Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Trout Mask Replica (1969)

At the request of Master Cianan, I have suffered through 78 more minutes of my life than I intended today. So, here goes: what kind of album do you get when you combine a man with a four-octave vocal range, musicians who seem to intentionally play out of time with each other in a kind of hybrid psychedelic blues/jazz -- and ultimately, is produced by Frank Zappa, the god of weirdness itself? Trout Mask Replica, an exceptionally shitty but essential record from 1969 that deserves no more listens than you've already given it, and impetuously insists that you continue to do so. It's a sprawling and disjointed 28 song, 78 minute set that is always much too long, features a rampant collection of haphazard musical textures ("Frownland," "Steal Softly Thru Snow," "Hair Pie: Bake 1"), odd a cappella blues renderings ("The Dust Blows Forward 'N The Dust Blows Back," "Well," "Orange Claw Hammer"), and overall, an amusing sense of poetic puffery with more mentions of "fast and bulbous" that if you didn't know the meaning before, you will soon want to find out.

In fact, the lyrics make you wonder if you're the only one not to have been invited aboard the mother ship. The guitars are undeniably atrocious upstart rhythms that seem incomplete and each possessing its own wonderfully aggrieved time signature; the saxophone is erratic, misplaced, perfect; the drummer, usually the cornerstone for keeping the beat, forgot about this completely and should have laid off the apple pixy stix.

Strangely enough, this album does occasionally work, even if never of the time. The shittiness is so exquisite and exacting that you can almost hear the chaos coming together at times, perhaps for the duration of a song or two, perhaps over the course of its entire length. "Moonlight On Vermont" and "Pachuco Cadaver" are the only two tracks I can personally listen to without wanting to die; otherwise, this album is a matter of personal preference, mood and degree; which is to say, how often do you crave the taste of bleach? I do not recommend listening to this while doing anything else; external stimuli will only provoke strong feelings or irritability and anger, and the dog just doesn't deserve the kind of inevitable punishment you will be willing to bestow after hearing this inspired mess. A D+, but a notable exception insofar as you really should own it; I do and I'm proud.

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