‘The Madcap Laughs’ is the debut solo album by the English singer-songwriter recorded after Barrett had left Pink Floyd. That appears to be the pree release we were given. It is, intermittently, one of the finest albums of its era. Not slick by any stretch of the imagination but full of left field ideas.
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180g vinyl reissue gatefold LP on Rhino.
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8/10 Ann D 3rd February 2015
Syd Barrett's solo debut was recorded in the couple of years after he left Pink Floyd, but it sounds like those days were already light years away. Whilst "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" was a masterpiece created by a man clearly in control of his art, "The Madcap Laughs" feels in some ways like a ragbag album from someone on the brink of falling to pieces. "Madcap" shifts around stylistically in the same way that 'Piper' did, but it doesn't hang together anything like as well as it's predecessor, with the acoustic songs that punctuate the record sounding unfinished and hastily added on. However, despite the dropped chords and bum notes, the quality of the writing here largely shines through on a surprisingly enjoyable record.
In terms of highlights, "It's No Good Trying" is a splendid piece of acid rock, hazy and malevolent. Barrett's scratchy guitar and nervy, swaggering vocal are underpinned wonderfully by Robert Wyatt's imaginative drumming, and indeed all the material here involving The Soft Machine is by and large the best realised on the album. Elsewhere, "Octopus" careers as wildly and thrillingly as the fairground ride that Barrett seeks to recreate and even the quieter songs, let down as they frequently are by poor performances, are still often hugely touching in their vulnerability, especially the stardom-weary "Feel" and the desolate "Dark Globe".
Things went quickly downhill after this, both creatively and in terms of mental health, but "The Madcap Laughs" remains a testament to the colossal talent of one of England's greatest songwriters and something of an unlikely triumph.
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