Does anyone like Captain Beefheart?

I bought Trout Mask Replica a few years back because it placed #60 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 albums of All Time list. It must be pretty great, right?

I see nothing of value there. I cue it up every year or so just to give it another shot, but it never takes.

I know, to each his own, etc. But damn; to me, it’s nearly unlistenable.

I’d like to hear from someone who enjoys listening to it.


I love it. Yeah, it’s not for everyone. No, not everyone who claims to love it is a posturing hipster. It’s just a fucking great album. Don Van Vliet’s amazing wordplay and imagery accompanied by the intense squall of the band forced to learn the Captain’s Pollock-like spatter of notes by heart is a huge rush.

That said, my very favorite parts of the album are two tracks without the Magic Band: “The Dust Blows Forward…” and “Orange Claw Hammer,” with Van Vliet’s exquisite poetry unobscured by the ferocious yammering of the band. I can’t tell you how much those tracks move me.

Changed your mind yet? I didn’t think so. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it.

I hear clips and realize it will take work to listen to…and I never get to it.

In the thread Critically-Acclaimed Albums that are Unlistenable I said,

While Trout Mask Replica is a fine album, Lick My Decals Off, Baby is his best – he even said so.

Even more that Zappa, Beefheard is hard to get into (other than Safe as Milk). I remember what Matt Groening said about him:


Beefheart was doing some amazing stuff with sounds and time changes. It is often difficult (and ugly) music, and not everyone gets it.

I love Beefheart, and Trout Mask Replica was my introduction to him.

Biffy already pointed out the most accessible tracks on that record, the rest of it is full of surprises. I had listened to a bunch of people who had listened to Beefheart themselves before I had heard that record, though. Unless you’re already primed for it, it’s probably not the best introduction to him. Unless you’re of the “throw them in the deep end and see if they swim” school, that is.

A much more accessible record is Safe as Milk. It’s got the beginning of what I think of as the “psychedelic blues orchestra” approach, but it’s packaged in more recognizable songs.

Now, all that said. I’d never have agreed to be in a Beefheart band. They were kind of run like a cult.

And if you don’t like it: you don’t like it. There’s lots of other stuff out there to like.

Also, if the acapella ‘Orange Clawhammer’ is a bit too esoteric, check out this version with Zappa on guitar

I’m still fairly convinced that Trout Mask Replica is the result of a group of very capable performers, high. Occassionally, their talent breaks through, but mostly they’re just high.

It’s not a favorite, but I’m happy enough to listen to it. In my iTunes, I think I’ve deleted half of the songs.

Upon reading these replies I feel inclined to give it another spin.

It’s been a year, after all. :slight_smile:

It’s good to keep in mind that for this album and maybe others there was a psychodrama going on with Capt and his band. They were almost prisoners making it, being sparsely fed, worked to the limits of their talents and ability to reproduce what the capt had in his head. Beefheart was not a nice guy reputedly at all.

The other thing to listen for is that, to my ears, it sounds like he is improvising his lyrics a whole lot. It’d be unusual on a rock record like this. I don’t know how much of it this applies to. But I hear it in beefheart a lot.

I love Beefheart, but TMR isn’t one of his best, in my opinion.

Clear Spot is my favourite, Shiny Beast / Bat Chain Puller (both versions) are pretty close, and Safe as Milk is up there too.

TMR has some great material, but it suffers a bit from double abumness, it could have been edited down to a much better single LP.

But… nothing appeals to everyone, and Beefheart is just not pop music. There’s plenty of stuff I don’t get: pretty much the entirety of opera, for instance, sounds to me like godawful caterwauling in foreign languages. Can’t stand the stuff. But that doesn’t make it garbage that pretentious people pretend to like, it’s just a style that I don’t get. And that’s fine. There’s more than enough to like without worrying about stuff that I just do not enjoy.

Fast and bulbous!

That’s right, The Mascara Snake. Fast and bulbous. Also, a tin tear drop.

Bulbous also tapered.

That’s right.

I’d argue that Doc at the Radar Station is his best album. It’s certainly my favorite of his.

TMR doesn’t do it for me. I know it should, but I’m too lazy. Safe as Milk and Mirror Man both sound more like music and are fantastic. Bongo Fury, which is a bunch of live Zappa recordings that feature Beefheart, is also addicting.

It’s definitely not for everyone. I am a fan of a lot of people who were heavily influenced by him, like PJ Harvey.

And, according to some, Tom Waits. I need to give Trout Mask Replica a listen; never have.

Tom Waits is *hugely *Beefheart-influenced. He even contributed a liner note poem to a recent Beefheart box set.

Also Sonic Youth

I’m not sure listening right through is the best way. I’ve always liked it, but I appreciate the tracks more when they come up on my phone.
The collection of Zappa oriented tracks called Zapped had The Old Fart at Play and The Blimp, which seem to me to be the most accessible - and fun - tracks.

I got to see them live in Boston in 1972 or so. The opening act was trained chimps.

Appropriate! That’s how Beefheart treated his band!