Every band has their cult album; an album that is revered in critical circles and fan circles, but, for reasons unknown, will never be the first album that’s recommended by a friend nor will it be the album that goes down in history when the band have long since gone. With Pink Floyd, it’s easy to select Meddle as that album.
“One Of These Days” might just be the very pinnacle of Pink Floyd’s catalogue pre-Dark Side of the Moon. It resembles something of a snarling attack from the vey get go, Roger Waters’ bass line providing the menace from the moment it enters. Slowly, but surely, the rest of the band enters but never move into their highest gear lending an ominous air to proceedings. After the breakdown, a section that sounds like a very, very early form of dubstep containing Nick Mason’s only lead vocal part in the bands history, the song explodes into life with every band member finally showing their hand, driving the song along. It’s a roller coaster ride and we’re only one track in.
The next four tracks are a journey: the absurd “Seamus,” an ode to a dog complete with authentic dog howling (courtesy of Seamus the dog); the whimsical and breezy “San Tropez” highlighting Waters’ ability to write songs of a less dark nature; “A Pillow of Winds” is a bonafide Pink Floyd love song that doesn’t resort to banal lyrics about love, lines such as “Now wakes the owl now sleeps the swan/ Behold a dream the dream is gone” sitting quite comfortably alongside “Sleeping time when I lie with my love by my side,” allowing the song to sound inherently Pink Floyd, regardless of the subject matter. The music itself is dreamy, the acoustic guitars almost hypnotic as they become more intense as the song progresses; “Fearless” toys with the listener, beginning with a grand sounding guitar, then retreating into a quiet verse. The inclusion of a recording of the Liverpool FC crowd singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” appears slightly at the start and fully at the end and is simply spine-tingling, lending a grandiose feel which in turn allows the lyrics to flourish.
Without the album ender “Echoes,” Meddle is enough of a musical journey. With “Echoes,” Meddle becomes something entirely different; the song is a tour-de-force and a remarkable way to close an album. ‘Echoes’ big success is that at no point in its meandering 23 minutes and 31 seconds does it sound contrived, nor is it a chore to listen to. Being split into three distinct parts it’s an intriguing listen; the only ground that the band retread is the ping sound that opens the song and precedes the final part, and the music at beginning and end. The opening part is typical Pink Floyd, a middling pace rhythm section pushing the song forward without being extravagant, leaving David Gilmour’s emotive lead parts to be the icing on the cake. Part I segues into Part II, a self-assured sounding section with a strut-like rhythm. It doesn’t go anywhere in particular, but it does keep going. That fades into a third section containing the oddest of noises, backed by what can only be described as a solar wind sound straight from a ’60s T.V. show. This transforms into a full band crescendo before a coda in the final few minutes of the first section brings “Echoes” to a natural and fulfilling conclusion.
In all, Meddle has a little bit of everything to cater for every listener. Every track is different to the one before it and the one after it leading to a diversity which makes the album so compelling; the twists and turns keep it from becoming stale. It’s both mood driven and song driven, with the lyrics being just as strong as the music.