The Madcap Laughs
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First and foremost, intentionally or not, Syd's lyrics are high art. Not self-conscious, referential and elitist nonsense. These lyrics are poetry, and poetry can only result from experience. We don't need to know or speculate about that experience, we need only comprehend that it somehow resulted in some amazing work.
The music is the perfect match for the words. The feeling of accident, of the joy of finding the right note and the frustration of being just sharp or just flat, a split-second early or a half-second late, is all there to hear. It brings a remarkable one-to-one feel to the music, somewhere between the rehearsed and the improvised, and it never comes off as self-conscious or calculated.
What are the influences? I can't detect any -- short of the James Joyce poem made into the song "Golden Hair". Has anyone else ever given us this specific combination of intent and accident? None that I'm aware of. The Madcap Laughs and Barrett both work because the artist we're listening to is a natural at what he does. Whether the drugs heightened his ability or killed it hardly matters now. The work is still here, still with us and like all lasting art, it resists classification and interpretation. Let's just say that whatever life brought to Syd, his particular nervous system had a singular way of transforming it into the transparent and immediate experience of a music all his own.
Songs like the opening Terrapin and the closing masterpiece Late Night seem to speak volumes of the feeling of disassociation he must have felt in his life at the time. And, the truth is, every song in between the two are more than worth the their weight in gold. Jaunty tunes, such as Love You, Here I Go and Octopus, mingle with material that is, for a lack of better words, absolutely soul crushing.
The production is fittingly sparse -- some songs are literally just Syd and his acoustic (Dark Globe, Feel, If It's In You), while many others are filled with small psychedelic flourishes that keep the ambience intact. The only low point on the album exists in the admittedly weak She Took A Long Cold Look. This song would have found a better home on the B-sides collection Opel (ironically, the song Opel would have been a perfect fit). Long Gone is a darkly chilling highlight -- chromatic acoustic scalings, thick harmonies, and dynamically interesting organs make for a particularly sinister song.
Syd's voice is often broken and fragile. On songs like Dark Globe, it is on the verge of sounding tortured. This IS NOT a pop album and it IS NOT an extension of his more whimsical Piper At The Gates Of Dawn album. Be forewarned: this is an album that will haunt you for years to come.
-This review was written in his honor. We will miss you.
So long, Syd. (January 6, 1946 - July 7, 2006)-
Following Barrett's dismissal from Pink Floyd in early 1968, the band's managers followed Barrett, assuming that the band could not survive without their creative light (oops). While time has obviously proved them wrong, they soon set Barrett to work with producer Malcomb Jones and the trippy combo The Soft Machine to create a pop album. Barrett's performances soon proved to be erratic and strange, and it was soon apparent that the music was not going to set the teen scene on fire. The sessions were shelved (although temporarily as many tracks are included on the album) and "Octopus" was unleashed as a single. It unsurprisingly did not go far.
Cut forward a few months and former bandmate Roger Waters and Syd's own replacement David Gilmour wheel Barrett back into the studio for some more fun and games. These sessions were acoustically based, and allowed Barrett to do pretty much whatever he wanted to do, even if it was endlessly strange.
The final album is a somewhat daunting listen, but quite phenomenal if you can get your mind into Syd's world, where things like rhythm are rather amorphous. "No Good Trying," "No Man's Land," "Octopus," and "Late Night" are strange but amazing masterpieces of psychedelic rock. On the first two especially, the backing musicians sound like they're furiously trying to keep up with Syd (no good trying?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am a 60 - 70s British Rock fan, and although this is an odd album, it is enjoyable. I like the early takes, as it gives you a glimps into what it takes to make a polished album.Published 4 months ago by Emma
I hate to sound like other "Barrett fans" and "Pink Floyd purists", but listen - this truly is an album of ORIGINAL poetry and musical genius... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Jack
His best solo album... Reminds me of urban culture a little. Very modern for its time. Lots of memorable tunes. A must if you are a Syd fan.Published 17 months ago by Michael D'orazio