Monday, January 10, 2011

Pink Floyd - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)

Upon request, I have decided to uphold the daunting task of reviewing one of the most classic, influential, and intimidating psychedelic rock albums that has ever come into existence, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by none other than almighty Pink Floyd. After first realizing the undeniable beauty of The Wall and The Dark Side of the Moon as a young lad back in middle school, I stumbled into my local record shop looking for more. Naturally, I completely ignored the other big-named classics such as Animals and Wish You Were Here and picked up Piper on CD.  In hindsight the duality of the psychedelic genre made itself evident to me by having had the disc at a young age.  As a small sap I laughed heartily at the raking absurdity of the little stories of gnomes and scarecrows and well as the deranged yelps and howls of the likely madmen.  In parallel, being more aware of the world around me and the lifestyle of drugs that happened during the album's creation I can now better understand what is really going on in the music in ways that I couldn't imagine as a child.

Here with Piper, what we have here is the work of Syd Barret, a true hero before his own mental collapse.  He is mainly responsible for all of the invention and exploration that was just unheard of at the time. His whimsical lyrics and signature Danelectro twang sculpt the path for the remaining members of the band to go in a much different direction than what David Gilmore would later take them towards. I guess I'll provide the track by track but in hindsight I feel bad about slicing and dividing the album up with my own little intellectual silverware.

1. Astronomy Domine
Unbelievable opening track that really locks you in from the start.  The band ignites and Syd guides you with sublime visual sweeps through space in what I think are some of the best lyrics on the album.
2. Lucifer Sam
Commanding bass provides the sense that you have been put right in the middle of some secret agent movie.  It's actually impossible to not feel super cool during this one.
3. Matilda Mother
This is were things start to get really obscure as it starts with a really strange but enchanting story.  It is really well composed as it drifts into a brief Egyptian feeling (I think it's harmonic minor for all you musical peoples) before setting back in to the main theme and ending in a dreamscape setting up the next song.
4. Flaming
A continuation of a pleasant dream established in the previous song, real poppy and upbeat.
 5.  Pow R. Toc H.
Fantastic and unforgettable instrumental track that involves the novel screeching and welping of the band members.  Although no lyrics are present, this one unmistakably takes the listener on an epic journey through what I like to think of as the inevitable death and decension of some strange creature that goes "doi, doi" (someone please confirm this).
6. Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk
Only track not written by Syd (it was Roger Waters) and begins with some corny lyrics before getting into some heavy psych jamming.  I consider it to be a weaker song on the album.
7.  Interstellar Overdrive
As anyone familiar with the album would tell you, Interstellar Overdrive is the magnus opus of pretty much all psych rock.  It's really hard to put words to this, it is more of an experience than anything. Just listen to it (on good speakers in stereo, of course).
8. The Gnome
One of my personal favorites that tells the story of, you guessed it, a little gnome.
9. Chapter 24
Some weird thing accounting from some book or something. not bad, just not amazing.
10. Scarecrow
Another great sort of poppy song.
11. Bike
Classic sing-along that brings a smile on every listen.  The ending is literally horrifying though, I skip it every time, lest I won't be able to sleep.

I guess a large portion of this review is missing the overall insanity and intensity of the jams and soundscapes that encumber this album as well as all good psychedelic rock.  The genre in itself is special in that it leaves a lot up to the listener to feel what is happening in the music and to decide for themselves what is actually going on. Piper is powerful and surreal, I hope you check it out or comment if you know it.

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