Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fix Up, Look Sharp, Cap'n

So my brother Drew was in town visiting/helping with the new baby, and since I hadn't hung out with him in forever, of course we talked about music. One of the things I really like is being the influencer, getting people excited about new music. It's one of the reasons I like posting a "Song of the Day" on Facebook, and one of the reasons I am doing this blog. While Drew was visiting he happened to find all my back copies of Paste Magazine, a great music mag. He read about a band called Freelance Whales and he pulled up their myspace site. Now he's planning to go see them in concert, and sent me a message to thank me for getting him back into new music without even trying.

One of the reasons I was excited to see Drew is he had Dizzee Rascal's "Boy in Da Corner," one of my favorites, that somehow had gotten deleted, and I had purchased it so long ago that the DRM protection wasn't allowing it to be played on my computer or iPod. That album is one of the few in the book I had listened to and loved before I bought the book (I will probably have to do a post about it in the future), and I was really happy to have it back. So this leads me to the fact that the next page in the book was an album I also listened to before I bought the book, and I decided I needed to revisit.

Artist: Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
Album: Trout Mask Replica
Album #100-something

I am working on a few other lists, and a few years ago when I was at the library in Washington State I found this album and remembered seeing it on the Rolling Stones Top 500, in the top 100 actually. So I checked it out, popped it in my CD player in the car, and promptly ejected it after track 2. Garbage. When I bought the book, I put it down as a check in the block, figuring I heard enough to get the point. Well, I am back to the page this recording is on, and I decided I just can't count that. I had to give it a real chance, so I put it back on about a week ago.

The album is avant-garde at its worst. Free jazz trumpets in the background, assymetric drumming, non-sequitur beat poetry over the whole thing. How did this end up on the list, or on RS's more mainstream list for that matter? I decided to wikipedia the album, where I discovered that Matt Groening considers it the best album ever made, but that he had the same reaction I did on first listen. He, and others, say it takes 6-7 listens to "get it." Now, I don't think I'll listen to this one 6 times over the course of my lifetime, but going back to it for the second time I find it a bit more palatable. Maybe that's because I am in a sort of altered state due to my lack of sleep, or maybe I just needed to listen with a more open mind. Partly I was helped by realizing Captain Beefheart can actually make good music when they try: I discovered about a year ago that my favorite song by Akron garage-blues duo The Black Keys, "Grown So Ugly," is actually a cover of a Captain Beefheart song. So with a new open mind I queued up "Trout Mask Replica."

Most of this 2-disk set is still pretty grating, but when you have it on in the background while doing dishes on just a few hours of sleep, some very nice moments do happen where all of the caucaphony suddenly comes together to make a very nice meshing of layers. It quickly falls apart again, but I heard it, just for that moment. I also see how, as Tom Moon points out in the book, Beck and Tom Waits at their weirdest are descendents of this album, and I can also see some Radiohead and Soul Coughing in there. So there is a redeeming quality to the recording at least for historical and influence reasons. Still, this album is not for the weak of heart. Tread lightly here. But, as a sidenote from John87, a better place to start is Captain Beefheart's "Safe as Milk" (the album that contains bluesy "Grown So Ugly).

Buy Trout Mask Replica at Amazon

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