|The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
|A Saucerful of Secrets
|Soundtrack to the Film "More"
|Syd Barrett - The Madcap Laughs
|Syd Barrett - Barrett
|Atom Heart Mother
|Obscured by Clouds
|The Dark Side of the Moon
|Wish You Were Here
|David Gilmour - David Gilmour
|The Final Cut
|David Gilmour - About Face
|Roger Waters - The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking
|A Momentary Lapse of Reason
|Roger Waters - Radio K.A.O.S.
|Delicate Sound of Thunder
|Roger Waters - Amused to Death
|The Division Bell
|David Gilmour - On an Island
|The Endless River
|David Gilmour - Rattle That Lock
|Roger Waters - Is This the Life We Really Want?
Review last updated: January 26, 2020
Are you ready for Tanner to drop some hard truths down your throats from my gaping pit of knowledge? Some of you aren't going to like this, but it needs to be said. Syd Barrett was pretty much the heart and soul of Pink Floyd, and when he left the group, a large majority of Pink Floyd's creativity went with him. That's not to say that certain later albums are bad, or even not that great - Dark Side, Wish You Were Here, you know - but those albums will never approach the levels of ingenuity, brilliance, and ecstasy that are present in Barrett's compositions. Yeah, that's me. I'm one of those weirdos that has this opinion, and I know it's controversial, it's not a popular opinion to have, but you know what? All of those albums and singles that everyone from the 10-year-old dope addict, to your hippie acid-dropping aunt, to the Indian cashiers at the bodega, to your local dadrock butt-rocker morning zoo radio DJ loves: "Comfortably Numb", "Another Brick in the Wall", "Time", "Wish You Were Here", "Dogs", "Money", "Echoes", "Brain Damage/Eclipse", none of these things would have existed, and certainly none of these half-baked ideas would have ever been able to penetrate the mainstream consciousness, if it weren't for Syd Barrett forming the group in 1966 with the original ideas of "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play". It's not that the other members (Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright) are talentless, or hacks, or idiots that can't play, it's more like these members are simply less inspired than Barrett. It's as if Barrett's seemingly small contribution to the group's discography (a studio album credited to him and a song on the next one) has more concentrated inspiration and creativity inside of it, than the sum total of Pink Floyd's remaining studio albums put together.
I know what happened, as do most music listeners from multiple generations. Dude was nuts, plain and simple. It's not like he wanted to leave the band, and it's not like the band hated him and wanted to kick him out, it's more like Barrett no longer had the abilities to function normally and behave somewhat as expected. Pink Floyd is probably one of the most unique of the hyper-popular figures in modern recorded music: Not only are they consumed and "purchased", but they are genuinely adored by absolutely everyone, from the football coach, to the bartender at the watering hole, to the baseball player stepping up to the plate, to the 19-year-olds taking acid and ecstasy at music festivals, to late-night talk show hosts and internet's busiest music nerds alike. Even one of the harshest music critics and grumpiest Italian men around, Piero Scaruffi, has awarded them an 8.5 and an 8. Thus, when you start talking about Pink Floyd, you are talking about one of the most beloved and cherished rock institutions, perhaps even more cherished than the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Nirvana, or Led Zeppelin. People whose eyes normally glaze over when you talk about the obscure stuff will suddenly perk up when you mention this band. This makes them a little difficult to talk about. But the fact remains, Pink Floyd is a powerful personality, who transforms people that typically have no enjoyment from what they think music is (ignorant dadrockers, white gangstas, Christian metalcore high schoolers, housewives, nuns), into $250-headphone-buying Pitchfork-reading vinyl-collecting music junkies for life. And that's a pretty great thing.
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is the Pink Floyd's masterpiece. Within this album, a world is created, and a narrative is unfolded. Items and concepts in your everyday life, which typically have no musical properties, suddenly become musical and captivating. Barrett does not simply sing these songs as himself, he is under the veil of many characters, many guises, and many entities, some who simply make noises and don't even speak. His fellow musicians transform Barrett's simple, childlike, innocent creations into powerful sonic booms, lush reverberations, and mind-twisting melodies and production. "Astronomy Domine" and "Interstellar Overdrive" were created before men had landed on the moon, and the most vivid images these songs create are of space, rocket ships, Black holes, wormholes, and antimatter; galaxies, nebula, solar systems. These sound images were designed by a powerful imagination. "Bike" is easily the most abrasive, intense, and jarring thing to have ever been professionally recorded at this point in time. The Mothers of Invention, The Red Crayola, and Velvet Underground had gotten pretty weird around this time, and even though those other bands are pretty great, none of their experiments had really hit the listeners as hard as "Bike" did.
A Saucerful of Secrets, much like their debut album, is fantastic, innovative, atmospheric and monumental. This album is criminally underrated, with many Pink Floyd listeners dismissing it as weird, "filler", unremarkable, or strange. However, it is one of the group's most theatrical, if not the most theatrical album, and it introduces many styles and disciplines in music that simply aren't present in rock music today (vibraphones, horn sections, kazoos, gongs, timpani, organ, even simple silence - negative space), and are very difficult to be replicated or emulated. Each one of these songs are very distinct and unique, perhaps each of them are even more of outliers individually than the songs on Piper, but somehow they achieve a remarkable and colorful unity, and bring an intense and nail-biting narrative to the album.
I'm not gonna write much more about Pink Floyd, because eventually I will start saying things people have already said. I don't need to gush anymore than I already have about one of the world's most talked-about bands. I will say though, that the double album Ummagumma is really the outfit's last hoorah as far as Syd Barrett material goes. This gatefold, much like Saucer, is horrifically underrated. The original studio compositions that detail the second half of the album ("Sysyphus", "The Narrow Way", "Grantchester Meadows", "Several Species of Small Furry Animals") have a certain strong, silent elegance. These songs were not constructed or composed in traditional ways, therefore the results are in no way conventional or conservative: the group had not made anything like these songs before, or since. Frankly, I think this album should be more appreciated by Pink Floyd listeners, as there really isn't another album that even sounds like it. This is one of the last accomplishments of a talented rock quartet whose creativity and inspiration have started to dwindle, or at least transform into something more easily marketed.