Wednesday, November 01, 2006

137. Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band - Trout Mask Replica (1969)

Track Listing

The day might come, in your life, when you think to yourself, or more probably, think out loud, while restrained by a straight jacket: " This Zappa stuff is getting a bit too mellow for my liking, I need something weirder, but I want to remain in the world of nominal pop/rock". That is the day when you stick Trout Mask Replica in your eight-track. Your life will never be the same.

Now, you have two chances, either you start enjoying it or you cut your ears off with a rusty bread knife and pour hot oil into the orifices. I'd go with the first option, and my girlfriend would go with the second. I also imagine that it is a better album to hear while on drugs or suffering from a debilitating mental condition. Next time I do any hard drugs or get of those illnesses I'll let you know.

It is a strange album, and almost certainly a painful one, at least the first time you listen to it. So you must stay with it for a while longer. I did. And I am starting to like it, I am starting to discern very interesting patters and very modern sensibilities for a 30 something year old album. It is no surprise that it was that influential, even indirectly on so many bands. It is a bit like the Rite Of Spring of rock music, and if you are feeling particularly weird it should be very enjoyable. And definitely something that benefits from repeated listenings... FAST AND BULBOUS! Buy it at Amazon UK or US.

Track Highlights

1. Moonlight On Vermont (the easiest song to listen to in the album)
2. Dachau Blues
3. The Blimp (mousetrapreplica)
4. My Human Gets Me Blues

Final Grade



You're Too Much For My Mirror and My Human Gets Me Blues:


Trout Mask Replica is a 1969 double album by Captain Beefheart (real name: Don van Vliet) and His Magic Band with artwork by Artist Cal Schenkel. Combining blues, free jazz, and other apparently disparate genres of American music, it is regarded as an important work of experimental music and appears at number 58 on the List of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Critic Piero Scaruffi called it "the only record of rock music worth listening to" and the BBC DJ John Peel said: "If there has been anything in the history of popular music which could be described as a work of art in a way that people who are involved in other areas of art would understand, then Trout Mask Replica is probably that work." Peel's playing of the record on late-night radio in Britain was largely responsible for its reaching 21 in the UK charts.

Regarded by many as Van Vliet's masterpiece, Trout Mask Replica was released in November 1969 on Frank Zappa's newly formed Straight Records label. By this time, the Magic Band included guitarist Bill Harkleroad and bassist Mark Boston. However, Van Vliet had also begun assigning nicknames to his band members, so Harkleroad is better known as "Zoot Horn Rollo", and Boston as "Rockette Morton", while John French becomes "Drumbo", and Jeff Cotton is "Antennae Jimmy Semens". The group rehearsed Van Vliet's difficult compositions for eight months, living communally in conditions drummer John French described as "cultlike". According to Vliet, the 28 songs on the album were quickly written in about 3 weeks, but it took 8 months for the band to actually mold the songs into shape.

The 28 songs on Trout Mask Replica draw on blues music, Bo Diddley, free jazz, and sea shanties but the relentless practice blended the music into an iconoclastic whole of conflicting tempi, harsh slide guitar, loping drumming, and honking saxophone and bass clarinet. Van Vliet's vocals range from growling blues singing to frenzied falsetto to laconic, casual ramblings. His lyrics often seem impenetrably strange and nonsensical, but closer examination actually reveals complex poetic use of wordplay, metaphor and all manner of references: music history, American and international politics, the Holocaust, love and sexuality, Steve Reich, gospel music, conformity. Although the album was effectively recorded live, Van Vliet recorded much of the vocals whilst isolated from the rest of the band in a different room, only being in partial synch with the music by hearing the slight sound leakage through the studio window.

Van Vliet used the ensuing publicity, particularly with a 1970 Rolling Stone interview with Langdon Winner, to promulgate a number of myths which have subsequently been quoted as fact. Winner's article stated, for instance, that neither Van Vliet nor the members of the Magic Band ever took drugs, but guitarist Bill Harkleroad later discredited this. Van Vliet also claimed to have taught both Harkleroad and bassist Mark Boston from scratch; in fact the pair were already accomplished musicians before joining the band.

Critic Steve Huey writes that the album's influence "was felt more in spirit than in direct copycatting, as a catalyst rather than a literal musical starting point. However, its inspiring reimagining of what was possible in a rock context laid the groundwork for countless experiments in rock surrealism to follow, especially during the punk/new wave era." Matt Groening has written that his first reaction to Trout Mask Replica was that it was "the worst thing [he]'d ever heard", but now lists the album as one of his favorites.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i was annoying people by playing "Orange Claw Hammer" in public places! and i love the reaction of people freaking out over that wierd shit!