Sunday, March 12, 2006

Reason it is written on the brambles.

Syd Barrett was one of the founding members of Pink Floyd. He wrote the majority of their early songs - most of the first album as well as the early singles like "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play."

Barrett was one of those acid casualty figures of the sixties, like Brian Wilson or Skip Spence, insanely talented yet quite psychologically damaged. Unlike, say, Brian Wilson, Barrett was a talented lyricist, very much interested in word play.

After Barrett left Pink Floyd, he recorded two albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett. While Allmusic recommends the former, the latter was the first I heard and is my favorite.

From what I understand of its recording, Barrett would lay down acoustic guitar tracks of songs he had floating around in his head, often changing and rearranging and generally not playing the same thing two times in a row. Then, various members of the Soft Machine, a quasi-jazz band from the time, would lay down additional instrumentation over it. It's as if a jazz band overdubbed onto Skip Spence's Oar, I suppose. It sounds very intimate and quiet, lacking any loud rockers like "See Emily Play" or "Arnold Layne", and as a result I've listened to it over and over. A great quiet album and Barrett's last full length before he retired from the music business to live a life of solitude in his mother's house.

The songs on Barrett are a mix of menace, sadness, longing, with occasional fits of whimsy. It sounds very vulnerable, and feels the more precious for it. If you're at all interested, I'd recommend the following songs: It Is Obvious, Baby Lemonade, Dominoes, Wined and Dined. Well worth a listen.

No comments: