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Matthew Ward | s/t (Cargo)
C'mon, this is Syd Barrett, right? It was all a ruse, that bit about him going completely over the top, and now we find him suckling at The Floyd's teat, living off royalties in some island paradise, just this side of sane. It certainly seems feasible given the nature of this Ward record. Not only is Ward's vocal style a more wizened, aged permutation of Barrett's strident warble, but the material here is shot through with Barrett's brand of minor-key whimsy.  This is no sad rehash of the master's voice, but a brilliant extrapolation of Barrett's once possible future. I imagine that Ward acknowledges a passing similarity between his voice and Barrett's, but that it ends there. Ward is, I'm sure, following his natural path as a musician, a path that unbeknownst to the artist, steered him into a What If? scenario unlike any issue of the Marvel comics classic that I'd ever come across. Lazy tradewind ballads about slow-melting butter and counting time via the sun's rays on one's immobile figure set the tone for a humid psychedelia that nearly escapes notice as such. On first glance, one could almost mistake Ward for a hokey British contempo pop cad with leanings towards impressing middle-aged housewives (how does one tap into that market, anyway?), but significant doses of minor key understatement and leit-melancholic brilliance drastically uproot these impressions, and quick. Ah, but here we near album's end with Massive Orange Glow, a dead ringer for late-60s Barrett if ever there was one. Could it be? Naw. And yet...

G. C. Weeks
June-July 2001

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