Friday, November 21, 2008

Tricky Beats: Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band

Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band: The Blimp (Mousetrapreplica)


When it comes to tricky beats, the king has to be Captain Beefheart, who feels 4/4 time is "mother's heartbeat music" - the guy absolutely loathes even time signatures.

"I don't believe in time, you know, 4/4 and all that stuff. Frank Zappa believes in time and we could never get it together. He writes all his music and gets sentimental about good old rock 'n' roll, but that's appeasement music." - Captain Beefheart

Based on a newsreel of the Hindenburg airship crash, The Blimp (Mousetrapreplica) comes from the amazing Trout Mask Replica, the Captain's third studio album, which was produced by former schoolmate Frank Zappa. The vocal is performed by Jeff Cotton and recorded over a telephone.

Recorded in 1969, all the music for Trout Mask Replica was written in about 3 days, but it took over 8 months of practice to get it down. During this time, the band lived in a communal house, which one member described as having a "cult-like" atmosphere. Combining Blues, free Jazz and other apparently disparate genres of American music, Trout Mask Replica 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.

Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band: Lick My Decals Off, Baby


Lick My Decals Off, Baby comes from the 1970 album of the same name - it spent 11 weeks in the British Top 50 and surprisingly reached #20.

In the March 1971 edition of Creem, legendary critic, Lester Bangs, wrote:
Gazing across pop music's stale horizons, past all the cynical ineptitude, pseudo-intellectual solemnity, neurotic regression and dismal deadends for great bands, there is one figure who stands above the murk forging an art at once adventurous and human: Don Van Vliet, known to a culture he's making anachronistic as Captain Beefheart.

In Lick My Decals Off, Baby this vision is extended, and even though the sonic textures are sometimes even more complex and angular than on Trout Mask, the lyrics have taken an added universality, many of them stepping back a stride from the kaleidoscopic image-clusters of last year's songs. "Lick My Decals Off, Baby" is just great bawdy music, as sanguinely sexual as a tale out of Boccaccio: "Rather than I wanna hold your hand/I wanna swallow you whole/'n' I wanna lick you everywhere it's pink/'n' everywhere you think/Whole kit 'n' kaboodle 'n' the kitchen sink..."

Captain Beefheart takes some getting used to at first, just like Ornette and Ayler and the Velvets and even the Stooges (and didn't Dylan sound pretty strange the first time we heard him?). But if it does sometimes require some patience and close attention, is also one of the most rewarding musical experiences available today. The fact is that this man's music, probably more than that of anybody else working in rock now, is breaking ground for an awesome superhighway leading us away from the decadent era of Superstars into a future where every man shall have ears to hear music beyond our wildest dreams, music like nobody's heard on earth before. I don't want to get into apocalyptic statements, but I think the time is rapidly approaching when almost all styles but free music, music encompassing everything in our traditions (even harmony and lush lyricism - dig Pharoah Sanders' new stuff) and transcending it, will begin to exhaust themselves. The same old song can keep grinding outa the AM tubes and FM tuners from here to Alhaville, but more people are getting restless to move on all the time. So I'm gonna go not so very far at all out on a limb and say that Captain Beefheart is the most important musician to rise in the Sixties, far more significant and far-reaching than the Beatles, who only made pretty collages with material from the public domain, when you get right down to it; as important, as I said, for all music as Ornette Coleman was for jazz ten years ago and Charlie Parker 15 years before that, as important as Leadbelly was for the blues Cap teethed on. His music is a harbinger of tomorrow, but his messages are universal and warm as the hearth of the America we once dreamed of. That's a combination that's hard to beat.

Pretty awesome review - pretty awesome music.

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