Last Impressions: Pink Floyd – Relics

I must have been 10 years old when I first heard this. My best friend was a boy in my class called Jym (he spelled his name after Syd Barrett), who was outright weirder than I was. I always thought of my parents as being hippyish with their occasional attempts at veganism, but Jym’s folks let him do anything he wished, which even at the age of 10 I knew was a really bad idea. He spent most of his time stoned or tripping out on mushrooms, and had hardcore porn on his bedroom walls, which I found rather unsettling. Being friends with Jym was like rubbernecking at a car crash. We lost touch after he got expelled at the age of 12 for dumping a turd in the school bully’s gym bag. Last I heard, he was seen in a disheveled state, arguing with a lamppost in Brighton.

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Despite knowing even at 10 that I was nuttier than a sack of squirrels, I’ve retained a functional level of sanity by the careful avoidance of hallucinogens. Still, God only knows what impact a non-stop diet of Barrett-era Floyd has on a developing brain. Lying on the sun-scorched grass in Jym’s back garden, listening to Relics, I definitely used to feel rather trippy.

Listening to the album 23 years later in all its remastered glory, what strikes me first is just how musical it is. Liberated from my tinny box of a walkman, all those beautiful sounds rise to the fore and I remember why I loved it so very much to start with. While there’s plenty of chaos and dissonance, like my deceptively strict childhood, it’s only allowed to roam so far before it gets called back into order. It’s one of the hallmarks that tie my current favourite acts together – the joyful experimentalism is underpinned by a keen sense of pop structures. Psychedelic classics like Careful With That Axe, Eugene and Interstellar Overdrive are backed by hit singles Arnold Layne, See Emily Play (which falls neatly between the later Beatles and The Kinks) and the searing proto-metal of Nile Song.

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What’s surprising about Relics is that it doesn’t feel like a compilation. Despite being comprised of selected tracks from the first three albums, plus singles and B-sides, it flows very well as an album in its own right. There’s a great variety of styles and emotions. Biding My Time, for example, is a lovely stomper of a blues song, whereas Paintbox is the sort of frustrated suburban commentary that Blur would later use as a career. In spite of its eclecticism, there’s an overarching sound that is distinctively “Barrett-era Floyd”, and an attention to songwriting and structure that would later entice 45 million people to bring home a copy of Dark Side of the Moon.

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One comment on “Last Impressions: Pink Floyd – Relics

  1. Pingback: Most overlooked posts of the past 3 months « Reinspired

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