This is the key album for this group and came out of a legendary amount of lengthy and protracted sessions, directed by the Captain himself in Los Angeles, California. Although the band’s first two albums were, indeed, very good listening, Captain Beefheart was reportedly frustrated with being ignored for his more Avant-Garde musical ideas. He promptly sacked and replaced some of his band members, eventually releasing this album, which has been deemed a groundbreaking masterpiece. It should be interesting listening, released in 1969. Let’s hear it.
We begin the album with Frownland which begins with a freeform piece of wonderful music, which sounds all over the place. It is supposed to and has Captain Beefheart growling away with a decent vocal. It sounds like a short, yet wacky piece of surrealistic music. Very short, at under two minutes long, it is an interesting introduction to something completely different musically. Good job.
Following is The Dust Blows Forward n’ the Dust Blows Back which begins with an old tape sounding piece with a lone Captain Beefheart vocal which is quite emotional. This is obviously designed to be a lone vocal piece that shows the underrated vocals on this record. The lyrics are likely drug-influenced, but what do you expect for a record released in 1969? A bit different, but cool all the same.
Dachau Blues is a more “normal” piece with weird late 1960s sounds and a deep, throaty vocal from Captain Beefheart. It has some really weird clarinet here. This is not supposed to be music that follows traditional structures, it is just really weird. It’s difficult to make out what this is supposed to be doing here musically. The song ends quickly, with a recorded discussion about rats. Yes, it’s super odd.
Ella Guru follows, with some weird guitar parts and has some even more odd vocals and responses played with it as well. It is bizarre, more so than the first album by The Velvet Underground ever was. In the second half, some tremendous drum rolls drive this piece along, along with a clean but warped guitar solo. This sounds very good, and surprisingly so.
Following is Hair Pie: Bake 1 which begins with some really weird and discordant saxophone and Jazz playing, along with other wind instruments. If you ever have hair pie with cool whip, this is the perfect tune to match it. Very, very weird, it eventually has a Rock groove that emerges in the background to support the totally odd weirdness. This is super weird and just sounds like a completely different and unusual take on the music of the time. Totally bizarre, it requires an open mind to explore its randomness and beauty. It’s okay but perhaps too weird for some to listen to. It ends with a recording done in the bush, which doesn’t make sense at all. Different nonetheless.
Next along is Moonlight on Vermont which begins with some drum rolls, more weird guitars and a sense that the weirdness is rather overwhelming on the record by now. It’s fairly catchy all the same, just sounding really out there. The lyrics are beyond bizarre, this may get you laughing at how totally unconventional this really is. A very strange piece, with the chanted line: “Give me the old-time religion!” is here. This probably would sound fantastic on some high-grade psychedelic drugs, and definitely out there music to listen to. Not bad though.
Pachuco Cadaver begins with some random spoken word parts, before launching straight into a weird and wonderful piece of music that is actually rather catchy. Very catchy and different, this is very strange music. It sounds completely odd and artistic, and would definitely turn off those who today would just listen to RnB. A very straight listen, this is somewhat like Salvador Dali or the most intense Surrealist poetry and music put together. It has a weird, yet catchy saxophone solo that is mixed very nicely onto the record. A really cool listen, and decent from start to finish. Nice tune. It ends after nearly five minutes in length.
Bill’s Corpse comes next, continuing the melodic weirdness. It’s not a depressing or murderous sounding tune, it is just very weird. It is really strange and bizarre-sounding music, but that is not necessarily a bad thing from time to time. It has a very unusual finish, with a lone vocal to wrap things up.
After that is Sweet Sweet Bulbs which is a very catchy piece that sounds very out there. It’s a decent piece of driven music that is surprisingly more song-like. In any case, this is an unusual song that is very much like the rest of the album, nicely constructed and very much strange.
Following is Neon Meate Dream of a Octafish which has some treated vocals and some more unusual instrumentation. The lyrics here are extremely unusual, and this is not your typical listen. In any case, it’s alright but is not for those who don’t like weird. A very good listening experience, for the most part, this just sounds oddball. There is some weird organ here, along with odd guitar parts. Not bad all the same.
China Pig begins with a recording of some good clean guitar parts that are quite bluesy, which is different here. It has some vocals that sound distant for the most part, and this is reminiscent of early Blues recordings that were lo-fi quality but really excellent. Anyway, this song is quite different from the rest of the album but is just as essential to listen to as all the other songs on it. Even so, it is a very good listen for four minutes long. Very interesting and warped listening, and an interesting song title.
My Human Gets Me Blues comes along next. It is a return to the weird sounds of the rest of the album and has more oddball lyrics here for your pleasure. It’s extremely weird sounding, but decent all the same. It is a dance-based song if you can call it that. A strange song about a dancing lady who is appealing to Captain Beefheart. Good, once again.
Next is Dali’s Car which is a not-so-subtle reference to the painter Salvador Dali. It has a guitar-based plucking and groove to it, and a weird sense of melody here as well. It’s an instrumental as well, which makes it sound different to a lot of the songs on this album. Wacky, to say the least.
Following is Hair Pie: Bake 2 which is for those of you who like Cool Whip. It begins with some rolling beats and frenetic guitar parts as this speciality is cooking away. Indeed, it is a good listen, although it is short and definitely weird. Anyway, good to listen to, regardless of the oddball nature of this instrumental. Nice to hear some music that isn’t too confined by structure, and this is one of those albums. Good effort.
Pena begins with some studio chatter, which is nonsensical and humorous. It doesn’t seem normal but is funny regardless. The tune begins and some screamed female vocals are here, along with some screaming in the background. This is by far the worst song here, and it is way too unusual to be considered good. Skip this one, if possible. It’s awful.
Well follows with some spoken word vocal poetry by the Captain, which is really unusual to start a piece with. It has some psychedelic, surrealistic and impressionistic lyrics here for those who love this sort of thing. The lyrics are excellent here but need to be put to music as well. The performance here is excellent, however.
Next is When Big Joan Sets Up which is an actual piece of music, with Captain Beefheart singing melodically over the top of the music here. The band play along quite nicely, before stopping for a really odd saxophone solo that is mind-bogglingly weird. A really strange, yet interesting piece of music about an obese lady who doesn’t get out much. Unusual listening here, the music stops in the middle, before resuming again, soon enough. Sure, this is totally weird but in a way, it is ingenious and well delivered. A good effort nonetheless, some crazy squealing saxophone is in the second half of the song to listen to. Wacky and strange, this is a good piece of music. It continues on jamming, right to the end. Nice piece of mostly instrumental music that ends with a few crashes. Brilliant.
Following is Fallin’ Ditch which begins with some weird vocal sounds and before some talking about “Rocket Martin” emerges, before the song begins. It is another piece of fruity weirdness, but sounds really awesome and focused. It changes tempo at the drop of a hat, and the band plays effortlessly. An interesting piece of music, and worth hearing from this album.
Sugar ‘n Spikes begins with a clean and nice guitar riff, before launching into a more concise band piece that sounds excellent. It is very dramatic and decent listening from the group, and although it is super short, it does sound like a very focused effort on this album. Pounding drums indicate a dramatic set of changes in the second half before they finish this piece off. One of the best pieces from this album.
Ant Man Bee follows, which has some deep and throaty vocals by Captain Beefheart, with the rest of the group putting in a melodramatic effort with loose guitars and minimal percussion. It is a different and melodramatic sounding piece by the group and has some good singing about mother nature and how it operates. Some dual tracked Jazz style horns enter, playing in a highly unconventional way. Totally weird, but very cool. This is music for those who like the weirdest of weird. Decent tune anyway. It has a dramatic conclusion with the saxophone squealing all over the place. Unique.
After that is Orange Claw Hammer which begins with some lone vocals by the Captain singing away, which are different. The lyrics here are weird, sounding as though these guys had a large supply of LSD on hand. It is different and very artistic, placing imagery into one’s mind. This does showcase that Captain Beefheart was clearly the one in charge here, and he sounds very much in charge on this album. Totally unusual, but entertaining listening. Good if you like vocals and vocals alone.
Following that is Wild Life which begins with dual guitars, drums and deep vocals. It’s totally weird and odd to listen to but still sounds like familiar Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band territory. Another unusual and well-played saxophone solo is throughout this song but sounds completely different. Good effort and the playing here might sound messed up, but it is supposed to do so. Really odd, but something one is used to by this point.
She’s Too Much For My Mirror comes next, which begins with some studio chatter, before launching straight into an odd song likely about a lady that is too much to handle. A really excellent tune, it is quite humourous in its own way. Short and direct, it is less than two minutes long. Just different.
Hobo Chang Ba begins with some clean Fender guitar styled parts, thick basslines and some really weird vocals over the top. It doesn’t sound at all sensible sounding or serious and is a short and odd piece of music to listen to. There is some good percussion throughout, along with some sleigh bells. Once again, short, at two minutes long.
Next is The Blimp (Mousetrapreplica) begins with a more traditional sounding song that has a random phone call message recording that sounds just as weird as the rest of the bizarre album. It is super weird and just sounds totally unusual. Some strange squealing sax is throughout before this piece concludes. Very out there.
Following is Steal Softly thru Snow which launches straight into another odd jam piece. Some throaty singing by Captain Beefheart is here, and this piece sounds more…normal…if you can put it like that. This one is actually quite catchy and sounds really upbeat and energetic. The whole album may sound like a huge mess, but it is cleverly structured and well thought out.
Old Fart at Play is next and has some more random lyrics that make zero sense unless you are on a lot of drugs. Still, it is a witty and humourous piece of music that sounds completely different. It is interesting and short, but the phrase “old fart” is now commonplace in western society. Captain Beefheart and co. ought to be proud of that.
Veteran’s Day Poppy is the very last song on this album. It begins with pounding drums, weird guitar structure and sounds that are completely different. This is perhaps a song about those who were sent off into war but set to an oddball Hippy music backing. It has some pounding drums, clanging guitars and a real sense of weirdness about it. Before long, it changes melodies and structure to surprise one. It has a weird combination of drum solo parts and guitar parts that make this piece progress nicely as it goes on. A very worthwhile listen, this sounds completely different and valuable as a musical piece. It speeds up towards the end slightly, and we finish nicely a very good album indeed.
This album is actually really excellent for what it is. To many people’s ears, it will likely sound like a random and messy jam album. The truth is that this surreal and animated listen is very rewarding, although it takes some effort to get right into it. A very good album by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, and likely their best. A really wacky listen.
Weird and wonderful.
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