the loud bassoon online zine - records: pink floyd - meddle

Pink Floyd
(Capitol 46034)

Ah, progressive rock, the bane of all critics, the love of many high school boys. I was one of those high school boys who immersed himself in the world of prog, although I differed from some by embracing not the sci-fi or fantasy-based lyrics but instead the complex song structures and generally huge sounds its creators employed.

That said, it's usually tough on me to revisit these albums. The grandiose self-importance inherent in most of them somehow makes me embarrassed for myself.

Pink Floyd's Meddle is one of the few prog albums I can still return to without shame or doubt; it still sounds fairly fresh and exciting to me. It's the album that directly precedes Dark Side of the Moon, and while the latter may be a stronger album and artistic statement as a whole, at least Meddle hasn't been broken down by years of classic rock flogging.

So what's good on here? It's still a pretty spotty album, but somehow likable as a result. "One of These Days" is a strong opener, a thoroughly ominous instrumental propelled by a rumbling bass line, crashing drums, and waves of harsh keyboard. It also has a "cool" and "scary" effect-treated voice declaring "One of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces."

Unintentionally hilarious moment aside, the song still works well, introducing the listener to a true "dark side" of Pink Floyd. "A Pillow of Winds" follows, and it's aptly titled. Not much there of substance, like bland New Age. Skip.

"Fearless," on the other hand, is a fine song, a plaintive, almost folky track that is unlike most of the songs the band ever did. There's a measured casualness to it, a "live in the studio" kind of feeling that is almost entirely absent from the band's later albums.

"San Tropez" and "Seamus" also have this casualness, and are really pretty goofy for a band so known for dealing with weighty matters. The former is about vacationing in said titular area; it's a pretty silly and clunky song on its own, but great in its context. "Seamus" is similarly shameless, but mainly just bad. It's a mutant blues song, ostensibly about a dog. Like nothing else Pink Floyd ever did. Still, skip.

The album ends with its most famous track, the 23 and a half minute "Echoes." Yes, it is too much. Still, the first five minutes and last two minutes are about as glorious and anthemic as the band ever got. Perfect music for sitting in a room with a blacklight on and pondering the bottom of your bong. "Echoes" becomes unlistenable when they start "jamming;" "jamming" and "funkiness" are two things Pink Floyd should have best avoided.

Despite its many faults, I still will listen to Meddle before anything else by these guys, except maybe the odd and very personal The Final Cut. The production is strong, helping Meddle to stand with the best prog rock albums – King Crimson's Red, Genesis Live, Rush's Signals, and Drama by yes.

Remember, though, to proceed with caution. Too much prog has a retarding effect, like using one's powers of invisibility too frequently for spying on high school shower rooms.

Review by HIP