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Syd Barrett: The Madcap Laughs (1970) by: sky_pink

‘The Madcap Laughs’ is Syd Barrett’s first solo album and exposes the two things Syd is most known for: interesting musical ideas that got started one of the most important bands ever (if there are indeed some who don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s ‘Pink Floyd’) and, well, madness.

Some would say Syd’s solo albums are more ‘bizarre’ than ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’, some would call them significantly less bizarre. I consider them to be less weird than ‘Piper’, but then again, from the stuff I had heard from experts I had come to expect something like ‘Two Virgins’ or some other unlistenable result of John’s and Yoko’s collaboration.

‘The Madcap Laughs’ is far less experimental, actually it is what I would call ‘psychedelic folk’ (but don’t rely on this; I can think of NOTHING to compare this album to!). Quite many of the songs are rather catchy (‘Love You’, anyone?). I guess you can start thinking about it as bizarre when you think about Syd himself and what is behind all those mesmerizingly raw songs.

Although the songs are obviously un-rehearsed and the overall recording is therefore ‘clumsy’, it still doesn’t sound chaotic (at least not to my ears). It sounds like the same world we live in, if somewhat distorted – but certainly not chaotic. Kind of more like a good poem that makes you see things you never saw before because they were too little or too big.

What is the most surprising about this album is that it IS simple, yet it doesn’t SOUND simple. It is so simple it almost sounds complicated. And, although I have several times implied it’s far more listener-friendly than some would expect, it’s definitely not for everyone; I’m sure some would be annoyed by things like Syd’s intentional off-key singing and the various ‘mistakes’ that, in my opinion, just add to the album’s unique atmosphere.

The one thing you shouldn’t do is listen to this album in a detached, ‘observing’ way. It’s the only thing that can spoil this acutely emotional and intensive album.

Best songs: ‘Terrapin’, ‘It’s No Good Trying’, ‘Love You’, ‘Dark Globe’, ‘Octopus’, Golden Hair’, ‘Long Gone’, ‘If It’s In You’