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Pink Floyd - Meddle CD (album) cover

MEDDLE

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.30 | 2147 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review 64, Meddle, Pink Floyd, 1971

StarStarStarStar

My first real step (aside from one early, and preferably forgotten, expedition. A rather unfortunate Teutoberg Forest-style incident) into the nebulous world of reviewing Pink Floyd comes with the album that widely seems to be regarded as the start of their classic period. While I think there was a lot of merit, certainly, in the preceding Atom Heart Mother, and there are certainly many admirers of the early psychedelic stuff (I've yet to delve into this, since Floyd is relatively expensive), the view is understandable as the product, the complete booklet, stunning cover art and musical perfectionism does really glimmer from Meddle almost as brightly as it does from the timeless Dark Side Of The Moon. Meddle is often regarded as an album with two unforgettable Floydian gems, rarely, if ever, bettered by the band, while the remnants of the first side are somehow unworthy of these two pieces. I think this view is somewhat fair, if a little exaggerated, and so am taking a slightly different approach to the review's format to try to bring a new angle in.

Echoes is, in my mind, the crowning triumph of Roger Waters as a lyricist. It holds the single finest set of lyrics I have yet heard (and I am very much into the lyrics of our nebulous genre), and so perfectly delivered by the joint Wright-Gilmour vocals. Mysterious, mood-altering and brilliantly, simply phrased, Waters transports the listener to the three-part world of his poem.

The first verse locates the listener in the submarine world, using locative words and atmospheric word choices to ensnare them at the ocean floor, looking up (hence the initial 'overhead'), feeling like a speck in this temporal ocean (everything is green and submarine, and the singularity of the (motivating?) echo and the (inspiring?) albatross compared to the plural and inanimate sand, caves, labyrinths, waves and air). The verse extension introduces the song's theme with the existentialist idea of no-one, no god, no inherent gene pool, guiding our development and understanding how the world works, and yet some thought, some ambitious urge, within us developing (note the sea-land development here. As in the first creatures coming from the sea) and aspiring. Beginning to make the journey towards a greater goal, although it's unsure of exactly what that goal is.

The second takes the idea onto land and into human form, with a chance, uncertain (Do I?, which could also be a nuptial reference) encounter between two strangers, one being the narrator, the other 'you'. Both of these people are in essence the same, but divided by circumstances. The narrator shows an awareness of the meaning, of the understanding, in cooperation, in helping others, and, indeed, in love. Again, the 'no-one', the creator-shaped gap in this reality, encourages or bars us, but this time no-one cooperates or aspires, and no progress is made. The reality of the ultimate, uncaring capitalist ethic is implied as simply mediocrity embodied.

The final, magnificent verse raises the above ideas to their peak, softly, powerfully, the 'you' of the previous verse, whether the sun, or a person, encourages and offers motivation to move on, to grow, to try, and this cooperation (ambassadors) and motivation (sunlight) and open-ness ('through the window in the wall' - a link, a receptiveness to the outside) cause development. And finally, the protagonist in turn calls out and inspires his own muse, throwing the windows wide, and he can do this because there is nothing, no apparent god, no gene pool making him avoid this. The message, then, is to grow and cooperate, that working together with other people will advance you, while selfishness won't have any effect, and this is the single most inspiring piece of socialist/pro-cooperation writing I have ever read. This is my humble view on the subject, and I'm sure there are other interpretations out there. I leave this section with the final verse extension:

And no-one sings me lullabies And no-one makes me close my eyes And so I throw the windows wide And call to you across the sky

The music can only introduce itself, it is majestic, slowly developing, climaxing magnificently and beautifully, inspiring and yet at times lowkey and never remotely pompous. Perhaps the organ solo winds on too long, perhaps the desolate guitar screeching in the middle is too dissonant for the mood, perhaps the actual piece is quite simple and extended without rapid changes in style. However, I do not mind, because the overall atmosphere, delivery and lyrical content is so incredibly overwhelming that I leave the semblance of a fair critic behind from the first notes.

Now, back to the first side: One Of These Days opens the album superlatively, with an immersive windy feel and kicking bass, as Wright adds all sort of brilliant keyboard textures, sharing some of the ideas with Mason's cymbals. Mason too contributes brilliantly with both thudding drums and very subtle percussion. At about the two minute mark, the piece really takes off with Gilmour's gritty guitar wails, a tense section vaguely resembling the Doctor Who theme with very dark ideas and a spoken, thoroughly distorted vocal ('One Of These Days, I'm going to cut you into little pieces) initiates the full-blown chaos of the following section, with everyone simply playing. The Floyd rhythm section simply rocks, while Gilmour and Wright add loads of stunning ideas over the top. Superb, but also irritatingly indescribable. Another wind effect closes the piece off.

A Pillow Of Winds, a rather sweet, relaxing acoustic-dominated ballad with so many stretchy edges (acoustics, subdued electric, bass throbs, keyboard swirls) and a gentle vocal. Intense layering and deep choices feature throughout, and the end result is an odd mixture of haunting textures and relaxing ones, and uplifting choices. Damned weird, but very interesting, and with a good set of matching lyrics.

Fearless, sadly, had amazing potential. If it didn't, I could forgive the ending, which single-handedly kills any risk of the album hitting the fifth star. A great set of lyrics, a good acoustic melody with jaunty rises and accompanying excellent vocals and a tasteful rhythm section, as well as a brilliant break including an acoustic/bass all suggest that the song would be great. It nearly was. Unfortunately, someone in the band decided that it would be a good idea to stick in the most obnoxious football chant possible as an irritating end that breaks all real immersion by what is, presumably an attempt to give it relevance. Urkh!

San Tropez very much suggests a Simon And Garfunkel influence, with a bouncy set of lyrics and music, although both are absolutely top notch. A cheerful bass thing holds up the piece, while Wright's piano substantiates and emphasises, and Gilmour takes a quality solo. Utterly cheerful, and not at all filler.

Seamus is simply brilliant blues, with dog howling and a bit of harmonica incorporating itself into the band's general fun on piano, guitars and bass. I can't see what's so despicable about it. Very soulful.

So, do I give this the five stars of a flawed masterpiece, or the four of something that didn't quite make it? I'm torn, admittedly, but the following Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here albums, though not losing any of the warmth of this slightly weaker effort, do have a complete perfectionism and stunning polish that establishes their brilliance. Meddle doesn't, however excellent it is, reach the same artistic height consistently, and so merits 'only' four stars. Nonetheless, an absolutely essential album for any Floyd fans, and even those who aren't the band's greatest devotees. Brilliant stuff, and deserving to be seen as an excellent album in its own right rather than a mere prototype of Dark Side Of The Moon.

TGM: Orb | 4/5 |

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