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18 September 2009

Syd Barrett - 'The Madcap Laughs and Barrett' (Harvest)

It's nice to have this as a 2-record set with a photo-adorned gatefold. Barrett is such the stuff of myths these days that I find it colours my enjoyment of the music a bit. Sure, it's a great story and it's almost inarguable that Pink Floyd was more interesting with him, but it's hard not to feel like the poor guy was exploited a bit. And listening to The Madcap Laughs has its moments of genuine spookyness, but a lot of proto-twee cute moments that, whether they were Barrett's fault or not, are hard for me to get past now. Among the plethora of depressed, outsider folk that's been unearthed there's certainly been a lot of more fucked up stuff, but Barrett has the mass appeal. I guess cause there's such a strong pop sensibility, plus the connection to a very popular rock band whose posters still adorn the walls of college dorms worldwide. Now, my favorite moments tend towards songs like 'Dark Glove', 'Terrapin' and 'Golden Hair', maybe because I've drowned myself in the outfolk sound recently. But the poppy tunes are great too: 'Here I Go' is an Ayers-like bit of whimsy that I think Barrett pulls off well, but many others maybe would stumble on it. I always thought Robert Wyatt played on this record but Harvest's repackaging doesn't credit him, if that is true. Barrett is a bit more cohesive and rocking, with some great songs ('Waving my arms int he air/I never lied to you' is a quite underrated one, plus 'Wolfpack'), yet I think I'm mostly satisfied by the end of record one. The messed up rhythms that sounded so 'crazy' once are there and I pity the backing band, but it's not reason enough to be excited in a record collection full of hesitations. This set falls into the category of records I'd never consider getting rid of, yet I'll probably never listen to them again. They are trophies, existing only to chronicle some important stage in my past development for my own autobiographical purposes. And, I don't have Spence's Oar so maybe this fills that niche too. When I was 15 I used to dream of meeting a girl who would have a Syd Barrett poster in her room, though instead of James Joyce's 'Golden Hair' she always had black locks in my dreams. Said girl never materialised but I'm sure she's not hard to find (I'm no longer interested). But a girl with a Kenneth Higney poster instead, now that would be a treat!

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