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Syd Barrett – An Introduction to Syd Barrett

I am sure there are many of you who don’t know who Syd Barrett was. Since his prime creative years are long past, you may not be aware that for a short period of time, he reigned as one of the great psychedelic songwriters of rock and roll antiquity.



Hey kids, I am sure there are many of you who don’t know who Syd Barrett was. Since his prime creative years are long past, you may not be aware that for a short period of time, he reigned as one of the great psychedelic songwriters of rock and roll antiquity. Whether it is better to burn out rather than fade away is a matter of personal choice; but Syd didn’t really do either. He simply fried his cranial endowments after taking one too many doses of Lysergic acid diethylamide or as the San Francisco hipsters called it, LSD. In spite of his eccentric behavior and erratic output, Syd was the original songwriter for Pink Floyd and left the world with a remarkable body of work.

When I’m headed home from a nocturnal excursion, nothing pleases my ears more than popping on some late 1960’s psychedelic rock by the likes of the Doors, Grateful Dead, HP Lovecraft and the Jefferson Airplane. Though I don’t partake on drugs or heavy drinking, listening to this music at 2:00 PM gives me a contact high. An Introduction to Syd Barrett, a new release of Barrett’s work is perfect for those late night rides. It provides the listener with a well rounded collection his writing with early Pink Floyd as well as his solo material. The compilation was supposedly supervised by David Gilmour and the remixes offer high quality sound.

Barrett’s brand of groovy, atmospheric material evokes images of riding a merry-go-round at a Brighton amusement park and that’s even without taking LSD. Just pop on opening track “Arnold Layne” and you’ll immediately get what I mean. The song, originally released in 1967, has a cheesy cool, Farfisa organ sound, British art school lyrics and appropriately staccato textures. “See Emily Play” treads similar territory but far more brilliantly. While maintaining timeless aesthetic aplomb, it has a beautifully catchy verse and chorus melody that offers this twisted lyrical nursery rhyme:

Put on a gown that touches the ground, ah ooh / Float down a river forever and ever, Emily, Emily / There is no other day / Let’s try it another way / You’ll lose your mind and play / Free games for May / See Emily play

Pink Floyd’s “Matilda Mother” seems to have been inspired by a child’s recollection of his mother imparting fairy tales about a king’s and his misty riders…or it could have just been the LSD talking. Either way, the results are interesting and reminded me of some Arthur Lee and Love’s work on Forever Changes—same period, same substances ingested.

One of the gems of this collection is “Bike”, which was originally featured on Pink Floyd’s Pipers at the Gates of Dawn, released in 1967. It’s sort of like what a schizophrenic might have written after listening to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, while concurrently ceasing his intake of medication. But it’s also an unconventional love song that is creatively arranged, strangely accessible and has a Cacophony at the end that borders on unsettling. Some of Syd’s solo work gets a bit dicey in the area of coherence; but one of the better songs is “Baby Lemonade”. The lyrics seem like they could have been written by Thomas Pynchon after a psychotic break yet the track itself is relaxed and melodic.

Perhaps Syd didn’t enjoy being a rock star. When the pressure to write more hit songs was dialed up, he indulged in substance abuse and began to check out of society. This caused Pink Floyd to retool and sally forth in another direction for which the end result turned out pretty well. Barrett was certainly a catalyst for them; and not unlike Brian Wilson is an artist whose brief but sterling period of enormous creativity can now be appreciated by a fresh generation of fans. 

(Capitol Records)

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Good Riddance – Thoughts and Prayers

The fire still burns brightly for Good Riddance



good riddance

It would seem that the current US administration has proven to be fertile fields for political punks. If there is a positive to have come out of the past few years, it is in the form of angry punk rock records. The aptly titled Thoughts and Prayers, the new record by Good Riddance, could very well be the best of them. For many like myself, Good Riddance was the gateway to a world of punk rock socio-political commentary; wrapped in aggressive, melodic hardcore that opened your mind as much as it punched a hole in the wall. 1996’s A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion and the really terrific 1998 record Ballads from the Revolution, were eye-opening propositions for a wide-eyed kid. Good Riddance resonated because their songs were hard-hitting commentary that sounded like broken-hearted punk rock songs. They sang intelligently about inequality, human despair, and the sometimes broken system in which we live in. And when their broken-hearted punk rock songs weren’t about society and politics, they were broken-hearted punk rock songs about broken hearts (don’t think there have been love songs as good in the genre as “Jeannie” and “Not With Him”).

Four years since their comeback record, Peace In Our Time, we get the much more furious Thoughts and Prayers. 12 songs of trademark breakneck melodic hardcore that talks about the divisive current political climate without going as far as saying things like “Trump sucks”. But that’s never been the Good Riddance way. Vocalist and chief lyricist Russ Rankin has always found a way to express his anger and disappointment with poise and intelligence- sounding more like a well-read poet than a man yelling on a street corner.

In the track “Don’t Have Time”, he sings about the futility of repeating history to trumpet nationalism; “And those same old fears arise / With eyes too drawn to counteract / The ghost in you comes rushing back / Too caustic to subside / Just what have we done? / We killed a mother’s only son / Just to remain at number one“. And lyrically, much of takes a similar route of well-written stanzas that question a lot of what is going on in the world at the present time. Songs like the opening “Edmund Pettus Bridge” (let’s hope everyone knows the significance of this landmark), replete with Michael Douglas Wall Street sound byte, sings of social inequality but does it with a trace of hope. While songs like “The Great Divide” are an example of melodic hardcore’s finest moments; unrelenting sonic pummeling that is as melodic as it is potent. “Wish You Well” takes cues from Good Riddance’s “softer” tones of catchy choruses and mid-tempo verses; akin to the track “Saccharine” (from 2003’s Bound by Ties of Blood and Affection). Perhaps the best thing about the 12 songs here is that they are all very succinct, potent, with rarely a moment of filler. The album is consistently good, and while it rarely deviates from the Good Riddance sound, it never lacks in the fire and fury we’ve come to expect.

The album itself SOUNDS fantastic, credit again to Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore at The Blasting Room for their production. The guitars rip at the right levels while the percussion work hits just right. The mixing levels are as close to perfect as you can get without any one element dominating over another- a constant the band have found since 1999’s Operation Phoenix (no surprise, the first of their albums to have been produced at the Blasting Room).

The appeal of Good Riddance has always been two-fold. Firstly, their music has shown steadfast quality, and the albums have found longevity due to the way Rankin and company write their songs. With lyrics referring to and talking about a multitude of humanist issues without having to directly reference them, they remain political, timely, writing music as urgent as it was through the 90s as it is today. That may be a sad indictment of society itself, but it doesn’t take away from their effectiveness and influence. Rankin himself has said that their music may not have changed the world per se, they continue to open eyes and minds. This writer can attest to the latter- and the importance of that can’t be underlined enough. Their early discography spoke to my generation about life, self, and the interconnected reality of the world we live- no matter how hard to try not to believe it. Thoughts and Prayers is a furious, timely, and potent slab of hard-hitting melodic hardcore and shows that the fire clearly still burns as passionately for Good Riddance as it did all those years ago. And perhaps it’ll be what A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion and Ballads From the Revolution was to me for a whole new generation.

(Fat Wreck Chords)

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Hatriot – From Days Unto Darkness

From Days Unto Darkness is a relentless pummeling of thrash metal’s best qualities




When it comes to Bay Area thrash metal, there are two bands that sit atop the mountain forever entwined to its history; Metallica and Exodus. Both bands linked together by Kirk Hammett, both bands crucial to the Bay Area’s most destructive form of music. Exodus may not have their name in lights as Metallica does, but Exodus’ influence cannot be mistaken- and many point to them as being the one true progenitor of Bay Area thrash. Hatriot, a band that was started by Exodus vocalist Steve Souza in 2011, are a real chip off the ol’ block. Surprisingly, it isn’t just musically that Hatriot follows suit from Exodus, its a family thing too. While Steve Souza left Hatriot in 2015, his sons Nick and Cody continue on percussions and guitars with the latter taking on vocal duties once the older Souza returned to Exodus.

Hatriot does more than just follow on the Exodus path; they’ve loudly carved their own slice of the thrash pie. Led by Kosta Varvatakis shredding guitar work and Cody Souza’s blistering (sometimes ominous) vocal work, Hatriot may have found their Fabulous Disaster, ironically, also three albums in.

From Days Unto Darkness is a relentless pummeling of thrash metal’s best qualities; machine gun percussion work (I’m a sucker for some great double bass drums), shredding guitars, soaring solos, and vocals that does the growling well, and the screaming even better. Tracks like “Organic Remains” and the blistering “Carnival of Execution” showcase the band’s ability to craft songs that are equal parts urgency and solid musicianship. Thematically, From Days Unto Darkness covers the usual thrash metal spread; the end times, death, destruction, and humanity’s failing graces- all done with equal breakneck, ear piercing destruction sonically. “World, Flesh & Devil” is perhaps the album’s best outing- a raging beast of a song, that if carnage could be written in music form, this is it incarnate. At 4:26, it is one of the shorter tracks of the release, but much of the album features in at the 6-7 minute mark- a trademark of thrash metal’s desire to not only showcase talent but to do it over extended periods.

What the album lacks perhaps is that one magnum opus of a track. Sure, it’s not easy for any band to write “Master of Puppets”, but From Days Unto Darkness rarely takes a breather. It’s mostly positive, but while Master had at times, slow interludes to let you catch your breath, Hatriot takes absolutely no prisoners- staying true to their thrash metal heritage. If you’re not quite up for it, this album will hammer you into a stupor.

The halcyon days of Bay Area thrash metal may be long resigned to nostalgic documentaries, but Hatriot are not interested in just being a throwback to their roots. From Days Unto Darkness is not for the weak and if this is the sign that thrash metal is alive and kicking, then the future and present are in damn good hands.

(Massacre Records)

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