Sound — 4
Whether known to you or not, Syd Barrett is one of the most influential rock stars ever. Psychedelic rock in particular owes much to his contributions. To understand The Madcap Laughs, read this little tidbit about Syd... Roger Keith Barrett (a.k.a. Syd) was the first steady singer for Pink Floyd. Before you say it, I know that guy Bob Klose was the first guitarist. But Syd released a selection of successful singles with Pink Floyd, as well as their BRILLIANT debut album, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn," then subsequently suffered a drug induced breakdown likely from a few hundred too many doses of acid. Syd was also apparantly schizophrenic to start with, so the drugs only added to his problems. Now that you know where it's coming from, on to the album... The Madcap Laughs is hard to judge, because most of the people who bought it were and still are hardcore Pink Floyd fans who think the creativity of the band left with Syd's mind. While recording the album, it was clear he'd already went mad. The general jist of the album is filled with melancholy acoustic tracks with out of tune vocals at first listen. Just looking at the cover might make you think, "Wow..this guy's definitely not right in the head..." and the music does nothing to change that opinion. There wasn't anything too innovative on this album, Roger Waters and Rick Wright were brought in to help produce the album. It was a "nightmare" to quote Roger.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics...now here's where things get interesting... Many people interpret Syd's lyrics as metaphors for his own life. "Wouldn't You Miss Me," seemingly an ode to sadness and emptiness, is as many think a plea to the remaining members of Pink Floyd to help him as he was slipping further into madness. His voice isn't exactly amazing, and is much deeper and tainted by many a ciggarette from the boyish, carefree screams of his days with the Floyd. The strange thing about The Madcap Laughs, is even though Syd's sanity is far, far away, he keeps his motif of an almost child-like innocence in his lyrics. It is as if his fragile conscience remains in the absense of his sanity. Perhaps a clear reference to Pink Floyd, perhaps not, I believe "Here I Go" is one of the best, if not the best track on the entire album. It is extremely catchy, with a simple little guitar phrase that will have you snapping your fingers in no time. Some say it's a reference to Pink Floyd because of the opening (substitute "girl" and "she" for "Pink Floyd"): "This is the story about a girl that I knew, She didn't like my songs and that made me feel blue, She said a big band is far better than you, She don't rock n' roll, she don't like it, She don't do the stroll, well she don't do it right, Well everything's wrong, and my patience is gone, I awoke one morning and remembered this song, Kinda catchy...I hope that she will talk to me now, and even allow me to hold her hand and forget that old band" Coincidence? Maybe... and maybe "The Dark Side of the Moon" fitting The Wizard of Oz is a coincidence too... "Terrapin" is another lyrical highlight, as its slow, psychedelic acoustic guitar (with a little backing from David Gilmour?!) is strummed repetitively as Barrett croons, "I really love you, and I mean you, the stars above you, crystal blue." The song sounds about a thousand minutes long because it is so slow, yet it is very interesting to look inside the head of a madman and listen to his thoughts.
Overall Impression — 8
This album is singer/songwriter taken to a totally different level. Whether that level is higher or lower, it is unclear, but it is a good buy for any Pink Floyd or psychedelic era fan. If you enjoyed Syd Barrett's days with Pink Floyd you may be a bit dissapointed because he sounds light years away from what he did at one point. If you are also looking for Barrett's fancy fretwork via a zippo lighter over the strings you're in the wrong place. The Madcap Laughs is a look into Syd's troubled psyche, and it shows quite clearly everything has gone awry. If you like this album, his follow up "Barrett" is a purchase worth going for, yet doesn't stand up to the former. These 2 were the only studio recordings officially released, aside from a few greatest hits compilations scattered over the next few decades. No interesting music, but the lyrics will have you guessing for hours, and if someone took this album from me I would gladly replace it with another, or perhaps a greatest hits album. "Terrapin" and "Here I Go" as well as the beautiful "Golden Hair" are tracks worth taking a listen. E-mail your thoughts to me...firstname.lastname@example.org.