Following his exit from Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett began to work on his debut solo album, The Madcap Laughs, in April 1968, which would continue until July 1989, following a series of fragmented recording sessions. Released in January 1970, The Madcap Laughs was credited with five producers, including Barrett himself: Peter Jenner (1968 sessions), Malcolm Jones (early-to-mid-1969 sessions), David Gilmour and Roger Water (mid-1969 sessions).
With guest musicians from Willie Wilson and Robert Wyatt, The Madcap Laughs was a Labour of Love, an intimate affair, whose stripped down acoustics lay bare the inner turmoil Barrett was experiencing during this time. It’s a pain capsule, which unearths, the deep sentiments and emotional sensibility of Barrett’s dark soul, whilst producing a trippy-folk, blues, infused catharsis. It’s an erratic roll out of off-kilter tracks, tilting its axis whilst orbiting into No Mans Land. In the unconventional sense, The Madcap Laugh does what it says on the tin. It’s a poignant album, an unhinged screwball rolling down a hill, revealing its absurdity whilst flourishing through its creativity.
Like the The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, The Madcap Laughs draws upon the literacy influences of Barrett, whilst remaining original and individualistic. It’s paradoxically anecdotal, an album which runs freely, whilst carrying a heavy load, obscured by the darkness, but shines from the light.
Significantly with producers such as David Gilmour and Roger Waters on board, The Madcap Laughs shakes hands with Pink Floyd’s, whilst liberating Barrett into the wilderness.
1) If there was ever a song which epitomised Barrett’s exodus from Pink Floyd, into the shores of hermitage and wild abandonment, “Terrapin” would be it in a nutshell, or in this case a Turtle-shell. It’s a dozy opener, whose acoustic and luminous riffs encapsulates the paradoxical realms of Barrett’s soul. Like a turtle plodding humbly across the gravelly, coastal path, “Terrapin” exudes the earthy realness, self-protecting and vulnerability of Barrett, whilst floating on the wayward currents into an astral world of chimerical bliss.
2) What sounds like an inebriated Lewis Carroll and CS Lewis hybrid, “No Good Trying” arches its bow-guitars at a jaunty angle, pointing downwards, in a lackadaisical daze of disjointed mayhem. Staying true to its psychedelic origins, “No Good Trying” is breezily erratic, and whose butter-finger riffs slide, scribble and scatter through the rock fuzz aside the rumbling beats.
3) “Love You” sings from the roof tops, flashing its frilly knickers in a sprightly whirl of intoxicated, carefree passion. Through the quirky lyrics and head spinning tempo, “Love You” wears its flirty heart on its sleeve, whilst inflamed by its romantic musings. Through the high-pitched tinkles and bobbing beats, “Love You” is an intimate knees up, under a sun-drenched sky, in an underground wah celebration of cosmic love.
4) Through the murky razor riffs, “No Mans Land” lingers between the groovy tail end of 60s, whilst tilting towards 70s glam rock. Along with the tapping beats and brooding bass, “No Mans Land” slithers and strides, carrying its weight through the metallic fuzz. It’s an edgy and mesmerising track, whose insular narration psycho babbles into an arcane underworld. Exuding an understated cool, “No Mans Land” is a great reminder of Barrett’s skill at condensing intricate guitar arrangements into an abstract motif.
5) “Dark Globe” is tragically beautiful and whose vulnerability and raw melancholy oozes out of every plectrum pore. It’s an exquisite track, whose stripped down acoustics reveal the shadowy and jittery sentiments, whilst synchronising with the raw vocals. Through the lovelorn lyrics, “Dark Globe” points to the moon, whilst gazing from the gutter. It’s sorrow personified, whose aching heart pulsates, pleads and dangles from its perforating core.
6) “Here I go” has all the makings of a one man band, singing up close at an intimate gig. It’s a sprightly track, whose jaunty and ostentatious riffs bop and jangle aside the tapping beats. Along with the deadpan delivery, “Here I go” is infectious, happy-go lucky, endearing, honest and comically narrated. It’s a step back from the darkness, loosening its reins, rhythmically harmonised, evoking a sense of organic spontaneity, delivered in one take.
7) Originally recorded as the prowling, space-prog, psychedelic “Clowns and Jugglers”, “Octopus” is an enchanting trip into the subconscious mind of Syd, inviting you through a maze of erratic passages, getting lost in the darkness, whilst guided by the light. It’s a signature track, which is a reminder yet again of Syd’s imaginative, powerful and perplexing songwriting skills. It’s borderline genius, whose dexterous strumming dips and elongates and commands its stage. It’s a snazzy, sleek production, whose interlude of bluesy riffs takes on a showmanship likened to Bo Diddley, whilst delivery its own pastiche of rumbling guitar-laden bliss.
8) Staying true to Syd’s penchant for fairy tales and fantasies, “Golden Hair” unravels its Rapunzel riffs in a dreamlike state, awakening from the farfisa fog and creating a cavernous motif. Based on the 1907 poem by James Joyce, “Golden Hair” is a fleeting track, whose haunting beauty is reflected in the xylophonic echoes, whilst being swept away from the whooshing percussions.
9) “Long Gone” sees the return of Syd’s ingenious skill at creating folk-infused psychedelia, which is etched in nostalgia and coated in darkness. It’s a great track which beams its Spanish-esque riffs, in a backdrop of sun-drenched haze, whilst sky-jacked by the farfisa fuzz.
10) “She took a long cold look” evokes a raw sense of melancholy, whose sentiments are captured in the nimble-fingered and dipping acoustics. It’s a pensive view of broken dreams, clinging to the remnants of yesteryear, whilst reflecting from its indifferent core. A folk ingrained track, “She took a long cold look” is simplistically crafted and whose vocal out-takes reinforce the raw, earthy sentiments of Syd’s soul.
11) “Feel” strums its inflamed strings against Syd’s mournful vocals into a psyc-folk vortex, spinning through the passage of time. Written by Alex Chilton and Christopher Bell, “Feel” is steeped in sentimentality, evoking a sense of loss, sorrow and deep yearnings. Through the ebb and flow of riffs, “Feel” slams, splutters, flicks and curves into the reverberating waves, travelling faraway into an underwater abyss.
12) Through the grainy out-takes, imperfections and arrhythmic vocals, “If it’s in You” encapsulates the raw emotions, wistful nostalgia and erratic spirit of Barrett during the making of Madcap Laughs. It’s Barrett’s psyche personified, a fragile soul, clinging between alternating states of consciousness, whilst creating a spiritual symbiosis. Through the nonsensical lyrics, “If it’s in You” evokes an improvised child-like vulnerability, streaming from his subconscious, revealing the darkness, whilst projecting the light. It’s an unusual track, whose low-fi spontaneity and unprocessed ambience was a rarity of its day.
13) “Late Night”, is singed with Eastern delight and nocturnal blues, whose swaying sitars curve and cascade like comets colliding on a galactic tide. It’s a mesmerising track, whose translucent tones, swirl, jangle and ascend aside the tabla beats. Along with the poetic lyrics and pensive vocals, “Late Night” exudes a transcendental state that twinkles in juxtaposition against the dexterous riffs, towards a wondrous horizon.