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Syd Barrett - Barrett CD (album) cover


Syd Barrett


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3.30 | 141 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 3.5 and Dominoes, a day goes...

Aw poo. This is a touch of a let down. You see, while some might argue that Syd only deserved to live on as a curio and let the Floyd get on to more "serious stuff," I feel that Syd's ole idea pot was far from empty. Hell, I thought that getting away from the Floyd helped him produce his finest stuff. But, oh well, this time around, we have the Floyd helping us out. And by helping, I mean "helping."

Take for example the opener "Baby Lemonade." At first, the twelve string guitar intro sounds cool, but repeated listenings make one realize that it has nothing to do with Syd or the song, which is too bad, since "Lemonade" is probably the best song on the album. I mean, it's catchy as hell, with cool lyrics and some interesting guitar work in the background (note those last three words there...).

"Love Song" is a fun, if not terribly lofty, piano ballad of sorts. "Dominoes" though really gets to me, or could. It's Syd at his most depressing, moaning about his loneliness through minor chords and backwards guitar. Sadly though, this eventually turns into a pointless organ exercise at the end. Very un-cool lads.

"It Is Obvious" is just sort of stupid. It's almost tuneless, and Syd is buried behind cheap organ effects. The more solo-Syd track "Rats" though hits the opposite end of the scale, featuring the man at his most schizoid. What else can we make of the bizarre, seemingly adlibbed, lyrics, howled just out of tune? Not terribly listenable, but fascinating in its own way.

"Masie" is pretty bizarre. A blues workout, but in Syd's twisted take on blues. It's demonically slow, making "Terrapin" seem like Bo Diddly in comparison. I can't quite condemn it though, since Syd, shouting out lyrics at random, actually sounds like he's having fun for a change. "Gigolo Aunt" is probably the most successful attempt to "normalize" the Barrett sound. What probably began life as a sort of Brit-pop tune is turned into a mini-epic, and it actually works. It might be a little long for what it is, but still, everything's solid enough to get by.

"Waving My Arms in the Air" is a toe-tappin', but still dull, ballad of sorts, with lyrics that border between cute and stupid. This turns straight into "I Never Lied to You," which follows the same line, only worse. Luckily, we next get "Wined and Dined," a quiet...organ ballad? Either way, the melody is memorable, and the atmosphere is charming for a change, rather than scary or weird.

"Wolfpack" gets us back on track. It's largely unlistenable; it's far too chaotic for me to take anything from it. Which is too bad, since the electric guitar work sounds like some of the best on the album. Finally, "Effervescing Elephant" provides us with an all too brief glimpse at Syd's charming, childlike side. The instrumentation is perfect, and the lyrics are delivered with nursery rhyme-like ease.

Once again, Syd has hit us with a largely unpredictable album. The problem is, he's nowhere to be found most of the time. His guitar is muted, and his vocals are shoved way in the background. Why?

I dunno. Perhaps it's because the Floyd, who took a much more active hand in producing this one, were trying to normalize the sound. Unfortunately for us, "normalize" means "get rid of Syd and make it sound like contemporary Floyd" (unlike The Soft Machine on Madcap, who just tried to accentuate the natural Syd-ness, and pretty much pulled it off with flying colors). Of course, the other option is "push Syd too far forward," which is how we get "Rats" and "Wolfpack." Why?

Were the Floyders (led by the Dave "Depraved" Gilmour, of course) trying to make it sound like Syd actually liked the new Floyd sound? Or were they trying to make their record sound better-in spots, Barrett starts to resemble Meddle's snot covered little brother. Which is really a pity, because the material here is so much stronger than Meddle. Crazy as he was, Syd could still write a solid song or three. Some have argued that Barrett could actually be stronger than Madcap; dunno if I agree, but I know it's better than this.

Syd must have thought so too. Shortly after Barrett, he unplugged his solo career for good. Perhaps it's a pity, perhaps it's not; we'll never exactly know. Syd was so far gone at this point that maybe the Floyd honestly DID think they were doing the right thing in pushing themselves so far forward (I don't quite believe that though, and besides, it's no excuse for spoiling some good songs). The album is still good enough, but it's sad and quiet now. Rather than watching Syd struggle against his demons, we see him succumb. In fact, he's not even there.

The Whistler | 3/5 |


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