Following the excesses of Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother, Pink Floyd retreat to simply being a band on Meddle, with no distracting orchestras, choirs, or wildlife noises. All but one of the songs is credited to multiple members of the band, suggesting a conscious effort to work as a unit instead of as four individuals, and the change in mission is immediately evident on “One of These Days,” arguably their best opener. Roger Waters’ rumbling bass sutures the song together, generating a sinister momentum that recalls some of their earlier, more streamlined instrumentals. Of course the 20-minute closer doesn’t need to be that long, but there are enough big moments that it never becomes tedious.
The real star of Meddle is David Gilmour, whose guitar shapes most of these songs. He scribbles furiously over “One of These Days,” sketches out crisp blues-based riffs on “Fearless,” and adorns Waters’ jazzbo “St. Tropez” with jazzy licks. His style is multivaried and unpredictable, deploying earthy rhythms and majestic solos with equal command yet never sounding as showy as some of his blues-rock contemporaries. With Gilmour taking a more prominent role, Meddle transitions easily, even gracefully between hurried jams and hushed folk, between loud and quiet, revealing a band finally mastering dynamics and making their best album since The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.