notes that remained locked up – Unsung, or discussions lost and forgotten through time – The Lost Art of Conversation. This sings the sound of a state and formation from a band with open dialogue and sentiment towards the world.
To write of impressions of Pink Floyd is like trying to hear the echo of your voice from the immensity of the Grand Canyon. There is that much power and essence that one needs to break through the barriers of complexity and inspiration that the band has carved through the nick of time. Luckily for us, the listeners, the sound does much of the job to help us feel and experience some of that.
Going back to the images of Pink Floyd performing live at Pompeii in 1972, they can haunt and impress for a long time; it is one of the best documentaries of live performances. The fountains of creativity are in a cool formation, dominating the old Roman amphitheater and immersing into spectacular resonance with unforgettable guitar riffs and reflecting some of the melodic journeys that will define Pink Floyd from then on.
What’s in a name? This band carries a lot of weight in these names – Nick Mason, Richard Wright, David Gilmour and Roger Waters. But there is one other, Syd Barrett, that has influenced and helped the band define themselves, although he was already gone in 1968. From that collaboration the band unveiled shades from a Dark Side of the Moon and longed for a presence of Syd by recording a landmark in the history of music – Wish You Were Here.
“When I say, ‘I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon’… what I mean [is] … If you feel that you’re the only one … that you seem crazy [because] you think everything is crazy, you’re not alone.”
Waters, quoted in Harris, 2005
Side 1 – It’s What We Do opens the appetite for the listener after the curiosity stemmed from the intro. It is self-descriptive and connects the listener to what he already knows – the unmistakable sounds of Pink Floyd, it’s what they do, and they do it well. Side 1 completes with Ebb and Flow, experimental riffs with melancholic fluxes and refluxes, or some other interpretations of ebb as perhaps a decline into something.
One cannot resist the temptation of breaking The Wall. Although the concept for this 1979 album originated more from Roger Water’s frustrations with live audiences and the feel of isolation, of building a barrier between the performers and the spectators, the album in the end turned to be a lot more powerful than expected; symbols extended and interpretations regained as exploding from seclusion, escaping the isolation, the forced enclosures, and reaching out to freedom. The original idea turns the page and from the need of inner souls to shield from the world it turned to the outer, more libertine parts of the spirit to break the wall and evade from the tentacles of dictatorial monsters.
There are a lot more messages and themes that come out of this album, live performances were being carried around huge setups of brick walls, culminating with the spectacular one in Berlin in 1990 that broke through the wall of communism and told the world that people were free again. The theme was transposed into a fantastic and surreal cinematic experience by director Alan Parker and the character of Floyd Pinkerton played by Bob Geldof.
The premiere at Cannes was amazing – the midnight screening. They took down two truckloads of audio equipment from the recording studios so it would sound better than normal. It was one of the last films to be shown in the old Palais which was pretty run down and the sound was so loud it peeled the paint off the walls. It was like snow – it all started to shower down and everyone had dandruff at the end. I remember seeing Terry Semel there, who at the time was head of Warner Brothers, sitting next to Steven Spielberg. They were only five rows ahead of me and I’m sure I saw Steven Spielberg mouthing to him at the end when the lights came up, ‘what the f* was that?’ And Semel turned to me and then bowed respectfully.
‘What the f* was that?,’ indeed. It was like nothing anyone had ever seen before – a weird fusion of live-action, story-telling and of the surreal.
The keyboards of Richard Wright open up Side 2 with Sum, to then add up the tonalities of Gilmour’s guitar and Mason’s drums to declare the composition and tapestry of Pink Floyd of 1993. Skins are surreal and dreamy riffs that lead to powerful and experimental drums. Unsung fills the sound around with beautiful sadness, regrets of some lost times and notes and lead into the last composition of Side 2 Anisina, that although is a Gilmour composition, with great touches of saxophone and piano, feels much to long for Wright.
Pink Floyd are often quoted at the forefront of psychedelic rock, though the band members admitted as “psychedelia being around them but not in them”, but it is a unique breed of musicians that feel through their instruments and collage a deep variety of human conditions through experimental sounds and techniques. Collaborations with other intelligent artists brought a lot of essence to the band, they are the likes of Alan Parsons that had a tremendous influence into mixing The Dark Side, or their fruitful collaboration with their cover designer Storm Thorgerson, or Clare Torry`s fantastic vocals errupting into The Great Gig In The Sky, or the amazing and powerful complements of sound through Dick Parry`s saxophone.
Side 3 opens with a beautiful collection of distant and forgotten sounds. The Lost Art of Conversation speaks through a piano that feels to be reaching out from a different century; but then the guitar pulls out, seamlessly, into the present as it flows on Noodle Street. Night Light is mysterious and prepares the ground for some of the quintessence of this album that resembles Pink Floyd as we know it. Allons-y 1 and 2 are somewhat familiar but distanced apart by a walk through the aisles of a cathedral in Autumn ’68 as the organ elevates the listener to newer heights of belief.
“A spent force” as Roger Waters called it, was an early ending into the life of the band, and the arguments still fly through the air between Gilmour and Waters, each within its own right and each with their own valuable contribution to the historical landmarks of music that they have layed down across the years. One could not have been without the other, it is complete when all 4 are one, these 4 musketeers of music that have fought and defended the walls of music, progressed to new levels of sound with their powerful stringed and keyed swords; they have crowned the kingdom of rock with honors.
Although the journey through the Endless River is without words the last song on Side 4 says it well – It’s louder than words. This thing that they do is definitely louder than words, their hearts and their souls are there and it feels through as the notes and interpretations of Pink Floyd flow through the Endless River of Time.
“The music for Louder Than Words is from those final sessions, the three of us playing together on the houseboat Astoria with Rick’s idiosyncratic keyboards reminding me now that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. At the start of the album I asked Polly [Samson] to write the lyrics. She felt that what I played her didn’t need words, that hearing us play was more interesting. In the end she wrote just this one, which expresses, beautifully I think, the way the three of us, me, Nick and Rick have something when we play together, that has a magic that is louder than words”.
Much more can be thought of and Things are Left Unsaid, many praises remain Unsung, and one can only step away to go and listen to some more greatness and Great Gigs in the Sky, as Us and Them stand apart but to always think in tune with desires of Wish You Were Here. Allons-y!
Lyrics to Louder Than Words
The strings bend and slide
as the hours glide by
an old pair of shoes
your favorite blues
gonna tap out the rhythm.
Let’s go with the flow
wherever it goes.
We’re more than alive.
It’s louder than words
this thing that we do
louder than words
the way it unfurls.
It’s louder than words
the sum of our parts
the beat of our hearts
is louder than words.
Louder than words.
Louder than words
this thing they call soul
it’s there with a pulse
louder than words.