Everyone should eat cabbage. Everyone should listen to Pink Floyd. Despite the sheer obviousness of these two laws of nature, they have never been thought of as having an inextricable link; that is, until now. I present to you the ingredient list for Pink Floyd and Purple Cabbage:
- A head of purple cabbage (often called red, but who are they trying to kid? It’s fucking purple!!!)
- A sweet onion
- A sweet potato or two
- A slice or two or three (hundred) of BACON (there mostly for flavor, vegetarians, so ignore that part if you think it’s evil)
- The Endless River – the new album by Pink Floyd (sort of – I’m a no Roger, no Floyd kinda guy myself, but we won’t get into that mess here)
So yeah, there’s a new Floyd album, and I was also hungry. So I decided to listen while I cooked. Actually, no, I decided to cook while I listened. There is a difference, I think; I know there is.
When I first heard news that David Gilmour and Nick Mason were releasing a new album as ‘Pink Floyd’ I was skeptical. The two worst Floyd albums, by far, are The Division Bell and A Momentary Lapse of Reason. Not coincidentally, these are the two albums they did since the departure of Roger Waters in the mid 1980’s, a time when all kinds of other terrible shit was happening, like the presidency of Ronald Reagan. I became even more skeptical when I read that this new album was going to be material culled from the sessions for The Division Bell. That album is just awful. For a long time, when discussing that album, I would always diss it, but admit it had one great track, but then when The Endless River was announced, I went back and listened to “High Hopes” and realized that, like the rest of the album, it too is terrible. The lyrics are moronic, the instrumentation is basic and the melody is bland.
However, being an open-minded guy, I decided to reserve judgment completely until actually giving the album a good, honest listen. I even became optimistic when I read that much of the album was going to be pieced together from jam sessions, with a particular focus on material Richard Wright brought to the table; a posthumous release to highlight his immense, and criminally overlooked contributions to Pink Floyd over the years. But hold on a minute, there are sweet potatoes waiting to be sizzled…
As the album started, and I began dicing up my sweet potatoes, it wasn’t long before I started hearing rich synth textures that reminded me of some of the synth sounds on Animals. The first three songs all flow together, a rich tapestry of synth flourishes and classic Gilmour guitar licks, orgasmically caressing the ears, and I’m really starting to enjoy it. It’s clear that what we’re getting here is a collage of ideas, some gentle and pleasant, others more unfamiliar and strange, but all of them calling upon classic Floyd textures, melodies and tones. The sweet potatoes have browned, time to cut up the bacon. I used only one slice, more for flavor than anything, but such a wonderful flavor it is…
The sweet potatoes and the bacon both need to be pretty well cooked before the onions are added. This gives me some time to sit back and listen to the second ‘suite’ of the album. With the fourth song, “Sum”, the vibe has shifted. Whereas part 1 of the album was pleasant, ambient, calm, “Sum” starts with an anxious synth line, followed by a catalogue of classic Pink Floyd tones, sound effects and melodic shifts, seguing into the next track, “Skins”, which actually reminds me of the version of “A Saucerful of Secrets” from Live in Pompeii, and that is a truly pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting noisy Floyd to come for dinner, but he showed up (did you bring weed, dude?). Time to throw in the onions, and start slicing up the cabbage.
No vocals on this album yet. I’m not even recalling too many ‘oohs’ or even ‘aahs’ but I need to let the onions cook, and I sit for a minute. “Talkin’ Hawkin'” is a pretty dumb name for a song, especially one where one of the most intelligent men to ever live lends guest vocals, but it’s a great track, and I know for sure there are Gilmour ‘oohs’ (didn’t hear any ‘aahs’), and they present themselves as an introduction to Stephen Hawking’s guest vocals, which are put to far better use here than they were on the Division Bell, simply because this is a far better album. In fact, this is the best album the Waters-less Floyd have ever released. Of course, that’s not a difficult task since the first two were terrible, but really, this is a great album. It’s not spectacular, but it works.
Time to throw in the purple cabbage…
I was letting the cabbage cook and I realized that I never put any salt or pepper in this beautiful mess. It would probably taste just fine without it, but in my book, cooked cabbage without salt is a crime against humanity. A few minutes left of The Endless River’s third section, and a few minutes to let the cabbage cook, and I’ll have a delicious dinner to sit and eat while I digest the album’s 4th act.
“Calling” begins the 4th act, and around the one minute mark they seem to be mimicing, or recalling, or whatever you might say, Bach’s “Toccata in D Minor” and this sets the stage for a sinister, almost foreboding turn for the album to take. I know what’s coming, though; Floyd have always been particularly adept at dark atmospherics that transform into uplifting, hopeful melodies; and the cabbage is wonderful, exactly what I was craving.
As expected, the album ends in a pleasant and hopeful way. The song “Surfacing” has an interesting title. As I previously mentioned, Floyd do this thing where they create dark atmospherics, but then gradually lift us above the surface, and from that new perch, we realize the darkness that previously surrounded us was something that allowed us to see the real beauty once we’re lifted, once we’ve surfaced, once we’ve found a way out of whatever mess we caused for ourselves or that someone else caused for us.
The album ends with the only song featuring lead vocals with lyrics. “Louder Than Words” is not a great song, but it’s a good song. At the absolutely least it’s the best thing released under the moniker Pink Floyd since March 21st, 1983; on that day the criminally underrated album The Final Cut was released.
The Endless River is a solid album, and at times it’s even truly great. It’s not classic Floyd, but if you approach the album with the right set of expectations, you’ll probably dig it. I did.
As for the cabbage, well you should eat cabbage, because how can you have any pudding, if you don’t eat your cabbage?