The final album from the entity controlling the “Pink Floyd” name was assembled out of scraps from the 1993 jam sessions that became The Division Bell. These recordings were made by David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright, when Wright was not officially a full member of the band. Wright died in 2008; Gilmour and a small army went back to the tapes over the past couple of years, and finessed them (and a Wright keyboard solo recorded in 1968) into a set of four instrumental suites and one new vocal song, “Louder than Words,” with lyrics by Gilmour’s wife, novelist Polly Samson.
What they came up with sounds a lot like the less interesting bits of a Pink Floyd record. “Things Left Unsaid” (one of several tracks whose titles are weak puns on wordlessness) opens the album with a collage of voices — just like The Dark Side of the Moon! — and then settles into the kind of noodling that might have resolved into something like “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” if this incarnation of the band had had a song to work their way toward. But the Division Bell sessions were distinctly short on songs.
What Pink Floyd lost when Roger Waters left in the mid ’80s wasn’t just his insistence on huge conceptual projects, it was the way he could focus those big ideas into brief statements, with memorable lyrics and melodies. In lieu of those, The Endless River offers elbow-jabbing sonic nostalgia. “Allons-y (1)” reprises the opening riff of “Run Like Hell”; “Talkin’ Hawkin’” repeats the “Keep Talking” trick of overlaying a clip of Stephen Hawking’s synthesized voice; a lot of the licks in Gilmour’s guitar solos are paraphrases of the sorts of things he played in “Welcome to the Machine” and “Comfortably Numb.” This isn’t a last draught from a flowing river — it’s dregs hauled out of an abandoned well.