Syd Barrett: The Madcap Laughs

Syd Barrett: The Madcap Laughs

Album #79 - January 1970

Episode date - September 5, 2018

The Alternative Top 40
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    Have you ever asked yourself “Whatever became of the ‘60s counterculture”? Here is your answer. The promise of a new consciousness crumbled with the close of the decade. Syd Barrett became a poster boy for all that went wrong with the psychedelic lifestyle, but this album stands as a testament to Barrett’s innate talent.

    As the story goes, Barrett was so far gone that he could never play the song the same way twice, thus confounding his accompanists, and his erratic behavior made it extremely difficult to yield conventionally ‘complete’ tracks, yet there is so much casual genius littered about this entire album. Barrett’s ‘alternate’ mindset rendered the album a thoroughly unique affair, with unpredictable twists and turns that wind through a fantastical land of disjointed beauty and shattered insights.

     “No Good Trying” is brilliant psychedelic revelry, sung like a private joke. “Love You” is even more charmingly witty – a phonetic poem of jumbled words strung together like multi-coloured lights on a Christmas tree. It’s genuinely funny, while simultaneously clever and weird. Speaking of funny, it’s easy to laugh at Syd’s first failed attempt to sing the melody of “If It’s In You,” but before the laugh has a chance to dry in your throat, it starts to sink in that he’s written an impossibly difficult line. The word ‘thinking’ consists of 16 distinct notes stretched over two octaves. If this were anyone else, the snafu would of course have been edited out, as no right-thinking artist wants to be laughed at, but at this point in time, Syd was a third party on his own solo record. His stumbling, embarrassed excuses bare him as the vulnerable soul that he was, and then he nails it on the second attempt. 

    On “Here I Go,” Syd’s self-awareness takes a clever turn as he bemoans his inability to seduce a girl with his cracked pop songs, so he hooks up with her sister instead. The self-aware songs are also the saddest. In moments of clarity, Syd must have been all too aware of his deteriorating situation, singing “Won’t you miss me?  Wouldn’t you miss me at all?” on “Dark Globe.” Despite such sadness, Syd still managed to create an album fleshed out with clever wordplay and humor. “The Madcap Laughs”, and if you listen with sympathetic ears you’ll find yourself laughing with him, and not at him.

    January 1970 - Billboard Did Not Chart on Initial Release, However Charted #163 on re-release in 1974

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