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Pink Floyd - Atom Heart Mother CD (album) cover


Pink Floyd


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.89 | 2132 ratings

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Una Laguna
3 stars I'm slightly at a loss with what to think of this album. It's nowhere near the best Pink Floyd album. Nowhere even NEAR! And Pink Floyd themselves, particularly Waters, absolutely hated the album. Yet more people have rated this album 5/5 than anything else.

Personal history of the copy I'm listening to: my dad discovered the awesomeness of Pink Floyd in the late '70s and went out to get hold of every album he could find by them. One of those albums was Atom Heart Mother. He found it for sale in a record store at a bargain price because it was second- (or maybe even third-) hand. It's decidedly battered: two of the previous owners had written their name in, and someone left a cup of tea on it, so there's a nice brown ring on the cover.

The LP itself still plays, though, shockingly, I don't have a turntable in my bedroom. Fortunately my dad went through the process of digitising large portions of his LP catalogue. The advantage of this is that now, no matter how many times I listen to it, it won't degrade in quality. The bad news is that it was already very crackly to start off with. So I can't comment on the recording quality of the album.

Usually I dislike music which is aimless or meandering. Music with no real point or meaning. This is one of the reasons Pink Floyd dislike the album. Storm Thorgerson asked the band what the album meant, and they couldn't give an answer. They just didn't know!

So, like I just said, pointless, meaningless music doesn't usually meet with approval. Just get on with the music, I usually say. So by this argument I should hate the album. I should loathe it, I should detest it and I shouldn't be listening to it right now.

Yet, for some reason, I am listening to it. It is long, it is meandering, it is pointless, but Atom Heart Mother (the track) is... hypnotic. There's nothing else quite like it. Orchestras and rock bands appear in the same track an awful lot of the time. Especially them friggin' strings! Man! Give the string sections of the orchestras a chance to rest, guys! But the orchestra is always supporting the rock band. Here, the tables have turned. The rock band is supporting the orchestra. Crazy stuff, right? I think the only time that ever happened was The Trial from The Wall, and parts of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence by Dream Theater.

But does it work? The trouble I'm having when reviewing this album, is that it's impossible to answer that question. And if you can't answer that question, what's the point of a review? As the band said, there was no meaning to the track. No meaning and no purpose. You always have to approach music in the right way. If you listen to a Led Zeppelin album, hoping for lots of swelling ambience, you'll be sorely disappointed. But if you view it as a hard rock album which makes you want to go "OOH YEAAAAH" then it will no doubt succeed. Likewise, if you listened to an Andreas Vollenweider album and wanted it to make you go "OOH YEAAAAH" then you'd be disappointed again. If there's no original purpose of the song, it's impossible to say whether it's good at what it's trying to be.

If you're after an aggressive, angry piece like The Wall, you will be disappointed. If you are after a sincere, emotional piece like Shine on You Crazy Diamond, you will be disappointed. I think it's best viewed as an ambient piece: something which you'd want to play in the background while your attention is diverted, say, at writing a review for ProgArchives. If I went to concert to see this played live, I would probably fall asleep.

I remember seeing an advert for a Pink Floyd tribute band. I'd seen them live once already - they performed the whole of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. They were awesome - they were called Think Floyd, if you're interested, and mostly play shows in the UK. But I saw a poster for their tour a couple of years later, and they were going to play the whole of the Atom Heart Mother suite live. You know, what were they thinking? WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

So in conclusion, treat it as an ambient piece. It's a good ambient piece, it's nice to have playing in the background. It's not the best ambient piece - I'd rather listen to anything by Godspeed You! Black Emperor or God Is An Astronaut any day - but it's by no means poor.

If you want an ambient, orchestral suite fused with blues, Gilmour's signature solos and other crazy things, then this is the track for you.

And then there's side two.

Side two isn't bad. It's not that awesome, either. But while side one is one long ambient piece, side two is three actually vaguely normal pieces of music plus Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast (more on that later). There are three songs, one written by each of the main songwriters in the band: Waters' If, Wright's Summer '68 and Gilmour's Fat Old Sun.

If is, frankly, a bit boring. Some bland guitar arpeggio-ish thing with Waters crooning about if he was something then he'd something. Towards the end the other instruments come in, including a not-too-bad guitar solo which saves the song from absolute yuckiness. Summer '68 is more up my street, a crazy psychedelic number featuring the return of the brass. It is a fine song, much more punchy and fun than If. Fat Old Sun is a more sincere song with a mighty guitar solo (a sign of things to come?), which, though rendered fairly plainly on the album is nevertheless an entertaining piece. I would recommend the live versions over it instead.

And then there's Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast. This is not Alan Parson's Psychedelic Breakfast but in fact Alan Stile's Psychedelic Breakfast (he also makes a couple of brief appearances in the title track). The basic premise of this track is the same as for the title track, replacing the orchestra track with Mr Stiles eating and preparing breakfast. That's right, a roadie making breakfast is more prominent than Pink Floyd in this track.

The sound sample is, in a word, boring. That's about all there is to say about it. Musically the track isn't TOO bad... towards the end at least. The first piece of music is a piano melody. It reminds me of the theme tunes played on piano to those really horrible old children's programmes from the '60s. You know, the ones with the little wooden towns and the really boring man narrating it all. The piano melody in this track is plain and uninteresting. Towards the end of the track things get a bit more interesting, but it takes too long to get there.

From a historical point of view, this foreshadows much of what Pink Floyd would go on to do: epic soundscapes, great guitar solos and prominent use of audio samples. From the point of view of someone who wants a good album to listen to, this isn't the best but it isn't the worst. If you ran into a record store desperate for a copy of Atom Heart Mother, I'd probably try and talk you out of it. If you went into a record store looking for something else, but saw Atom Heart Mother in the bargain bin, I'd probably try and talk you into getting it. This album represents one of the lower points in Pink Floyd's career - but being Pink Floyd, there weren't really any truly low points.

Una Laguna | 3/5 |


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