Pink Floyd – Relics (1971)

Josie Biggs

Graphic Design student, Aged 20

Relics is an especially appropriate name for this album, given it’s a compilation rather than a studio album release – the tracks perfectly described as ‘A Bizarre Collection of Antiques & Curios’ as stated in the album’s subtitle. The collection of tracks differs from the consistently paced The Dark Side of the Moon album (1973) – there are similarities in the Psychedelic Rock sound, but the assortment of subgenre Rock in Relics, really brings a fun yet dark, chaotic feel.

Arnold Layne starts Relics with a carefree Rock & Roll vibe very characteristic of the 60s, however, this lulls the listener into a false sense of security. Interstellar Overdrive slowly introduces ominous sounds, as if you’re walking down a busy street and find yourself navigating a dark alley. However, as you start to settle in your unease, the track jumps back into the punchy, more classic rock feel.

The emotional erraticness of the tracks mirrors the variety of subgenre Rock compiled together. Cirrus Minor contains organ sounds amongst birds tweeting, like an open nature church. This Experimental Rock immediately is contrasted with the Hard Rock of The Nile Song that follows, aggressive and loud. The album for me, felt like an Alice in Wonderland narrative, the highs and lows connoting abstract thoughts and erratic emotional responses. I don’t believe this would be an album I would listen to accompany a specific feeling or activity, rather Relics is an album that heavily coordinates the feelings of a listener – unafraid to make you feel joy, aggression or unease.

Jarek Żaba

Sound Designer and AMP Kingston Heritage Researcher, Age 35

This album is one of my ‘backward discovery’ records – as an adolescent, I might discover an old band through one of their well-known records, then start sifting through their back catalogue in the hope of finding more gold.

But no backwards discovery journey is quite as stark as Pink Floyd, if your starting point is Dark Side of the Moon. My recollection of hearing the opening tracks of Relics as a teenager – having already fallen in love with later Floyd via the influence of my old man – was to question whether I’d accidentally bought a record by another band, evidence of how important the Syd Barrett factor is in distinguishing between the embryonic ‘60s band and what came later.

Indeed that distinction is evident across this album alone. Relics is a weird concept in of itself, a sort of ‘Greatest Hits’ for a band that hadn’t yet had any hits. But by its release in 1971 Barrett had long gone, and it is only the first 3 tracks of the album that contain his contributions (plus the novelty closer, Bike – the less said about that one, the better). It just so happens that it’s the Barrett version of Floyd that played at Kingston Polytechnic in March ’67, which made me want to like his tracks more.

But listening today, Interstellar Overdrive – with its trite panning and 60s acid head idea of what travelling in space sounds like – sadly comes across as little more than an unbearable cliché of self-indulgent psychedelia. I do have time for Arnold Layne and See Emily Play either side of it; they are a form of tolerable pop rock weirdness, even if I’ve never been in a rush to put them on.

But listening back to this record, it is a reminder that the Barrettless tracks that follow are much more my sort of thing – the more subtle Careful With That Axe Eugene is a lot more my flavour of surreal instrumentalism than Interstellar Overdrive, and as Waters takes over I enjoy the haunting drumless-birdsong-organ combo of Cirrus Minor and the jazzy ballad-cum-rock out of Biding My Time. And the stand one for me is The Nile Song – I have adored its heavy guitar, crashing drums, and top-of-the-mountain-shouting vocals of David Gilmour since I first heard it, and it has never lost its appeal.

I actually remembered this album as being worse than it was. But – and with apologies to the memory of Syd Barrett – that is simply because I associate it with its opening numbers, and forget that its second half is host to many much more thoughtful and straight up listenable tunes.

Kingston link:

Pink Floyd played at Kingston Polytechnic in March 1967.

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