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Pink Floyd - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn CD (album) cover


Pink Floyd


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.87 | 2113 ratings

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4 stars An Escher Designed Room Of Musical Tunes

Genre debates have no place here. File under ORIGINAL and ignore the idiot who walks into the Colosseum in Rome circa 80AD and twitters:

Oh I see you've gone for that Greco/Roman style thing's really coming back in vogue now you know?

This is a recording that CREATED the stylistic cliches we now detect in all those bands who subsequently came in it's wake.

It may be considered a rather redundant exercise to imagine the music presented here stripped of its psychedelic coating but I think it may serve to illustrate a point:

Without the framework of Syd's songs (or basic harmonic progressions and melodies) the Floyd would have amounted to no more than another fashionable 60's freakout combo that collapsed under the weight of its own creative inertia. A fantastic light-show that serves to conceal much more than it illuminates.

Pink Floyd minus Talent = a very bad Hawkwind x 100

To wit, most of the successful material on Piper consists of short pop songs around which the band weave their spacey 60's backdrops. It is testimony to the resilience of Syd's original constructions that they hold up so well in spite of the deranged chaos that threatens to engulf them completely. Therein lies the tension that all satisfying structures need to posses as a sure sign of strength.

Or at least it was until Mr Barrett's musical and chemical substance ratio went seriously awry. Thereafter, the strengthening tension disappears, and that sublime and inspired derangement of the senses, which is so perfectly captured here, withers into a sad and bloated corporate version of the counter culture.

'Astronomy Domine' - forget the notion that Syd Barrett created space rock - it proved to be the ultimate cul de sac of genres that no-one has ever escaped from with a shred of integrity intact. This is just a GREAT POP SONG with 1967 Zeitgeist lyrics.

'Lucifer Sam' - best song title EVER but rather disappointingly, appears to be just another GREAT POP SONG about a black cat

'Matilda Mother' - fantastic jangly guitar riff throughout this one and the vocal harmonies are achingly gorgeous. Syd was forced to change the lyrics as they were lifted verbatim from Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children whose estate threatened to sue for copyright infringement. GREAT POP SONG

'Flaming' - beautiful tune with completely drippy lyrics (unicorns, buttercups and eiderdowns anyone?) Like all of Syd's best work, the chord progression is extremely unconventional and in less talented hands would sound just plain odd or wrong Somehow he made these angular sequences work.

'PowR TocH' - worst song title EVER and the album's first 'baby clanger' with cod jazz piano from Wright over some cod jazz drums from Mason. The opening section is clearly composed and what follows sounds like Whistle-blower's Raspberry (an unconvincing jam)

'Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk' - perhaps a variant on 'Physician Heal Thyself?' Anyway, I thought it sounded like the Seeds when I heard this the first time (Which is certainly not a bad thing)

'Interstellar Overdrive' - Great opening riff a surefire 24 carat classic and then.....the remainder is probably culpable for 'space rock', yes folks, that heinous genre which, like it's venereal half sister sibling 'ambient' shares a passion for putting any old s.h.i.t. through a big reverb. If you just want to listen to stimulating timbres for their own sake - buy a sample CD.

'The Gnome' - charming, funny and whimsical with a sublime tune. Much imitated style of songwriting but the imitators like Bowie, Bolan and the rest just weren't up to penning this type of GREAT POP SONG.

'Chapter 24' - I think this is the verbatim text of some eastern mystical tome? Rather silly but redeemed yet again by the intoxicating other worldliness of Barret's voice. Exquisite.

'The Scarecrow' - Odd little waltz tune graced by some clever phrasing by Syd to get all the words into the meter. Haunting organ sound used to great effect throughout the album

'Bike' - A love song that possibly reveals more about the author that he would have cared to admit. Within it's modest 3min 26 sec span, Syd manages to sound cheerful, sad, lonely, bored, poignant, irreverent and all points in between. The object of his affections would also probably reciprocate these feelings, and when the mood turns darker at the end,

I know a room of musical tunes

you suspect that Barrett foresaw his own descent into oblivion/derangement. It was perhaps sadly, inevitable.

The 'squeaky toy' loop section at the end which fades out has haunted me for years. Like so much of the record it is both thrilling AND unsettling.

This is the only Pink Floyd album I ever still listen to and although I admit to being left mostly cold by their subsequent work, it seems faintly ironic that despite the resultant stellar material success garnered by Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall, all three are unable to dispel entirely the haunting spectre of a laughing madcap.

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |


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