Sunday, September 6, 2020

Repost: Meddle [Atom Heart Mother]

While there is something to be said, lots to be said, about Atom Heart Mother, I have never found it even remotely listenable, hence the lack of a contemplative review. I recognize that with it, the band had found its soundscape, but lacked the upper hand over Ron Geesin. With this it fails in the same way that The Beach Boys Smile did; that concept too mired in the heavy-handed lyrics of Van Dyke Parks. AHM to this writer is but an iconic album cover and a transition between the soundtracks and Meddle, but that's me. (Stanley Kubrick appreciated the LP on a much greater level, asking to use the title track in Clockwork Orange; the band denied the request. The album cover nonetheless can be seen in the record store when Alex meets the two young girls setting up cinema’s most hilarious sex scene.)

So, on to Meddle

The album begins with "One Of These Days," an instrumental to end all instrumentals. A simple, pulsating but murderous bass chews its way in while synth sounds complete the scene. Add-on monolithic, Barundi-like drumbeat and a perverse, distorted guitar and the atmosphere is decidedly voracious. Towards minute three, Wright tools a dark synthesizer arpegio, until a monstrous voice exclaims, "One of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces" as everything explodes into heady madness. "One of These Days" is one of the great progressive rock overtures.

Instantly, a beautiful cascade of acoustic guitars arises like someone slumbering on "A Pillow Of Winds;" the contrast could not be more marked. It's a beautiful ballad, with one of the most wonderfully lazy atmospheres one can experience, as if the listener were hamac├índose-ing under the sun (I understand; not really a word – think of a swinging hammock).

Meddle is the first real Pink Floyd Album - Nick Mason

Next up is "Fearless." Anthemic and climactic, the final minute, in which Liverpool futbol fans sing "You'll Never Walk Alone," is chilling. The chanting, somewhat drunken climax, coarse as it is, makes the segue into "San Tropez" that much more atmospheric. Finally, "Seamus" is a blues exercise with a slide and the howling of a dog (owned by Steve Marriott, the singer of Small Faces and Humble Pie. The dog's name, of course: Seamus). Side one of Meddle is a perfect album side in that each track enhances the journey of the last, but don’t confuse the perfect-side ideology – these are not perfect songs, nor do they mirror the brilliance of the B-side. These are tracks with oodles of character, nothing more, and where "Echoes" itself is a definitive AM10, these pop exercises are a 5 or 6, "perfect" as they are.

Side two is entirely occupied by "Echoes," head and shoulders above anything that Pink Floyd had done up to that point (I can hear the groans as I write this). It begins with a high-pitched piano note that sounds like a drop of water falling on a plate. The other instruments are added little by little, with the result, a diabolical crescendo. A mysterious melody emerges, subtle Gilmour punches appear, and then, in a format echoing "One of These Days," explodes into a thousand pieces, giving way to the song's major theme and a ravishingly beautiful melody. Space rock at its most severe preps the listener for the last ten minutes, among the most magnificently epic moments in rock. Pink Floyd had accomplished what Hitchcock created in film, a dramatic crescendo of suspense and anticipation. The cacophony finally settles in and returns to the main melody, this time instrumentally, with the falling action beautifully trickling away like a stream in the forest. "Echoes" is an album-side epic that rivals "Supper's Ready" and "Close to the Edge." 

Meddle, strictly following the AM rubric is an AM7, but as a listen, as an experience, it rivals anything on vinyl. It's mood music for just the right mood. 

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