Syd Barrett was Pink Floyd's original frontman, responsible for lead vocals, guitar, and most of the songwriting on their first several singles and LP back in '67. Almost immediately, though, he started flipping out in classic 60s burnout fashion, so he was retired from the group in favor of David Gilmour. It wasn't an entirely hostile departure, and by 1969 Barrett wanted to record again. With help from assorted Floyd members he managed to get out two albums in less than two years, before disappearing again to become a recluse, which he is to this day. Although the results of these studio efforts are extremely uneven, there's a certain charm to Barrett that transcends even his sloppiest performances.
We realize that the very existence of this page begs an obvious question - why haven't we reviewed Pink Floyd? The simple answer is that we're going to and we just don't have enough material for a page yet. The complicated answer is that we're sick to death of the Floyd's monster hit albums in the 70s, making us reluctant to waste any time and money worrying about them. Sorry, fans. But if anyone wants to mail us some Pink Floyd CD's for our birthdays in July (or earlier), that would be fine with us... (JA)
The Madcap Laughs (1970)
Indeed. This is an album you'll either love or hate - despite my three-star rating, there's really no middle ground. Madcap Laughs makes Barrett's marginal functionality obvious, with rambling, occasionally incoherent lyrics, strangely out-of-time backing tracks, and half-spoken, thickly accented vocals that occasionally yelp and howl ("If It's In You") and other times just mumble. The production is stark, with many tracks just featuring Barrett's unaccompanied guitar and vocals. As a result, some of it sounds like quickly tossed off 60s British psychedelia ("No Good Trying," with Soft Machine providing a backing track that fails to keep up with Barrett's odd timing; the excellent "No Man's Land"; the extraordinarily Floyd-esque "Long Gone"). The rest is like the Velvet Underground's gentler demo-like material (the catchy shout-along "Octopus"; the uncharacteristically straightforward love song "Late Night"). But Barrett had a clever pop sensibility, and all of the tracks do something to grab the listener's attention - the guy was clearly a damn good songwriter, and there are plenty of little lyrical gems here if you've got the patience for this kind of thing. Barrett's haunting take on James Joyce's "Golden Hair" is a great example, as is the hysterical opening track ("Terrapin"). (JA)
Opel (recorded 1968 - 1970, released 1988)