Saturday, December 15, 2007

Syd Barrett - Crazy Diamond

(Capitol, 1993)

Capitol released this EP to promote its unfortunately-titled Crazy Diamond box (if you’re gonna be crass, why not go all the way? Why not Mental Illne$$?), pairing two tracks from The Madcap Laughs with two from Barrett. “Octopus” and “Baby Lemonade” are obvious choices, being better-known “hits,” but the minor songs “Terrapin” and “Effervescing Elephant” are questionable picks. The idea, however, was probably to present a sampling of the many facets of Barrett’s solo sound, and to that end this record does a fine job. The charging “Octopus” is a nonsensical, wheels-barely-on-the-road rave-up, a lively contrast to the bluesy shuffle of “Terrapin.” The songs from the second album are more fleshed-out instrumentally, and “Baby Lemonade,” with its Rick Wright organ, Gilmour bass, and great one-line chorus, is as poppy and memorable as Barrett gets. “Effervescing Elephant,” meanwhile, is childish idiocy, a not-quite-clever nursery rhyme with jaunty tuba-and-guitar accompaniment.

One of the most appealing aspects of a solo Barrett song is that it almost never goes where you think it will: rhythms switch up unexpectedly, tempos move all over the place, solos fall apart, tracks suddenly peter out. Listening to the comparatively “normal” “Baby Lemonade” for the first time as a bright-eyed lad, I was shocked to hear the song doing things that it just shouldn’t be doing structurally. Twas a major ear-opening moment... crucial, even! It’s actually a little sad when one eventually becomes comfortable with this material; the initial shock of its charming weirdness is a whole lotta fun.

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