Jul 152008

With the recent turmoil over who’s RTH this is I thought I’d offer myself up as a sacrificial lamb in an effort to bring everyone together…against me.

Trust me, I realize that I may very well be committing some sort of rock nerd harikari (spelled correctly, looked it up.) Beefheart is god! Right?

Not to my ears. This is truly an emperor with no clothes as far as I’m concerned. I was considering offering this discussion up as “What’s the Deal with Capt. Beefheart” as a lighthearted attempt to gain some insight as to how to appreciate this blowhard. But once I started listening to some “songs” to use, I just got pissed.

I mean, the shit that went down in Dachau was bad. Really bad shit. But almost as bad was this from the Allmusic 5-star album Trout Mask Replica:

Dachau Blues

I’ve tried for crissake. I’ve tried. You can’t know Mr. Moderator for almost a quarter century and not try. I have only very recently confessed my very deep dislike for this guy to him. I know its uncool. But I can’t sit by any longer and not let this out.

Allow me to set the stage here. I am not including Safe As Milk in this discussion. I own Milk on wax, haven’t listened to it in 20 years but recall liking enough. I think most of ya would agree that post-Milk is the Beefheart of legend.

From Milk and cool as all get out:

Abba Zaba

Second I’d like to say that there there are avant-noise-rockers that I dig. I don’t know if there’s a “genre” here (if so, enlighten me) but I LOVE both Pere Ubu’s Modern Dance and Dub Housing. I LOVE all three of PIL’s first albums. I spin all five of these several times a year.

I dig The Residents. Not so much for musical reasons but for their overall thang. The concept, the films, the Look… Even so, I probably spin at least one Residents album per year. If I hadn’t lost my Snakefinger disc, I’d probably spin it even more often.

Throbbing Gristle? OK. I dig their “greatest” especially Blood on the Floor.

Tom Waits? Acquired taste? Perhaps but I’ve loved Swordfish Trombone since the first time I heard it.

So by now I’m hoping I’ve earned at least a few rock cred points in this category, if it even is one.

But Beefheart?! It’s all pop and buzzes to me Ringo. I don’t even have any sort of innate respect for the guy. I know I may simply “not get it” but man do I not get it.

Sounds to me like what a bunch of arrogant Dutch “intellectuals” would pretend to groove on to impress…other arrogant Dutch “intellectuals” I guess.

Maybe the problem is that I never gave Beefheart a try while I was still in the day. I never sparked one up and grooved on how fuckin’ weird this dude is.

But if the dude rules, shouldn’t I be able to get into him at any time? Isn’t good music timeless?

At the risk of losing a few of the points that I may have gained above, I’ll admit that I got into The Beach Boys waaaaayyy late. Largely due to my dad being a fan and taking me to see Mike Love’s Beach Boys in 1978. Fuck me awful.

Anyhoo, once I opened up and gave Pet Sounds a fair listen I fell in love. I suddenly got it and grabbed pretty much everything from 65-71. So I got into them late is my point but I got into them.

I’ve tried and tried and am trying as I type to get into the Holy Grail known as Trout Mask Replica. This fucking thing is so well known as a masterpiece that you can buy it through BMG. BMG! fer crissake. “Normal” folks that want to try something “different” are probably buying this thing and thinking we’re all bunch of assholes! This is one of the shittiest albums I’ve ever heard. Seriously.

Flame on. I can’t argue “alternate tunings” or “7th note scales” or shit but if you have to resort to that sort of thing, doesn’t that say something?

I swear to you, I’d rather listen to Loverboy. I swear.


  35 Responses to “Bullshit On: Captain Beefheart”

  1. Okay, here’s the thing that people who don’t like Beefheart never seem to get:

    We actually think TROUT MASK REPLICA is kinda awful.

    Seriously. People who are seriously into Beefheart rate that album very poorly, and in fact, many outright hate it, because far from it being the purest expression of Don Vliet’s talents, it’s the most contrived, forced and “let’s just be weird” of his albums.

    No, the folks who are really into Beefheart tend to rank the most essential albums as follows, more or less. The following are 1 and 2, in either order:


    followed by the Virgin albums 3-5, in any order:


    followed by, almost always in this order:


    And then:


    Followed, invariably, by the “sell-out” records:


    So there you have it. You’re quite mistaken in your idea that TROUT MASK REPLICA is universally considered his pinnacle.

  2. sammymaudlin

    Hmmmm. So you agree with me that Trout Mask is one of the foulest pieces of shit to every be pinched from someone’s asshole?

    Are we all in agreement here?

    Is that my problem? I went from Milk to what mainstream says is the great Beefheart masterpiece?

    If I go on to Lick My Decals will I forgive Trout Mask and bask in Decals’ Milkyness?

  3. I’m down with ya, brother. I thought he sucked from day one and never cared one whit about what that opinion would do to deflate everyone’s ultra high opinion of me (don’t know about you, but I still stop in the mirror once in a while in utter disbelief -that God could bestow so many incredible gifts on one mere human being is indeed miraculous evidence of his existence).

    It takes a lot of guts to do what you’ve done. That slob gets a thumbs up for anything he commits to vinyl, whether it’s farting into a mike, making midnight calls to Zappa, or slobbering out vocal stylings ala Howlin’ Wolf and Blind Willie Johnson over rhythmic patterns that delight pinheads who get goose bumps over math puzzles (Slocum).

    I never listen to Beefheart, and the truth of the matter is that even his so called fans don’t listen to him. And he hasn’t influenced anyone either. That whole influence thing is a bunch of nonsense. Costello actually told an interviewer that he was heavily influenced by The Band and The Grateful Dead. Let’s just leave it at that.

    Pushing it a step further, don’t be afraid to completely level the asshole. Really, is “Safe as Milk” a winner? Are the tracks really that good? The answer is no. The LP is no better than any $2.99 budget bin album that has those 3 or 4 tracks that make it worth the cutout price tag. Honestly, how often is that LP spun in your domicile these days? Don’t know about you, but I’ve taken it out a few times, looked at the track listing, and put it right back on the shelf. Those 3 or 4 so called magic tracks just aren’t worth the effort of flopping the thing on the turntable. At least it can be sold for a few auxiliary dollars should duaghter one or two need a new pair of sneakers.

    So congratulations, my friend. Let’s just hope a few others have the guts to head to the confessional as well.

    E. Pluribus

  4. hrrundivbakshi

    In this 21st-century world, let me tell you how I know Beefheart is the ultimate Emperor’s New Clothes artist:

    I have a bunch of friends who swear by the guy. Between them they own the entire Beefheart canon. Collectively, they were only *too glad* to lend me each and every album they own, for .mp3 ripping purposes — swearing, G48 stylee, that this or that album was “the real gem” in Beefheart’s ouvre. Then *they never asked for any of them back*. Further, once I ripped the albums, I could never listen to more than one or two tracks of his kaka in a row. Always in random mode, save for a few tracks I actually like, from across his entire career. (“Zig Zag Wanderer” is a *stone* classic, by any unit of measurement!)

    Interestingly, I find myself able to fire up the Kentonite Sherlock Holmes pipe for two or three minutes of Beefheart at a time — and I might even enjoy those minutes. Maybe. Depending on my mood. But I never go further than that — and, more often than not — I lunge for the “next” button at the first few dissonant notes. I mean, who’s got the time?!

    Having said that, there are a few tracks I really do like: that spoken word piece that talks about “one red bean in the bottom of a tin can…”, the one where one of those comic book character band members delivers a coached soliloquy about “fast and bulbous” or some such. And I find myself tapping my feet more readily to stuff off of “Ice Cream for Crow” when they show up in my shuffle mode.

    But in general, I can’t get into the guy, and I must admit I, too, think, selfish and Maudlin-like: “shit; I got an open mind, and I’ve tried. But Beefheart just ain’t all that — all those who claim to like him must be fucking poseurs!”

    I like his paintings.


  5. If I go on to Lick My Decals will I forgive Trout Mask and bask in Decals’ Milkyness?

    No, because it doesn’t sound anything like SAFE AS MILK — none of his other albums do. And given how thoroughly your mind is made up, you’ll hate it, and that’s cool. I’m just saying that you got taken in by one of the enduring Rock Myths, that TROUT MASK REPLICA is some kind of avant-rock masterpiece, which is very much like saying that THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST is the very pinnacle of the Stones’ career.

  6. Back in my wild and wooly MUSIC MAJOR days, I got the snotty and arrogant notion that anything post-Stravinsky was very bitchin’ and worthy. It seemed the more my fellow classmates turned their noses at those foul John Cage and Steve Reich compositions, the more I was determined to love it. If it was dissonant, it was for me. I even arranged some of Mr. Van Vliet’s compositions for a brass quintet, thinking it would gain me ultimate respect in the world of music (they were from Shiny Beast). Man, it was so cool.

    How many times do I listen to that record these days? Zilch. I can’t say that I hate it, but it’s not one I go to like, say, ELO’s New World Record. That may some form of blasphemy to some, but it’s music to my ears. It wasn’t until the mid-90s, when I got over my rock snobbery that I began to appreciate the simpleness of a three-minute pop tune about wanting to get laid in the back of a car.

    I don’t like most “jam bands”. While I appreciate the musicianship and some of the technical merits of the players. It bores me. Most of it lacks feeling and life. This is precisely my problem with modern jazz. I’ll take Coltrane’s incessant honking any day to Kenny G’s smooth tones (That may sound contradictary, but I stand by it). I like songs that end. That endless noodling seems self-indulgent and sometimes boring. Maybe I need to smoke pot. I remember riding to a gig somewhere and nodding off in the back of the truck. As I woke, annoyed by what was coming from the radio, I possibly offended one of my bandmates. “What’s that wanking going on?” His response: “Oh, it’s Alex Lifeson, one of my favorite guitarists.” Ooops.

    I appreciate Beefheart, but I rarely listen to him.

    I do not even own Trout Mask Replica and have never felt too inclined to purchase it.


    PS–I friend of mine and myself were goofing around a nameless college’s music building making stupid videos. There was a jazz drummer practicing in one of the rooms. We shot a short clip where the camera opens on one guy who is standing outside the door snapping his fingers and totally grooving on what the drummer is laying down. The camera pans around the corner to guy on the floor with his hands over his ears as if in agony.

    One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

  7. sammymaudlin

    I’m surprised I have any support at all on this subject. I feel somewhat liberated.

    For the record: I dig Majesties Request (not a pinnacle but…) AND New World Record AND Steve Reich.

    I’ll take them over Beefheart in a heartbeat.

    I’ll admit that I never got beyond Trout and likely never will. Fooled me once, shame on you.

  8. BigSteve

    I’ve been a Beefheart fan since 1968 (Strictly Personal). I can’t imagine what it would be like to come at his music ex post facto, since each of those records took a long time to absorb.

    I’m not going to try to talk you into liking him. If you don’t get it, that’s fine. Thanks for the Snakefinger clip though. I saw that version of his band with Eric Drew Feldman (who has also played with Ubu and Beefheart).

    And I’ve got to say I completely disagree with the great 48’s rankings. And I disagree with the idea that Beefheart never influenced anyone. Post-Swordfishtrombones Tom Waits is inconceivable without Beefheart as a precedent.

  9. Mr. Moderator

    Wow, I’m not going to sit here like members of the Quiet Storm and cluck my tongue over these responses. It’s one thing for Sammy to come clean with his inability to dig Beefheart. It was to be expected that E. Pluribus Gergely, supreme admirer of form, would rush to his defense. You guys who can’t talk about Beefheart in terms of “jamming” don’t get it. His music’s not a bunch of formless jamming. Even his few, long songs are deliberately composed. But I know, because he doesn’t compose songs along the lines of Hermin’s Hermits you can’t hear what’s going on. (That you can’t FEEL what’s going on is not open to criticism. The feelings expressed in Beefheart’s music are not healthy. I would not wish them on anyone who does not come by such feelings painfully naturally.)

    Hrrundi’s measured, sincere thoughts were almost refreshing – relatively revelatory, compared with the threatened dismissals from other Townsmen. Is this what we mean by giving something a “fair listen” on Rock Town Hall? TB’s words were along the same line. We’ve all been there. Sounds like a fair listen as well.

    What really shocks and disappoints me is The Great 48’s pompous, know-it-all attempt at deflating Sammy’s thoughts. You can pull this when defending the honor of The Cappucino Kid, but for whom do you speak when you say that “real” Beefheart fans don’t like Trout Mask Replica? Come to think of it, who are these good friends of Hrrrundi who lent him Beefheart albums and then never cared to get them back? I call BULLSHIT on both of you!

    Now I don’t consider Trout Mask Replica the “best” Beefheart album, but it’s a landmark album. Using the raw tools of a bunch of teenage hippie kids, the man directed his idiot savant powers on making a sort of folk art out of blues, jazz, and rock ‘n roll along the lines of something like Joseph Cornell’s boxes. I can’t take any of you back to the time my college friend and I, fresh from a haul of 80 stolen records from a mall record store in Libertyville, IL that his high school friend managed, dropped the needle on this strange album for the first time and heard “Frownland”. It was like Hendrix on acid…ON ACID! There was no real foreground and background, no discernable rhythm, nothing but the quick blast of those guitars and Beefheart’s wailing vocals for a very short time. That was a revolutionary listening experience. I’m sorry you missed the revolution, and today I wouldn’t even try to convince you of Trout Mask’s brilliance by playing you one of the album’s “hits,” like the chooglin’ “Moonlight in Vermont”. It’s nothing personal. It’s a complete waste of time trying to get any of you to appreciate Trout Mask Replica at this stage in your life.

    I liken the experience to this: each of my boys made what I feel is a “landmark” drawing around the age of 3. I’ve saved those drawings and look at them now and then, contemplating the spark of beauty and brilliance that I feel about my boys in those drawings. I would never pull out these drawings and show them to you, however. You’d have no business seeing what I saw and what I see in my boys to this day. You’d rightly think I was an idiot. This is how I feel about Trout Mask Replica, despite its shoddy sound and eventual decay. As one of those guys who owns just about every Beefheart album, don’t tell me, Great One, that “we” don’t consider Trout Mask Replica a great album.

    I listen to Doc at the Radar Station and Clear Spot regularly. On these albums, Beefheart got to work with musicians and producers capable of supporting his vision. To me, the song “Dirty Blue Gene” is his ultimate accomplishment. It’s perfectly composed and arranged. As I’ve said before, it’s the musical equivalent of a time-lapse nature film. Nature plays a big part in the Captain’s music, by the way, if you ever need a way “in” on the “logic” of his music. I should note, these are kick-ass rock ‘n roll albums, to boot!

    I also listen to a lot of Mirror Man. I love my share of chooglin’ boogie jams, and the way Beefheart structures “Kandy Korn” and “25th Century Quaker” (a song I love for its title alone) psychs me up. For all those chooglin’ boogie tunes, there are no stock Vaughn Brothers-approved licks involved. I like it like that. Beefheart always gets his bands to play like kids play – together and with all their might and limited skills.

    There are a lot of other worthy Beefheart albums and songs, but if that twisted feeling doesn’t appeal to you, you may never take the time to appreciate the beauty of his songs’ constructions.

    I might have more to say on these matters, if you are willing to give the man and his music a fair listen.

  10. general slocum

    I’d love to have a world where me and eight tedious arty men stand around smoking imported cigarettes and listen to the works of Captain Beefheart on shuffle mode in an iPod and experience our own hells, only wishing we could admit somewhere that we hate it. That we need the Keepin’-It-Real People’s Wisdom of RTH to free us from our contorted tower of pseudo musical superiority. But as you may recall, that was already a plot on Laverne and Shirley, wasn’t it? After they’d moved to California?

    Seriously. You can riff a while on how you don’t “get” Beefheart, and talk about it, as my mother talks about post-Cage music: It sounds like a squeaky door to *me*! But the truth is, it’s very noisy stuff, and you just don’t care for it. It is, in a sense, “difficult listening.” So it creates a macho need to either say, “No it isn’t,” or to be able to “get” it, like A Man Called Horse. Relax and feel free not to enjoy it AND for it to have some value. The first 3 PIL records are easy listening next to some of Beefheart! And no, other than Doc At the Radar Station, I don’t play a lot of Beefheart around the house. Nor do I play Bartok string quartets but a couple of times a year. Does that mean they can’t be some of my favorite pices of music, Gergles? In some homes, it isn’t all hit singles at 2:28 per. In fact, I was sitting out in the barn this evening, smoking a stogie, drinking a beer, and the shuffling iPod brought on Terry Riley’s “In C” and I’ll admit, I thought of skipping it. But I let it play through and it was beautiful.

    This screwy need to get all uppity about something, anything, is a bit of a drag.

  11. I feel the need to clarify a couple of things that I may not have made understood completely (a true fault of mine):

    I don’t consider Beefheart a “jam artist”. I’ve taken apart a few of the man’s compositions and he’s brilliant. I lumped him in with that stuff because I make a personal choice not to listen to it too much. It’s “head” music to me. I listened to so much Zappa at one point, that it began to make my head spin. I begun to appreciate the “simple” aspects of certain pop groups. I’m a music major burnout. I got theorized to the lowest common denominator: the G chord on the guitar.

    But, it’s all a contradiction for me. I don’t like modern jazz because it’s too “clinical,” however, I totally dig Steely Dan, the most clinical rock band of all time possibly. I make no sense with my musical tastes. I have gone out on a limb for the underdog, underappreciated artist while at the same time defending the merits of someone like Hanson (I’ve never said a bad word about those kids).

    So, while it’s nice to get uppity and say that Phish sucks because they are long-winded and bore me, I still own a few of their records and enjoy them from time to time.

    I think Shiny Beast is brilliant. I even dig the Bongo Fury record (See? Contradiction! I hate jam music, but I groove out to “Willie The Pimp” time to time.) Zappa did with Beefheart.

    Just wanted to clarify.


  12. dbuskirk

    I’m surprised that Capt. Beefheart still offends people enough that naysayers are still grousing that it is not really music. Anytime someone doubts the validity of someone’s work I’m made curious, whether it is Warhol, hip-hop or James Joyce.

    There is a whole mess of Pitchfork-covered young band who definitely bear the Magic Band’s influence, whether it is Deerhoof, Erase Erata or Man Man. I don’t even think his stuff sounds that weird anymore, it certainly isn’t the most eccentric music I listen to.

    I understand not digging where he is coming from, but it seems paranoid to think that everyone who likes is just putting up some kind of private front. I can’t imagine what people see in American Idol but I don’t doubt the sincerity.

    The last time I threw on Beefheart on was the CD I made of all the instrumental versions of TROUT MASK from the GROW FINS Set. some of my favorite of his stuff. I never got the memo I was supposed to rate TROUT MASK so poorly.

  13. Interesting thread to come on the heels of the “who doesn’t get a fair hearing?” thread. Fair hearing for Beefheart? That’s impossible when the counter-argument says “And you know those people who profess to love Beefheart – they are lying, they don’t like him, they don’t understand him, and they never listen to him. And that Trout Mask Replica that people say they love, well they don’t. People – and ‘I’ know who they are – think it sucks, man.” HVB spends more column inches taking about the Beefheart he likes, then says anyone who likes Beefheart is a poseur.

    What’s the point of arguing against that, especially when Mr. Mod and dbuskirk have been so eloquent in CB’s defense already?

    I’ve detailed before how Geo spent three tears back in high school, prodding me on Beefheart. And it took three years to “learn” TMR, it took the release of “Spotlight Kid” and working backwards, but it surely was worth it. DVV has been high on my list ever since and what I learned in learning how to come to grips with TMR has served well in learning how to appreciate many others.

  14. Funny, I was reading the Mojo article about Beefheart last night and thinking that I should check him out. I’ve never heard a lick of his music.

    What should I check out first? I love Tom Waits but I hate Frank Zappa (the music, not the first amendment champion. Indisputably a great musician but I’ve always been bad at math).

    Or, at age 44, have I just missed the boat?

    Perhaps the Mod could put a poll up asbout this. I could use some guidance.

  15. BigSteve

    cdm, working backwards from The Spotlight Kid, as Al did, is a good plan. Starting at the beginning with Safe As Milk would work too. Even though it’s mostly pretty conventional, SAM is probably something you’d enjoy enough to convince you to go forward through Strictly Personal, Trout Mask, and Lick My Decals. But I’d take my time.

    I will say that the freak show aspect of the band’s Look doesn’t do them any favors in terms of doubters taking them seriously.

  16. Mr. Moderator

    I could put up a poll, cdm, or we could just post our thoughts on what Beefheart album you should listen to first. For those of us who like Beefheart, shall we exclude the excellent Safe as Milk because it may set up unrealistic expectations of a catalog of slightly off-kilter garage rock?

    cdm, I suggest starting with Clear Spot. To me, it’s the best of his rock-oriented records. It’s produced by Ted Templeman (Van Halen) and shares enough ’70s rock sounds to at least seem familiar enough. Plus it’s got some awesome guitar playing throughout. If you like that, move on to Doc at the Radar Station, which also rocks but is its own beast. I think that album is what the Trout Mask Replica side of Beefheart aspired to. The title track from Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) is another masterpiece, but that album, although generally very strong, has a couple of corny numbers that are not healthy to start out hearing.

  17. hrrundivbakshi

    I just want to be clear here: I don’t actually think any of us here are “fucking poseurs” for pretending to like Beefheart. I meant to suggest that those kind of thoughts rise up in me when I try hard to like him, but — beyond a slight Kentonite appreciation, and other than a few songs — find it largely impossible. This mean streak is my problem, not yours, and I’m dealing with it as best I can.

  18. Thanks BigSteve.

    For the record, I’m rarely put off by a band’s Look. Even a bad Look is better than none at all. At the end of the day, it’s entertainment as much as art so there’s nothing wrong with giving the folks something to look at.

  19. Mr. Moderator

    Those of us who might have felt slighted surely have been put at ease. Thanks, Hrrundi. I think we can agree that Beefheart is an Ugly Artist, whose music, sometimes, makes us confront Ugly Things.

  20. BigSteve

    Mr Mod, do you really think the feelings expressed on Beefheart’s music are unhealthy? The man himself is pretty misanthropic, and he treated the guys in his band like shit, but I think the lyrics are pretty well-rounded, though definitely not all roses.

    I agree that nature is essential to his work, though it’s “nature red in tooth and claw,” as Tennyson wrote, a lot of the time. But I like the way he doesn’t sugar-coat reality. I real life Don may have abandoned people in favor of nature, but I don’t really think that’s there in the lyrics.

  21. diskojoe

    I currently have Safe as Milk & that Rhino anthology that came out a decade ago, which is plenty of Beefheart for me. I also had a copy of Trout Mask Replica, but I did get rid of it after not listening to it for a while & after reading an article in Uncut in which the musicians who worked on the album described how they were literally enslaved during that period. Frankly, I prefer listening to Beefheart over Frank Zappa, especially the late period “dinky, dinky dink late period.

  22. 2000 Man

    Hmmm…I think this is my Rock Town Hall. I think I’m gonna end up buying Trout Mask Replica because I’m intrigued by both sides of this debate. I have Safe as Milk, and I like that. HVB is dead on, Zig Zag Wanderer is terrific, and anyone that can come up with that can probably come up with some other good stuff. I remember listening to Trout Mask a long time ago and just thinking it was weird, but I don’t remember it at all.

    Maybe The Emperor is just wearing a shirt with no pants. Like it’s horrible, but you really can’t look away, and you’ll never forget it. Next time I go to the store that sells old stuff, I think I’ll get it.

  23. Mr. Moderator

    BigSteve asked:

    Mr Mod, do you really think the feelings expressed on Beefheart’s music are unhealthy?

    For those who do not come naturally to the feelings expressed in his music, I think it might be unhealthy, or perceived as such. For those who cannot tap into those feelings, perhaps it’s best they keep away from them. It’s hard to explain, but I have this vague notion of artists whose work is in part derived from a lifetime of holding in shits and pisses for too long. When they finally cut loose, they drop a glorious load or piss out gallons of amber-tinged urine. These are works of art, but they are too rich for many people. That’s cool. It probably is unhealthy to hold it for too long, despite the potential benefits of the added fermentation time. I’m not going to recommend that folks like my friend E. Pluribus Gergely, who I know will never like XTC (another “holding it in” artist), take up this practice, and I won’t judge them harshly for not doing so. It’s interesting that Hrrundivbakshi, whose Holy Trinity of Rock suggests an appreciation for “fermented” rock ‘n roll, is open to appreciating some Beefheart music, despite the smelly, hippie bits that must give him pause.

  24. BigSteve

    I love Trout Mask in all its messy glory. And like dbus I love the instrumental takes of the material that appeared on the Grow Fins box. Those guys were on fire then.

    I have occasionally wished Trout Mask had been recorded more professionally. And I admit that I’ve toyed with the idea of editing it down to a lean, rocking 40-minute single album, though I doubt that the doubters would be swayed by it.

  25. hrrundivbakshi

    I like this “fermented rock” term you’ve coined. But, for the record, I find nothing hippie-ish about Beefheart. Like, at all.

  26. hrrundivbakshi

    2000Man sez:

    Maybe The Emperor is just wearing a shirt with no pants. Like it’s horrible, but you really can’t look away, and you’ll never forget it.

    I say:

    Yes! Post of the day!

  27. Mr. Moderator

    Sorry if I misapplied hippie biases toward Beefheart regarding you, Hrrundi. We’re cool, right?

  28. BigSteve

    Also, I may have recommended this before:


    Fast n Bulbous is a band that reproduces arrangements of classic Beefheart material without vocals and in a more horn-based setting. It might be of interest for those who think the originals were improv or just noise. The tracks are also really good for karaoke.

  29. Y’all get up pretty early, it seems, or else you live on the east coast or something.

    I’m a Beefheart fan, myself. Have been listening lately to some live Beefheart a friend laid on me, and it’s pretty impressive that live, his band can pull together that harsh, off-kilter sound really well. Frankly I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m impressed. Doc at the Radar Station is my personal favorite among his studio records.

    That said, I can’t listen to Beefheart on any occasion. As background party noise, most of it would be really annoying. Trout Mask in particular has a wide range of dynamics, harsh to sweet, loud to soft, that makes it a jarring listen. Sometimes I want a jarring listen, sometimes not. It’s not trying to be jarring by accident, I can tell that much.

    But I’m glad too that some of us have tried to tie this into the failures of people’s personalities. Me, I like different music at different times. Some of you I don’t know about. It’s like if I came over to your place to listen to music, you’d say “How about some Motown?” and I’d say great, and we’d listen to that for awhile. Then when the record was done, I’d say, “What next?” and you’d say, “Well, how about some Motown?”

    I’ll second the point about ugliness, but also say that the issue of ugliness raises the issue of standards of what counts as beauty. No doubt, a lot of Beefheart ain’t conventionally pretty. But sometimes, conventional prettiness can be annoying because it denies the presence of harsher emotions. Beefheart isn’t just shrieking into the microphone; he has carefully crafted a challenge to what’s usually thought of as lyrical and replaces it with his own new standards of what’s lyrical. I don’t want that all the time, but it’s a damn good thing it’s there.

  30. For those of us who like Beefheart, shall we exclude the excellent Safe as Milk because it may set up unrealistic expectations of a catalog of slightly off-kilter garage rock?

    I think if anything, starting with SAFE AS MILK would be useful for someone coming into Beefheart cold. Borrowing that album from my college music library after having heard (and not particularly liked) both TROUT MASK and DECALS was quite an eye-opener, because it grounded the music and provided a philosophical access point for me: “Oh. Think completely mutated Delta blues. That helps.”

    I think SAFE AS MILK, like the later Virgin albums, just proves that Captain Beefheart was always best when he had a sympathetic collaborator, be it Ry Cooder or Gary Lucas.

  31. Mr. Moderator

    All right, we’ll allow for the inclusion of Safe as Milk. That makes sense.

  32. I think I’m going to get Safe as Milk just based on that Abba Zaba song posted above. That song kicks ass.

    That Van Halen connection is not exactly a selling point for me but Clear Spot sounds like a good follow up if all goes well with SaM.

  33. I came into Beefheart with Decals in 70/71, when it actually got airplay on Philadelphia Underground radio. I think that is a great place to start because it’s a well recorded, focused record, especially side 1, that retains the physical amusicality that is the essence of Beefheart. Safe as Milk and Clear Spot contain pretty much standard rock songs with a sprinkling of Beefheartian spice, Decals is the true dish with a couple of familiar spices thrown in to acclimate your taste buds. The single guitar and marimba parts give a transparency to the musical architecture that is difficult to catch in the brutal double guitar chording of Trout Mask.

    But Trout Mask is the shit: potent, pure and unadulterated. Also sprawling, rough and nearly impenetrable, but that’s the nature of the beast. A song like the aforementioned Frownland packs a psychic wallop unlike pretty much anything else you’ll ever hear. That album gives very little away, the occasional moment of rock or surfacing melody or amusing vocal/spoken interlude. For that reason it’s no place to start, but once you get there it somehow seems always new.

    Beefheart was not a solo genius. His art was working with musicians piece by piece and forming a sound almost like a lump of clay. In our long ago discussion of Sonic Youth, I talked about the approximate nature of their sound, how notes in a chord were only vaguely important compared to overall effect. But while they jam on this sound, classic Beefheart worked through these approximations until they were honed to a weird singular perfection, that physical amusicality I mentioned above. I also think that the classic TMR/Decals line up created a template that the later Virgin era versions of the band used to continue the sound, which is to say that Beefheart’s later successful music was not so much taught by him but learned from the examples of the earlier band. John French also provided musical director continuity that bridged the lineups.

    Beefheart is one of the richest contemporary artists in any medium that I can name. There’s a depth to his work that stands up to anything out there. He may not be for everyone, maybe not worth the undeniable effort required, but there is something really special there and it was well worth my effort.

  34. Yeah! You really took that emperor down a peg! That emperor who lived most of his life in relative poverty and slowly and painfully died from multiple sclerosis in hermetic isolation! Yeah, thank god we have people like you to really stick it to an agonized multiple sclerotic bastard like him! He might have wrestled with neurological issues that would reduce most people to homelessness but instead somehow created a unique form of music, but you, YOU have a blog! My new hero! Preach that wisdom!

    By the way, the correct spelling is ‘harakiri,’ you gaping dipshit asshole.

  35. Please tell me you haven’t been working on this scathing retort for the last 7 years.

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube