Celebrating Captain Beefheart's birthday with a look at his masterpiece, Trout Mask Replica

Kilgore Troutmask Replica

kore-tachi ha neko no midori ni supai-koi sakana desu.

There is a moment of uncertainty before Captain Obelisk opens the door to the Steampunk Boiler Room, inviting the swirling, cloudy denizens that dwelt therein to accompany the two of you in the maiden flight of the so-called Glimpse Blimp.

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to me the album sounds like blues crossed with african kora music. The instruments and the individual patterns they play are blues/jazz-inspired, but the way the patterns are layered and shifting in and out is much more like african music.

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Mallard is one of the best unknown albums ever IMHO. Supposedly it was backed by Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull who is apparently a big fan of slide guitar. I wore out several vinyl copies of the two albums (Mallard -self titled and “In a Different Climate) both albums are on a single CD nowadays. It always amazed me that they weren’t a big hit. I highly recommend this release.

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Nope, it’s from Trout Mask Replica. One clue is that Frank (Zappa) produced TMR.

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This is my all time favorite album,I’ve worn out at least 3 copies of the vinyl before it was released on cd. It should be required listening for all musicians. I would like to point out that this is one of those albums that requires a few listenings to let your brain sort out the songs. But there is so much information hidden in songs that it is rewarding to listeners. There is a lot to explore with your ears when you play Trout Mask Replica. This is an album that actually benefited from being on a cd because a cd presents it as on big piece rather than being broken up into vinyl records sides. I was lucky enough to see Captain Beefheart live twice. Captain Beefheart always had phenomenal musicians in his band, and he had a big but very different stage presence. He was well known to be a difficult person when it came to his art and music but it was him not compromising rather than possessive.

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My brother walked into the weird/cool record store in my home town and said, “What’s the best album in here” and the proprietor handed my brother Trout Mask Replica. I’m guessing I was 13. (The rest is left as an exercise to the reader)

I think a lot of us (humans) have this reflexive deference to the norm. Like people describing things they like as “guilty pleasures” even though they are things that the people really don’t mind about themselves at all. I don’t know, it’s like, if I’d never heard this album maybe hearing it was “awful sounding” would both: 1) make me interested to listen to it; and 2) make me give it more than one listen if I didn’t get it right away. And maybe some people who hear “awful sounding” and think, “I guess that’s not for me” might be better off not listening to it.

I guess I wonder if it’s an affectionate, “awful sounding” from someone who really likes it or a genuine “awful sounding” from someone who should shut up.

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as someone that plays multiple musical instruments and went to music college…this is what blows me away the most…

" Van Vliet used a piano, an instrument he had never played before, as his main compositional tool. Since he had no experience with the piano and no conventional musical knowledge at all, he was able to experiment with few preconceived ideas of musical form or structure. Van Vliet sat at the piano until he found a rhythmic or melodic pattern that he liked. John French then transcribed this pattern, typically only a measure or two long, into musical notation. After Van Vliet was finished, French would then piece these fragments together into compositions, reminiscent of the splicing together of disparate source material on Marker’s tape. French decided which part would be played on which instrument and taught each player their part, although Van Vliet had the final say over the ultimate shape of the product. Band member Bill Harkleroad has remarked on “how haphazardly the individual parts were done, worked on very surgically, stuck together, and then sculpted afterwards”. Once completed, each song was played in exactly the same way every time, eschewing the improvisation that typifies most popular music in favor of an approach more like a formal, classical composition."

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I saw him in the early 80s at the Showbox up here in Seattle. My biggest memory of the show was him asking the lighting tech to turn off the yellow gel lights.
The crowd was so small we could just walk up and stand there watching the show
TBH it was really not my groove

Berlioz is another guy who never learned to play an instrument. He may have learned the guitar when he was young, but he dumped it pretty quickly. He is recognised as one of the great orchestrators. No, I have no idea how that can possibly work.

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Yeah, the first Mallard LP is pretty good, the second I didn’t like as much. Those albums prove my point about them needing a Beefheart to push them into abnormal musical regions-- the Mallard LPs are good but pretty standard compared to Trout Mask or even Spotlight Kid.

And you know, Drumbo returned to the Magic Band multiple times, even appearing on Doc At The Radar Station near the end of Beefheart’s music career. Cult or not he recognized the value of Van Vliet’s artistic vision.

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I think I have a bootleg of that show.

Probably, does he refer to the lights as ‘Urine colored’?

Don’t recall. My LP collection is mostly in storage so I can’t go listen to the vinyl, but looks like someone has uploaded the show to youtube:

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I believe that the person in the photos that Vox identifies as Drumbo, was in fact the Mascara Snake (i.e. the late Victor Hayden). I thought Drumbo was deliberately omitted from the credits (and photos) due to some sort of dispute (and/or punitive measure). (I didn’t watch the entire 1 hr. 45 min. interview in the 2nd video, so for all I know they addressed this one way or the other.)

IIRC the backing track from “The Blimp” is The Mothers, not The Magic Band, but they overlaid the phone call and used the track on TMR.

I bought Trout Mask on CD when I was 20. (EDIT: @garethb2, this was not long after I got a copy of Going Gaga, FWIW.) I grew up listening to some pretty weird music (for example), but I wasn’t ready for this – I “appreciated” it right off the bat (the lyrics alone were worth the price of admission) but it was another three years before I could really say that I enjoyed it.

The one event that put it all together for me was watching Hominybob, an Austin band (or, a mostly Knoxvillian band that came together in Austin). What they were doing reminded me of Trout Mask; I went home and listened to it again and that was the “Eureka!” moment. Later on when I made friends with the vocalist, I was surprised to learn he had no idea what Trout Mask Replica was (he was into Tom Waits (whose 80s stuff is a lot like The Captain’s), while their two-axes-at-once guitarist was more of a King Crimson guy). Here’s a taste; they were wearing thrift-store drag when I first saw 'em:

I had read that Trout Mask Replica was supposed to have been a big influence on Public Image, Ltd. After my aforementioned “Eureka!” moment, when I got to “Dali’s Car” I thought “Holy crap, there’s the blueprint for Metal Box right there.”

ETA:
And speaking of bands that influenced PiL, Can’s Damo Suzuki turns 70 today. (Sadly three of the people in this video are no longer with us)

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Yeah, this album is okay, but the real cool kids all prefer the original, more authentic trout mask.

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In my defense, Doc at the Radar Station was (sadly) the only CB album that I owned (outside of Muffin Man and I was actually there for that concert at the Armadillo). I guess I heard the blimp song at some point and it just tickled me so much that I remembered it. Also, I’m throwing brickbats at you, you dirty blue gene and I’ve got the best batch yet so telephone me you hothead.

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I remember my first experience with this, everyone does probably. It didn’t go well. I thought I was prepared for it, because while I didn’t make a point of listening to avante garde music like this a lot, I had before, and even made some bizarre, experimental beefheartian type music myself during weird moments. I was not prepared to be completely baffled. It sounded like people randomly playing instruments while an insane person rambled over it.

It was only years later, when Van Vilet died and I watched a documentary about him, and heard some of the post-Replica music, which had more obvious structure, and a very familiar weirdness to it that had clearly influenced one of my favorite bands, that I returned to it. It was still quite challenging, but it made perfect sense.

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