It isn’t easy to imagine a world without the legendary outfit Pink Floyd. The band have been such an integral part of what made the sixties and beyond so powerfully creative, champions they were of the pursuit of artistic purity, that it feels as though they are an ever-present in our musical worlds — twisting guitar strings and stretching the concept of music as far as they could. The band remain an untouchable creative force in the world of rock, and it is an ethos they undertook from the very beginning.
The band changed names several times before settling on Pink Floyd, and it was a propensity for evolution that permeated their music—arriving on the psych-rock scene in the mid-sixties as young upstarts, Pink Floyd, at the time, comprised of Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. The group quickly became the talk of the town as their wholly encompassing sound provided a fresh new take on rock ‘n’ roll.
Of course, Barrett’s time with the band would come to an abrupt end as he struggled with mental health and, after being supported by David Gilmour’s inclusion, was eventually replaced by him. That line-up would oversee some of the group’s best work in the studio and on the stage, much of which resides near the top of the band’s figurative album pile. One album that is often overlooked when considering this output, however, is Ummagumma.
After Syd Barrett was forced out of the group following his battles with substance abuse and growing mental health issues, Pink Floyd struggled to harmonise with one another in their new structure. It’s something that can be easily heard in the album, which sees the now-four members of the group allowing their own experimentation to supersede the pursuit of the band’s holistic success.
It’s still a record that can enjoy the odd moment in the sun, however, and it is those moments that we’ll focus on today. It must be said that, while the record was largely conducted without Syd Barrett it is one of his songs that kicks off the album. ‘Astronomy Domine‘ sets the pace for the tripped-out LP, allegedly titled Ummagumma as a reference to a slang term for sex. Fitting as the album plays out like a cosmic climax.
Like every Floyd album, it has its share of instrumental filler, which, depending on your inclination, either establishes the band’s sound or goes on for far too long. But, as well as the aforementioned ‘Astronomy Domine’, there are a couple of other songs worth paying attention to on the LP. ‘Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun’ is rightly considered one of the band’s finest efforts, while ‘Saucerful of Secrets’ also contains everything that made Pink Floyd great within it.
Simply put, if you’re a Pink Floyd purist, then Ummagumma will have everything you need to float away in a spiral of acid-rock and jazz-inspired hedonism. If, however, you’re new to Floyd and are just looking for an album to pass the time, then head over to The Dark Side of The Moon and work your way back to this one.