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Michael J. West <email@example.com> (10.01.2001)
"I don't know how Don Van Vliet got called Captain Beefheart, but if I'm right in my suggestion that it is a very literal translation of the French knight nickname 'Coeur-de-Boeuf' which is in fact 'Bullheart', this only further hints at the Captain's witty sense of humour."
Thought I'd quote you a bit of Frank Zappa's book, just in case the tidbit interested you.
"[Don's] girlfriend, Laurie, lived in the house with him, along with his Mom (Sue), his Dad (Glen), Aunt Ione and Uncle Alan....The way Don got his 'stage name' was, Uncle Alan had a habit of exposing himself to Laurie. He'd piss with the bathroom door open and, if she was walking by, mumble about his appendage--something along the lines of: "Ahh, what a beauty! It looks just like a big, fine BEEF HEART."
Bob <firstname.lastname@example.org> (29.04.2001)
my sources tell me don went on vacation and someone (whose name you would recognize) left a beef heart in his refrigerator as a joke, of course, there's more, but i dunno....
Most people that have herd Captain Beefheart have only listened to Trout Mask Replica. This is not his best album by know means. First, I think the production on the album was average at best. Zappa should have cut the album better. Their is a lot of filler on the album. I am so glad the Captain went his own way after this album. He decided not to go Zappa's way and record albums about about suger plums and tittie jokes. Lick My Decals Off Baby is a much better cut of material of this style of music. Produced by The Captain, It's too bad that Decals is almost impossible to find on CD, or vinyl.
I think a lot of people believe that the Captain recorded TMR as some kind of shock rock kind of thing. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He was just an artist expressing himself. Don Van Vliet is also a highly credited painter and sculptor. The Captain was on Zappa's Bizarre Straight label. Zappa promoted this label as some kind of freak show. The Captain was very upset to be used in this manner. He did not want to be promoted with the likes of GTO'S, Wild Man Fischer, and Alice Cooper. He hated this, and was only on the label for two out of it's four year existence.
Their are some good cuts on TMR. But, if you want better production of avant grade material from the Captain try Doc At The Radar Station, or Ice Cream For Crow. George hit the nail on the head Shiny Beast is a excellent album. If your going to have one Captain Beefheart album in your alternative music collection this is the one. I understand the 2 out of 5 rating for him on this site. Most people who listin to Eric Clapton and stuff like that would have a heart attack if they herd the Captain. If this were a alternative music site I would have to give him a 5 out of 5. The Captain, along with The Fugs, and I guess Zappa are the kings of alternative music. Make no mistake about it.
Dieter Verhofstadt <email@example.com> (19.01.2006)
It has been so strange to be a Beefheart fan while being relatively indifferent to what seemingly all other Beefheart fans consider to be his masterpiece - Trout Mask Replica - that I experienced that strange feeling of extreme relief when I read your reviews of the man and his music.
As far as I'm concerned, Beefheart could have recorded only The Mirror Man sessions (the "sessions" is a necessary add) and Shiny Beast, losing nothing of my admiration. They're is only one record that I could never really dig and that's Unconditionally Guaranteed. I never got into TMR or LMDOB but I can accept that people sincerely love it (most people who claim to love TMR have no other Beef record in their closet and make me believe it's mere snobism).
I'm also happy to find a reviewer looking for melodies and finding them in Bluejeans & Moonbeams. How can someone involved in music not fall for the beauty of these melodies? It must be due to that people are too busy with telling the world what they are not.
On a whole other note: I heard the Captain himself in a documentary by Anton Corbijn, saying that his record company forced him to choose between music and painting and that only then he chose to be a painter. If this is true, that would be very sad: industry deciding on the true vocation of an artist.
Duane Zarakov <firstname.lastname@example.org> (25.09.2000)
that instrument in "autumn's child" (one of the greatest tracks, i always thought) & "electricity" is a Theremin.(invented by a Russian, of the same name.)
Kalen Carter <email@example.com> (05.10.2001)
I believe Captain Beefhearts vocal inspirations were more along the lines of Howlin Wolf. If You haven't Heard Howlin Wolf yet (though I'm sure you have) You'd do well to check him out.
Ben Dominici <firstname.lastname@example.org> (27.08.2006)
First of all, I'd like to state that Trout Mask Replica is my all time favorite album, but like most folks, I hated it the first time I heard it. And I sold the damn thing. It wasn't untill I got Safe As Milk that I decided to give the seemingly cacophonous, pretentious and even anti-music Trout Mask another chance. I figured that Safe As Milk was too uniquely amazing to be a fluke. But enough about Trout Mask. I could go on and on about that one, but George has already given the best advice as far as digesting that particular album is concerned: listen to it over and over, and if it starts to grab you, then just keep listening. Also, I think that any listener that is into either jazz or experimental music will catch on to Trout Mask's brilliance much quicker.
As for Safe As Milk- first of all John Lennon once remarked that it was his favorite album. Just let that sink in for a moment. I've seen Lennon hanging out in his living room in '67, and lo and behold, right there on the wall (next to the poster that inspired "Mr. Kite") are two of the "baby doll head" bumper stickers that came with Safe As Milk's original pressing. Now, given John's "Revolution 9" and "Unfinished Music", one could simply dismiss his adoration for Beefheart's debut as purely a product of his bullshit hipster avant-garde posturing. But the thing is, Safe As Milk ISN'T all that bizarre, certainly when compared with the Captain's later releases (especially Trout Mask and it's baby brother, Lick My Decals Off, Baby).
Safe As Milk is basically a psychedelic blues album with some soul, surf music, doo wop, and world music (if that's what "Abba Zaba" can be labeled, if anything) thrown in. However, the schizophrenic Howlin' Wolf vocals, the tightness and aggressiveness of the band's playing, and the songwriting itself are what make it really special. As much as I love the blues, it is a genre that usually lacks in innovative composition in favor of, well, attitude and technique. But the songs on Safe As Milk all stand on their own. The range in quality may differ a little, but I can honestly say that there isn't a weak song on the album. However, your enjoyment of each individual song definately depends on whether or not you can dig the aformentioned genres.
Some quick notes about the songs: "Electricity" is definately the best cut here, and the only one that really gives a hint of things to come, both musically and lyrically. "Abba Zaba" is a close second, and as much as I love the distinct style that Beefheart eventually developed, I'll have to say that I sorta think it's a shame that he didn't try more tribal/proto-world music kinds of cuts like this one. It's fun, but never corny or derivative. Nicely pulled off, and the drums are awesome. In fact, John "Drumbo" French is already in top form here. He's a huge part of the Beefheart sound, and remains one of the best and most original drummers in rock history. "Sure Nuff N' Yes I Do" is a testament to the sheer power of the bands playing and Beefheart's singing. They've taken an age-old blues progession and turned it into something, uh, magical! Last comment: "Autumn's Child" is a great closing number, with the haunting theremin used completely differently from how it's used on "Electricity", but just as powerfully. It sends shivers up me spine every time, and proves that Beefheart could write a great ballad when he wanted to. Give this amazing piece of work a listen!
Ryan Maffei <email@example.com> (20.05.2000)
I like this record because it is really quite strange, and I am a fan of the surreal, because it is musically different and dynamic (witness the tight arranegments on the last track), and because it...well...really works as an album. An epic, almost (witness the revisitation of 'the Dust Blows Forward' track with 'Orange Claw Hammer'), and I enjoy the surreal narration along the way. I overall enjoy it. Sometimes it gets slightly unbearable (witness...a lot, I guess) and Beefheart's vocals don't help when he's angry. I think the inclusion of outtakes shows how this record is normal, and therefore pokes a hole in the dreamworld (of some sorts). I like the band members, too just overall as people. With names like Zoot Horn Rollo, Antennae Jimmy Semens (my favorite because of his maddeningly high-pitched appearances [if that is him]), the Mascara Snake (fast and bolbous! Practice that one, George), Rockette Mornton, and Drumbo, I can already tell I'm in the territory my tastes like to be in. Therefore, I enjoy it. As for best song, I would vote for 'Ella Guru', the closest Beefheart would have come to a successful single. It's catchy, weird, and has that delightfully insane high-pitched voice I like so much (insert giddy, evil laugh here). And finally, I find it amazing that after releasing a blues classic and two little known flops, Beefheart could come up with this, solid all the way...and then suddenly diminish again for the next eight albums. Oh well. I high water mark in alternate universe or avant-garde music.
Mike DeFabio <firstname.lastname@example.org> (22.05.2000)
I think it's terrible. The only thing I found eye-opening about it is how so many people think "weird"="brilliant." This isn't brilliant. It's some of the most unmelodic stuff I've ever heard. Yeah, it's weird, yeah, it's different than anything else, but that doesn't make it good! His lyrics are goofy, but if you can't write a decent melody, or any melody at all for that matter, then you should take your lyrics and turn them into a book or get somebody to set them to music for you, don't churn out something like this! The only purpose of owning this album is pulling it out and showing it off and saying, "I understand this, and that makes me cooler than you." Or maybe to bug your mother in law or some other unwanted guest. And you know what else? Everybody knows it, and that's why all the reviews you're ever going to read of this album are going to have nothing but wonderful things to say about it. It's just a bad album though. If you want something really bizarre and entirely listenable, I would suggest buying the Residents' Commercial Album, or if you're feeling adventurous, Meet The Residents. Those guys had, and still have, much more talent and brilliance than this guy. This guy was just weird.
what a cool review.
very honest and heartfelt.
i just happened across yr site by accident while looking up the move and started reading yr reviews.
good job, dude.
but cmon'...what about the sax blowing ..especially on 'joan'... and the sinister feedback on 'moonlight'... and the marching to the furnace cadence on 'dachau'.. i could go on and on..this record deserves more credit simply for existing in a world with crosby stills and nash at the same time.
I'd like to say that the individual musicians on Trout Mask Replica are some of the best I've ever heard. If you play an instrument, you know that it's hard to play in all the different time signatures that Beefheart demanded of them. Playing crap is easy, but this isn't crap, which is proven when the band repeatedly played these songs live for audiences the exact same way except for variations that would come up because of playing live. Also, the Captain did not set out to create a record as a basis for different musical styles in the years to come. He wanted to make his own style of music, a combination of delta blues, jazz, and the avant-garde, the last one shown most evidently in his paintings. And I think I may know the thing that "clicks" after a few listens. I bought the album because I thought the name "Captain Beefheart" was funny and I wanted to know what he played. At first I thought that the musicians were just improvising the entire time, but then I realized that you start to sense the shifting time signatures, which may take time because most music stays in one time signature the entire time. Also, if you are listening to the album for the fifth or sixth time, you obviously want to figure out what the hell is going on and not just throw the album away, so you listen closer than usual and can hear more of the unique sounds on the album and appreciate them more. Also, you just get used to it. That's how I see it, at least.
Mike DeFabio <email@example.com> (01.08.2000)
The other morning I woke up with a strange and unexpected desire. It was a hideous, perverse, disgusting, nasty desire. A desire so filthy that I ripped my head open and rinsed my brain out with hot soapy water and it didn't help. I had the desire to hear Trout Mask Replica again. I think it was because I was reading my previous review of the album and I realized that it was totally generic. It's exactly what somebody would say about Trout Mask Replica. It's been said a million times before. Thousands of people slander this album mericlessly, and I was sorry that I had become one of them. I needed to give it another chance.
So I went down to the library from which I had previously gotten the CD, and sure enough, it was there. I got it, along with disc one of The Kink Kronikles (WHERE'S DISC TWO??? I hate people!) and took it home. I put it on. And I laughed. This is one of the funniest darn CDs I've heard in a while. It's hard for me to believe this isn't a comedy album. The lyrics are hilarious, and the music... well, as it turns out, there's actually some music on here! It's just that it's... it's absolutely insane. But most of it isn't half bad, once you get used to the style of the album. "Frownland," for instance, is annoying at first but once you stop trying to tap your foot to it it's pretty catchy. A couple of the songs, like, oh, say "Bills Corpse" or "Pena" or "My Human Gets Me Blues" or "Fallin' Ditch" or "Wild Life" or "She's Too Much For My Mirror" or "Hobo Chang Ba" are kind of headachey, I mean, REALLY headachey, and neauseating, too, but some of the music is so goofy it just makes me laugh and laugh. Like "Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish" or "When Big Joan Sets Up" or "China Pig."
There's lots of good songs on here, and if you give it a chance, you might like it, but only if you're the sort to like chaotic noise music. Some people have a taste for it, some people don't. I don't think it's so terrible to give this album the praise that some people give it, if that's the way you really feel, and if you hate it with a burning passion, that's okay too. I think this album's not half bad, and I'm sure he's done more that's even better. I'm planning on getting The Spotlight Kid/Clear Spot one of these days. In the meantime, I agree with the 10.
Hello again George. Just wanted to stop by and offer my own interpretation of Trout Mask Replica (if anyone else has one I'd love to read about it since there seem to be so few). Here it goes:
As you stated earlier, Captain Beefheart was a very esoteric artist and I have trouble believing he would have recorded something this complex without some sort of purpose. The album is positively steeped in wierd backwoods Americana and twisted allusions to just about everything from Miles Davis jazz riffs to greek mythology. In fact, the allusions run so thick that they are sometimes incomprehensible or barely noticable. Yet, it is structured in such a way as to suggest a concept album with "Frownland" serving as a thesis statement, "Dali's Car" linking the first record to a second (being that one ends with an instrumental, and the next begins with one), and "Hair Pie 2" replaying many of the musical motifs from the first half.
All this being said, I believe the concept being put forward is more musical than lyrical. Since all rock music has been based on a series of chords, harmonies, and scales from the art form's beginning, Beefheart seems to be deliberately constructing an epic album largely out of dissonance. However, he still includes a number of songs meant to hearken back to earlier music such as the scratchy record effect of "Orange Claw Hammer" and "Dust Blows Forward" and the generic blues of "China Pig". Maybe by doing this he intends to start rock over by opening up a whole new avenue of dissonant music which had simply never been explored by conventional pop groups (sort of rock and roll's flip side). If so, it was one hell of an interesting experiment. What do you think about this idea?
Jeffrey Keefe <firstname.lastname@example.org> (16.06.2001)
Some comments on your review of Trout Mask Replica:
What’s there to get about Trout Mask Replica? The spacial depth of it, I’d say. First off, it seems like an ultra-tight, very headachey (to use Mike de Fabio’s apt word) two dimensional cacophony – but then further listenings start to loosen it up a bit. In the end, the whole shebang opens up like a box easel – or, better, like a painting. Van Vliet was, not surprisingly, a very painterly composer. Accordingly, as with a painting, you have to look at one of his compositions for some time before you get it.
All of which is far too nebulous, so I’ll come at it from a different angle. I know you said you hadn’t heard Lick My Decals Off, Baby (in my opinion, his best album) – well,(you'll have to excuse me - the angle demands that I refer to it anyway) there are a couple of instrumental tracks on that album that are very revealing – namely, 'Peon' and 'One Red Rose That I Mean'. They show, I believe, in the simplest form possible, what it was that Van Vliet was trying to do throughout much of Trout Mask Replica. Both pieces appear to consist of a melody played on one guitar and a shadow-melody (slightly out of sync and in a different key) played on another(in actual fact, both melody and shadow-melody were, I believe, played on the same guitar). The illusion produced(even for those who’ve never heard any Beefheart before, I would guess) is one of depth. Just as when you draw two slightly different images on separate pieces of tracing paper and lay one on top of the other, you get depth!
(and also, perhaps, movement), so the same thing happens with this melody and shadow melody. Anyway, extrapolate from there… and you get the headachey tracks on Trout Mask Replica (and Lick My Decals Off, Baby too, thankfully). More sheets of tracing paper + less similar (but, nevertheless, always related) images = more depth. Indeed, so much depth, on occasion that, comprehending it as you do, you get a sort of overpowering, exhilarating sense of your own depth.
Now about his lyrics: you said that very often they were dadaist, goofy and sounded good just for the sake of it – another way (correct me if I’m wrong) of calling them meaningless. Well, what do the paintings of Picasso, the poems of Arthur Rimbaud or, for that matter, the music of John Coltrane mean? They mean what they evoke – and they are meaningful in direct proportion to their evocativeness. In other words, their meaning is emotional and, therefore, ineffable – and all the more valuable for that. Okay, some Beefheart lyrics:
I saw you baby dancing in your x-ray gingham dress
I knew you were under duress
I knew you under your dress
What does it mean(mean in the sense that 'Dachau Blues' means war is terrible etc)? Christ knows – but I’ll tell you what it evokes. It evokes a miserable collection of dimly lit lean-to shacks I saw one oppressively sultry night from a bus in back-of-beyond Colombia, a barefoot girl in a grubby rag of a dress just standing there, in the lamp-light coming from the open front of one of those lean-tos- just standing there watching the bus go by. And me, for some reason – though I thought she was in a sort of living hell – envying her. Like Picasso's paintings, Rimbaud's poetry and Coltrane's music, Van Vliet’s lyrics can do that for me – evoke those memories and attendant emotions that make life a bit less humdrum.
Finally, about people taking kudos from liking a difficult album. Isn’t that natural? Aren’t we all only human and, secretly or not, proud of our achievements? Because getting to grips with Trout Mask Replica is an achievement – a passive one, perhaps, but an achievement nevertheless.
Hope this hasn't come across as too combative.
Jakob Hellberg <email@example.com> (18.07.2001)
No, it's not impossible to love "Trout Mask Replica" on the first listen. If your'e used to free jazz like Albert Ayler, Archie Shepps *60's albums, late Coltrane or Peter Brötzmann, it's actually a very accessible album. You don't have to listen close to hear that the guitar lines are clearly written and rehearsed and not improvised. It's been one of my favourite albums since I first listened to it (I hate the Beatles BTW-THEY are inaccessible to me). Lick my decals off... is even better though, it's more concentrated and the music is more powerful. You would probably like the psychedelic blues rock on his second album Strictly Personal.
Stefan Puiu <firstname.lastname@example.org> (05.07.2002)
I've just gotten Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica and I have one little question:
WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS PIECE OF DADAISTIC SHIT?
(sorry for shouting)
and: Why does it get an eight (you say: "if ye the reader turn out to have never heard about TMR before (if that's possible), just stop reading this right now and go buy the record" :) so I won't read the review until after three listens, which might be after ten years ;))?
Is it worth listening more than once? [Yes, it is. Five hundred days from now on - G.S.]
Breck Brizendine <email@example.com> (16.07.2003)
I'm one of those annoying ones who believes that this one of the All Time Great Albums.
Most artists only do variations of other artist's styles, moods, melodies, images, etc (hate to write that but it's simply true) but Beefheart truly comes as close to breaking every mold that a human being can come. Granted, he begins with a kind of leadbelly blues, but then he goes forth and creates his own styles, his own moods, his own melodies, his own images. The trick to enjoying this album is to try to drain your mind of preconceptions -even to what "bizarre" is- and let what each song does simply implant itself on your imagination however it will.
I've worked at doing that and this album simply crackles with humor, menace, pathos, resonance, musical-image making. The jam in "Sugar and Spikes" is like a Miro' painting. "Moonlight over Vermont" is actually futurist- forget the cliche' synthesizers. "Dali's Car" is more early Robert Crumb than Dali; "Ant Man Bee" is epic in scope.
I thought I'd just try to get back to the thoughts of my 19 year old self when I was just discovering Beefheart for the first time, before going on to what I learned about it later which is of interest to anyone considering approaching TMR for the first time.
I'd actually seen him live when I was 17 (at Knebworth festival, supporting Pink Floyd) and didn't get him really, wasn't ready for it - in any case I was a long way from the stage and so it was hard to appreciate the finer points of the performance, if there were any.
2 years later, I'm listening to the radio - there's a programme featuring Johnny Rotten being interviewed about his musical tastes (at the height of Sex Pistols fame/infamy) and he's playing all sorts of esoteric and interesting stuff, apparently much to the horror of the Pistols' manager, Malcolm McLaren, who wanted him to play nothing but punk records. So I'm sitting in the bath listening to this, and he plays "The Blimp" off TMR. One of the wackiest tracks on there for sure, and as subsequently becomes apparent, not a typical one. Anyhow, they didn't announce what this was until after the "song" was over, but I just thought, gotta have this, this is one of the most off the wall things I ever heard. So soon after that I bought a Beefheart record. Not TMR but Lick My Decals Off, Baby. Which is in fairly similar vein to TMR but perhaps a tad easier on the ear, production-wise. This seemed sufficiently interesting that I went and bought TMR. And my response to this, probably more open-minded in my youth than I am now, was "fascinating, really weird, what on earth is this all about, challenging listening, etc. etc.". Now George, you do comment on why should anyone bother to take the trouble to listen to this album enough to really appreciate it, and I must admit, I'm not sure if I would now - if only because I've got ten times as many records as I did then and my musical tastes are more set in their ways. But I did, and of course I knew far less then about the circumstances of its creation, but after listening to it maybe 20 times over 2 or 3 years, I began to get used to the style of the record, and therefore got beyond marvelling at how bloody weird it was and was able to start listening to it on something approaching its own terms. And you know what?
It was worth it. I don't know if it's his best record - I love some of the more normal ones, especially"Safe As Milk and Clear Spot - but it's far more than the most original "rock" record ever made (which it is whether you like it or not). There is real quality there. 99% of rock "artists" don't remotely have such a way with words - most of 'em, let's face it, illustrate Frank Zappa's dictum that the lyrics are just there to stop the songs from being instrumentals, and give the front-person a reason to exist 'cos there's got to be a front-person obviously, and consequently rock music is full of records that have pretty decent music and pretty banal lyrics (we won't mention the ones that have shit music too). For sure, most of the lyrics here are exercises in surreal wordplay, but what wordplay! Beefheart has a fantastic feel for the sound of words and how they fit together. And in amongst the surrealism, he's got plenty to say too, on a wide variety of subjects, and with a highly original viewpoint. Plus he has a fantastic sense of humour - a lot of the lyrics on this album are an absolute gas, and quite deliberately so.
And why does the music sound like that? Well, this is at the (beef) heart of what makes the album so unique: the way it was composed.
For those not in the know, most of it was composed by Van Vliet on the piano. Now no-one would claim that Don Van Vliet is a pianist. He's not a trained musician in any way, shape or form, though he's clearly figured out how to play harmonica pretty well, and is a virtuoso whistler (!). So what happened? He sits at the piano, with a tape rolling. He plays the piano - except he doesn't know anything about the notes or anything like that, but anyhow, he bashes away, sometimes repeating a pattern, then going on to another, apparently unrelated one. Then John "Drumbo" French takes the tapes and transcribes the contents and, with little input from Beefheart, assembles the various fragments into songs - I presume Beefheart gave some degree of instructions that these bits were for one song, and those bits were for another, but he had little input into how they were actually assembled. Then Drumbo arranged them for the instrumentation of the Magic Band (2 guitars, bass, drums & occasional reeds, though I suspect the latter were mostly a late and largely spontaneous addition) and taught them to the band. They were all living in a rented house together, and very short of money - verging on malnourished. Beefheart ran the band like a cult, at times manipulating members to gang up on whoever was the day's scapegoat. It was clearly an immensely intense and sometimes traumatic experience for all concerned, none of them really enjoyed much of a musical career outside the Magic Band because how do you follow that? Anything else would be a total anticlimax.
They rehearsed the material for nearly a year, with Beefheart never actually singing with them, merely passing comment on whether they were doing it right or not. Finally he agreed they were ready to record.
Is Beefheart a charlatan? I think he totally transcends the question. For starters there's what he's plainly good at: fantastic way with words and incredible voice. The bizarre method of composition, on the other hand, is more problematic. The descriptions of how he composed TMR are mainly from other members of the Magic Band. So far as I'm aware, Beefheart has never commented on what led him to compose in this way in the first place, and nor have they - perhaps it was mere necessity, given that he was not a trained musician. Perhaps he just had access to a piano and thought, "why not?" The Magic Band on TMR were mostly very young, talented but inexperienced musicians who Beefheart felt he could dominate into doing exactly what he wanted - and yet the final shape of the music would have been different if, for instance, a different person had been charged with knocking it into shape, so Beefheart was not the only creative input. All his bands, certainly from TMR onwards, had a "musical director" who had to do this, but the composition method varied - sometimes he would whistle the tunes to the MD, for instance.
For me, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It's an acquired taste, but if you manage to acquire it, repeated helpings will be very rewarding! But George is right to say don't try this one first - I'd say start with Safe As Milk, then The Mirror Man Sessions (especially the shorter tracks) and if you're happy so far, go for it. Sorry this is so long, but this isn't a record you can sum up quickly unless you hate it!
David Dickson <firstname.lastname@example.org> (04.07.2004)
Hell, since George is straddling the fence on this one, why shouldn't I? This album ain't bad, but it ain't especially good, either. Here's the central problem with Trout Mask Replica for me: All the songs sound the frickin' same. You know, the guitars clatter and spang, the drums go all over the place, and the lead guy howls, groans, and screeches something out of Stimpy's worst nightmares in a completely different tempo. That's cool for six or seven songs, but when you have almost THIRTY of these things that set the SAME wacky mood, have the SAME minimal arrangements, and the SAME zero-tone vibe for nearly an HOUR AND A HALF in no discernable order, you're not a happy camper. I give it a high six out of ten--at least some of the songs are catchy, like "Moonlight in Vermont" and "Ella Guru", and "The Blimp" is hilarious as hell. At least this is better than the goddamn Pixies, who took this vibe and actually tried to make it the defining style of alternative rock. Sweet Mother of Jesus.
Fernando H. Canto <email@example.com> (18.07.2004)
When I first heard this record, it was the kind of "wow, this is really weird and cool" reaction. You know, I discovered that I tend to like several "difficult" things at first listen: Mike Oldfield's Amarok, the Residents' Meet The Residents, and some other stuff, too. With this... I *liked* it, you know, but it was more respect than love. Then one day, I found myself urging - no, really, URGING to listen to the album. And that's when I began to love it! I guess that's when something "clicked". But I have to say, it's not just the "realisation" that these songs could be potential normal tunes or some crap like that. It's just that this album is really NORMAL. And when you let it sink in, the album suddenly shows itself to you clear as water. Like one of those freaky 3D exhibits, when, at first glance, it's just a random nonsense image, but when you look at it the right way, the image shows through? That's EXACTLY what happens here. This album is perfectly listenable, normal and catchy. You just have to give it a chance, stop analysing it and thinking about the hype and mystification about it - like you said, listening it with a fresh, unbiased mind. And then you'll listen to the MUSIC, not to the noise. And I assure you, it's a catchy album. 'Pachuco Cadaver' is amazing, and so is 'Moonlight On Vermont', 'Sugar 'n Spikes', 'Veteran's Day Poppy' and some others. Of course, there are oddities like the two 'Hair Pie's, 'The Blimp', 'Dali's Car', but you have to treat the album as a "panoramic" item, not as a collection of dissonant noise. I think that, if you don't like the album, it's not the album that is to blame! Of course, you did say that you like the album, but I just feel that you are STILL too cold and analytical about it. Stop treating it as an "alien" thing, and just give it one more chance. Listen closely to 'Pachuco Cadaver' and grab on those AWESOME guitar lines. Listen to 'Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish" and pay attention to the sound of the words. Just give up to its charm, I say! You have a great album in your hands, I can assure you of that. 14/15.
I've got a couple of observations.. Anyone noticed how the bassline to 'Blabber n Smoke' is exactly the same as the main melody to 'Grow Fins'! I thought I'd heard that before. More interestingly, the riff in the title song that comes in at 0:34 is exactly the same as that groovy riff in 'Pachuco Cadaver' (dominates most of the 2nd half of it) from TMR, but it's been slowed down!
Great album anyhoo, although takes a little living in to get used to it, best song: Ain't No Santa.., love that riff that underpins it ... ho Ho ho ho ho..
I love this record, it's one of Beefheart's more accessible ones (a pretty good place to start if you're not familiar with his music) but in no way is it "diluted". Much of it could be described as "blues-rock" I guess, but not in a predictable, banal 12-bar sorta way. But having said that, it's pretty varied too. Lovely soul ballad in "Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles" (like i said about Trout Mask, he's got a way with words), fantastic slide guitar tour de force in "Big Eyed Beans From Venus", amusing metaphors for masturbation in "Low Yo-Yo Stuff". More spiky stuff like "Sun Zoom Spark" and the title track. Apparent sympathy for feminism on "Sometimes A Woman's Got To Hit A Man" (to let him know she's there). And finally a touch of weird Beefheart on the closing "Golden Birdies", which reprises a little instrumental melody from Lick My Decals Off, Baby with a bizarre poem/recitation about birds added over the top.
It's a much happier and more approachable record than the preceding Spotlight Kid, and with a much more conventional production, by Ted Templeman, later of Van Halen fame; the two albums come together on one CD which makes it even more worth your money.
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Ah, George, the human voice is such a PERSONAL thing. See, overall I guess I'd rate this album about the same as you do. But I love Beefheart's nasty voice. And while I fully concur with your comments on the fine melodies to be heard on this album, it's a killer illustration of how there's no accounting for taste that you don't like "Bat Chain Puller" so much. For sure it's not got much in the way of melody ... but it's got a wonderful rhythm, and the vocals ... ok, many people would balk at calling this singing, but then I think we agree that Beefheart sure can sing and I don't think he could have delivered this astounding vocal without being able to sing. Melody isn't really the point. I love a good melody as much as the next person, but it isn't essential to ALL music. Rather a fantastic piece like "Bat Chain Puller" that's about rhythm, words and intense vocal delivery, than a song with a crap melody. Anyhow, what I'm trying to say is that "Bat Chain Puller" is one of the most powerful and intense pieces of music I know, and one of Beefheart's greatest. But an acquired taste, I guess. I remember reading a piece somewhere about a man who loved this song playing it over and over obsessively until his girlfriend (not a Beefheart fan, especially after hearing BCP repeatedly) walked out on him ...!
This song is like Howlin' Wolf taken to places Wolf never dreamed of.