Charlotte Pringle’s due
“Is it avant-garde?” principal Snyder asked at the end of the episode “The Puppet Show” and I could say the same. Is it avant-garde?
The album “Atom heart mother” is the last album before Pink Floyd “arrived”. By the next release they would forever be among the greatest bands in history.
But here in 1970 they were still honing their skills. Their previous album “Ummagumma” was built on some great ideas that didn’t translate to the black gold. The result was really not that good. It was more psychedelic than melodic. “Atom heart mother” suffers from the same, but it is a giant leap forward and they are close to “getting there”.
The first side of the album consist of one long track of almost 24 minutes, the majestic symphonic title track performed with an orchestra and a choir. It has some wonderful parts, my favourite is the fourth movement “Funky dung (10:13-15:26). But it also have truly confounding parts that I don’t enjoy as much, for example the maddening fifth movement “Mind your throats please” (15:27-19:10). It is something of a “noise period”.
The enjoyment of the track is really depending on the listener’s state of mind. It can be challenging and fun, or just disturbing. There are several versions on the huge “Early years” released in 2016, with different versions; live, with or without orchestra, and shorter or longer.
The second side is more even and fairly strong. Again, like the studio material in “Ummagumma” we get one song from each guy in the band.
“If” is a soft acoustic guitar song from Roger Waters. He played it live on his “Pros and cons of hitch hiking” tour of 1984. Oh, how I wish I would have seen him that time in Stockholm, but I missed it. My second largest ever regret when it comes to missed concerts.
“Summer ‘68” is written by Richard Wright on the experience to be stuck in a house full of groupies one night. It is piano centric and surprisingly dynamic and engaging. David Gilmour gives us “Fat old sun” with some acoustic and electric guitar play, a nice enough song that is often extended when played live.
“Alan’s psychedelic breakfast” is far out. “Is it avant-garde?” It is developed in studio by all four of them on an idea by Nick Mason, I think. An early part (1:40) reminds me of a song from the soundtrack to “The Thomas Crown affair”, the film from 1999. The song is a little frustrating being so damned uneven.
“Atom heart mother” is an album I really like to not like. It still makes me “work for it”. It is challenging. Sometimes when I put it on it is worse than I remembered, but as often, I find it better than I imagined. Never boring! And that is always a win in my book.
My rating: 6/10
- Atom heart mother
- Father’s shout (0:00-2:54)
- Breast milky (2:55-5:26)
- Mother fore (5:27-10:12)
- Funky dung (10:13-15:26)
- Mind your throats please (15:27-19:10)
- Remergence (19:11-23:44)
- Fat old sun
- Alan’s psychedelic breakfast
Released on October 2, 1970