Pink Floyd, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn

Dan Epstein

By Dan Epstein

on 06.08.11 in Reviews

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (2011 - Remaster)

Pink Floyd
About as far removed from

Recorded at Abbey Road Studios at the same time the Beatles were working on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Pink Floyd's full-length debut is a purer and more potent distillation of British psychedelia circa 1967 than the Beatles' landmark work — and the case could be made for it being a stronger album, as well. Though it was released during the Summer of Love, Piper is about as far removed from "peace and love" as Haight-Ashbury is from Cambridge. Penned and sung by original Floyd frontman Syd Barrett, the opening trilogy of "Astronomy Domine," "Lucifer Sam" and "Matilda Mother" concerns itself with the movement of the cosmos, LSD-induced paranoia, and childhood terrors, respectively; even when Barrett gives free reign to his Lewis Carroll-influenced sense of whimsy, as on "Flaming," "The Gnome" and "Scarecrow," one can sense a disquieting undercurrent beneath the jollity. While the band's volcanic improvisational abilities — honed by countless gigs on the British club circuit — only really come into play on "Astronomy Domine," "Pow R. Toc H." and the nine-plus minutes of the aptly-titled instro "Interstellar Overdrive," Barrett's menacing slide guitar jabs and Rick Wright's cod-Eastern organ runs lend the entire album a lysergic edge, without ever lapsing into the paisley-colored pandering that so many of their contemporaries would soon resort to. Sonically, lyrically and thematically, Piper is very much Barrett's album — with the possible exception of the cuckoo-clock collage that closes "Bike," nothing here bears even the slightest resemblance to the Floyd's "classic" '70s sound — and it remains his finest work, as well. Barrett's subsequent solo albums (recorded after the sad acid-induced breakdown that resulted in him being booted from the band in March 1968) do have their quirky and forlorn charms, of course, but Piper is the sound of a visionary artist in full flight. Remember him this way.