/ LaurCode

Syd Barrett - The Madcap Laughs

I've listened to this album and Syd Barrett's solo stuff basically on repeat for the past week or so. I thought beforehand that I would really enjoy it, being a fan of Pink Floyd's first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, in which Syd Barrett wrote most of the songs, and I was right!

Syd Barrett's first solo album is an original, quirky, intriguing piece of work that's a pleasure to listen to. It's difficult explaining the exact style of music Barrett makes on this album as it is quite unique - I haven't heard anything else from that period (late 60's, early 70's), especially in the scene of solo, singer-songwriter music, that can be easily compared to this.

In general I would describe the mood of the album being one of happiness, feeling mellow with the world and its happenings around you. But of course life is not all happiness; there are some songs in which Syd does sound a bit like he is longing for something, an answer perhaps - in some parts of the album there's a sense of confusion or wonderings about some things in his life.

Short background of this album: it was recorded not long after Barrett was kicked out of Pink Floyd. I think its title might be a sarcastic response on that move: The Madcap Laughs - he was perceived by the other members of the band as becoming more erratic and weirder, even called crazy, the title might be him saying "look at to me, the mad guy, I don't care, I'm gonna continue just making my music".

Some reasons why I love this album and did the effort writing a short review of it:

  • Syd does not follow convention, and doesn't care about it. Syd's music is definitely different, that you can hear immediately. There are always atypical, "wrong" notes found somewhere in either his guitar work or his melodies, be it on purpose which it is most of the time, or accidental - he has a kind of poor, sloppy style of acoustic guitar playing, which just adds to the appeal of the music.

    A lot of music critics have regarded his solo work as being sub-standard music, but what they don't get is this simple fact: It's not necessary for everything to be perfect, it's the imperfections that make something interesting.

    It's this apparent dissonance that is sometimes created that makes all the difference in the album, it's what makes it standout. Apparently, according to The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.), during the recordings, "... the musicians would ask 'What key is that in, Syd?', to which Barrett would simply reply 'Yeah' or 'That's funny'." I think that's classic.

  • It's honest. The whole album is written in the first person, and this creates a connection between the listener and the artist: the album is a glimpse into Syd's mind, and gives the listener a chance to experience some of that together with him, the guide being the music.
  • It's minimalist and not loud. Most of the songs just feature him playing his acoustic and singing. It's a great album to play at a party when everyone just wants to chill out.
  • It's catchy AF! After listening to it a few times you'll find the melodies stick in your head, either because of its quirkiness, or its beauty (for example, the song Golden Hair, of which the lyrics is based on a James Joyce poem (he's the writer of that unreadable novel, Ulysses), is mystically beautiful, go give it a listen.
  • It includes studio chat. I love it when they include the musicians talking to the producer in the studio in music recordings. It makes it feel more real and it's funny and endearing. Sometimes the small things are the things that make you enjoy something the most.
  • It includes different takes of songs, with each of them sometimes differing quite a lot. It's cool to have alternate versions of songs, or to see a song's evolution on an album.
  • A lot of the songs are about love and affection - I'm a sucker for that. One of the songs is about winning a girl's liking through his music, which is something every musician tries to do all the time really 🙂.
  • The lyrics are very interesting to analyze. Analyzing his lyrics can bring you closer to understanding him, which I find intriguing as he was a real interesting guy.

Here's the full album on Youtube. Go give it a listen - if you don't like it that's fine, if you do like it and find it refreshing, let me know using the form below (if you want to of course).