The Madcap Laughs – Syd Barrett (1970)

Album no. 204/1001

This is the debut solo album from Syd, following his departure from Pink Floyd. Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour helped produce this, so there couldn’t have been too many hard feelings.

Syd was removed from Pink Floyd because of his difficult behaviour. He had been increasingly erratic, sometimes not turning up for shows, sometimes turning up but not playing, and sometimes turning up and playing a single chord for the entire show.

On the band’s first US tour, during a gig at the Filmore, he stood onstage and gradually detuned his guitar over the course of ths show. He had apparently changed a great deal in a short space of time. He was reportedly a huge user of LSD, and there is also speculation he suffered from schizophrenia. Poor bloke.

Have you listened to this album before?

NK: I’ve heard a couple of tracks, but not the whole thing.

CL: No. My knowledge of Pink Floyd is pretty limited, so I know nothing about this.

Standout track

NK: I didn’t mind this album. I like ‘Here I Go’ a lot, that’s probably my pick for the standout. ‘Terrapin’ is really good as well, and ‘Love You’ is pretty fun. ‘Octopus’ was the single apparently, and that’s good too.

CL: The opener ‘Terrapin’ has a real Brian Jonestown Massacre feel to it – a really simple melody but a weird twist on it. I suppose that’s probably the standout. Everything else sounded more or less the same to me after that.

When would be the best time to listen to this?

NK: Maaaaaaaaaaaaan. Not when you’re feeling fragile. The way this is recorded it sounds super intimate and vulnerable. It’s very different from Pink Floyd. Listen to this when you’re feeling relaxed, and try not to think about what happened to Syd.

CL: Mmmm. It’s definitely in the same basket as Skip Spence. Even the production is similar – very lo-fi, very quiet, quite uncomfortable listening.  

Why has this album been included on the list?

NK: This is a pretty strange album. The production is interesting, lots of double tracked vocals and weirdo guitars. There’s a real feeling of space, like everything is in the background. It sounds a bit like a bunch of demos rather than a finished album, but there’s something here. Some of the hooks are really catchy, and the melodies are always pretty interesting.

CL: I suppose this is taking us further on the emotional shitstorm journey from musicians who didn’t have a great time. It’s not a fun sort of listening experience, that’s for sure. 

Will you be listening again?  

NK: Quite possibly. This is really different, and the production is strange enough for me to listen again.

CL: Nah. It’s not for me. To be honest, I just kept waiting for the really weird bits to kick in a la Piper At The Gates of Dawn. None of that here. 

Rating

NK: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

CL: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

Listen to The Madcap Laughs on Spotify or buy it in iTunes.

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