Thursday, October 15, 2009

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, TROUT MASK REPLICA

Straight/Reprise, 1969; available

28 tracks, 79:08

I'm pretty sure most of you know this one by now, so I won't be describing it too much. If you haven't, you probably should. It truly is as wild and wonderful as everybody says it is. When it was released forty years ago, it seemed there really wasn't anything quite like this in rock. Maybe some contemporary bands were much freakier with less recognition (the Red Krayola and Cromagnon come to mind), but TROUT MASK REPLICA still sounded not quite like anything else. Twenty-eight tracks were spread over two LPs (now on one CD), a good chunk of which are under three minutes; of these, three tracks are a capella, one ("The Blimp (mousetrapreplica)") has phoned-in vocals with music by the Mothers of Invention, and three are instrumentals. If you're familiar with the story behind the recording, I won't bore you; if not, you may want to read up on just how much of a control freak the Captain really was, and you should keep in mind supposedly none of this album is improvised. The real question is whether any of it still holds up. I truly think so; when I first heard it ten years ago, I wasn't quite ready to fathom what was going on here. Needless to say, that position has since changed. Noise-rock, no wave, the New York downtown scene, punk, post-punk... this album could fit into ANY of those categories, but it obivously predates them all by a long shot. An essential slice of avant-rock history!

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