Saturday, November 17, 2007
I've neglected listening to just about any Syd-period Pink Floyd or Barrett solo discs in the 21st century thus far... until this week, that is. Really, the 'Floyd I've liked (and played) the last 7 years has been the first few post-Barrett albums: Saucerful Of Secrets, More and Ummagumma. That's probably because I wore Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett into ground throughout the '90s and needed a break, and also because I belatedly - and reluctantly - discovered that the subsequent 3 albums the band recorded w/out him are actually really, really good. Who'da thought that? The written history in undieground circles tends to dictate that the band blew donkeys the moment Syd skipped town, though such is a historical falsification. Post '69 is when they hit the skids for me. Not because they got fat, rich and famous - though that likely fits into the equation somewhere - but because they lost all remnants of their psychedelic past and mutated into a shit-boring progressive-rock band w/ not an ounce of "rock" in their collective body. '70s 'Floyd plods and plods and plods... I don't say that because I'm a punker. After all, there are far worse offenders in bad '70s rock than 'Floyd, and the band did at least carry a sense of urban angst right up until... now, I suppose. It's a certain strain of English public-school angst, sure, though it still beats the poncified whimsy of a bunch of bedwetters like Genesis. I say all this because I actually purchased Meddle and Atom Heart Mother some years back, figuring I was missing a few pieces in the rock puzzle that is Pink Floyd (and being suitably impressed by the previous 3 LPs), only to find that the band hit the musical skids at the tail-end of the 1960s and - for me at least (and quite obviously not for the zillions of people who've purchased and enjoyed Dark Side Of The Moon) - never recovered in the slightest. They were sold right back to the store post haste.
You can see that the songwriting of the band changed drastically after Syd left, from a very white, English psychedelic pop not unlike Ray Davies or even Lennon/McCartney through to a more gravelly, psych blues-rock interspersed w/ a highly experimental instrumental angle which the band pretty much perfected throughout the rest of the 1960s. I mean, if you're into "noise" shit like Swans and Throbbing Gristle - two bands who've openly professed their love for post-Syd 'Floyd from the '60s - I don't see why you wouldn't enjoy the freaked-out clang of the intrumental passages on More and Ummagumma, or the hard-as-nails rock aggression of "The Nile Song". Stoner/burnout cliches, for sure, though so is Barrett for the rimmed-glasses-and-cardigan crowd, who've ripped off every move he made since Rough Trade first started releasing 7"s 30 years ago. No need for justification here: this is either falling on deaf ears or I'm preaching to the converted.
So, what brought on the sudden need for Syd? Probably the fact that I just read the cover story on him from the latest MOJO mag, and gave the very decent free CD a spin and decided I'd actually keep it (as opposed to the dozens of MOJO samplers I've thrown away or given to friends) and play it. The only other MOJO CD I've done that w/ was the Iggy-curated gem from 6 months back. I don't mean to be so flippant, but I just don't play the things. But this one's a goodie, and has a few people who influenced Syd (AMM, Blind Boy Fuller and Floyd Council and Pink Anderson... hence their name), those who were influenced by Syd (Spacemen 3, Jennifer Gentle, Acid Mothers Temple, Wooden Shjips) and his contemporaries (Hawkwind, Kevin Ayers, Soft Machine, Mothers Of Invention). Why am I telling you this? Not sure. In short, it's spurred me into placing Piper At The Gates Of Dawn at the top of the pile again, their uber-masterpiece and an album I probably should've put in my Top 100 list, but for whatever reason escaped my mind at the time. It is truly one of a kind, w/ its mixture of Duane Eddy/Shadows-influenced guitar twang and white-as-white Brit-psych experimentalism, and whilst I won't hate you for looking no further into the band's canon of song - such a reluctance is somewhat understandable, naturally - I will say that you're also missing out on something almost as good and a lot better than most.