CD reviews: Pink Floyd; Foo Fighters; Damien Rice
The Endless River
Half a century into their career, Pink Floyd are more interested in mythmaking than music-making. Their 15th and (self-professed) “final album”, The Endless River shot to No1on the UK charts, beating out the Foo Fighters and Taylor Swift. Have they gone out with a bang? No, unfortunately: The Endless River is more like a psychedelic whisper.
Casual fans of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here will recognise all of the classic Pink Floyd ingredients: meandering, melancholic, cerebral, ambient. But The Endless River has none of those albums’ zany eclecticism. In place of Dark Side’s gentle, groggy energy is a deadened ersatz version.
The band’s first album since 1994’s The Division Bell, The Endless River is a commemoration of keyboardist Rick Wright, who died of cancer in 2008. But it feels more like the band’s funeral dirge. What’s more, the material is from Division Bell outtakes. None of it is new.
The music sounds more like a movie soundtrack (or a car commercial) than songs from one of rock’s most legendary bands. The movement is sluggish and clichéd. Endless river indeed.
The Foo Fighters' eighth album, Sonic Highways, comes packaged with a little gimmick - eight songs recorded in eight cities across America. And that's not all! It comes packaged alongside an HBO documentary about the making-of.
It's an album conceived and designed to appeal to a pre-packaged demographic: American white males who identify with Dave Grohl's angry, blue-collar everyman persona and want to reclaim their country. The project is steeped in nostalgia for a lost era.
It's sad to watch the Foo Fighters try to reclaim American rock history, since they have so little to offer it. Their sound is blustery and bland - all ragged singing in a predictable key. The songs are not titled after their cities, and it's impossible to tell which belongs with which. They do not sound like "New York" or "Chicago" or "Nashville", they all sound like "Foo Fighters".
Mostly Grohl screams, a scream that sounds practised and arena-ready. If that, and the showy effects that are bound to accompany the stadium show, are your thing, then cheers to the Foo Fighters. If not, steer clear.
My Favourite Faded Fantasy
Eight years have passed since Damien Rice released his last album, 9. In music years, that's an eternity (think: Rihanna had just released SOS). Rice is best known for his powerful debut, O, which sounded astonishing and cutting edge at that time. Like his contemporary Iron & Wine, Rice was redefining the power and limitations of folk music.
Eight years later, his music sounds dated, but its elemental power lingers. My Favourite Faded Fantasy is a gossamer-gorgeous collection of eight songs built from sturdy melodies. There's something delicate and mystical that covers the album like a light dust; I thought of dim attic light, a crumbling wedding dress, moths' wings.
The best songs are maximal: they are buried in layers of sound and progress in movements. The nine minutes of It Takes a Lot to Know a Man seem to cover a lifetime, and pass in an instant. The weaker moments are minimal: The Greatest Bastard and I Don't Want to Change You feel sentimental. Still, Rice sounds as if he's truly singing for himself, and in an industry of preening peacocks, that's commendable in itself.