Monday, November 13, 2006
Prime cuts of Beef
some specific non-"Trout Mask" Beefheart tracks i wanted to discuss as an addendum to my post below...
"Cardboard Cutout Sundown" (on "Ice Cream for Crow")
an awesome declamatory piece. listen to a) how mad the Cap sounds when he says "chapped ass" near the beginning and b) how the music is just bonkers, the guitars buzzing and tweedling and whatnot. fans of Colossamite and/or Gorge Trio will recognize the blueprint for those guitarists' (John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez) entire careers in this track. there are these awesome heavy unison accents that kick in about 1:30 in that will delight any math-rock fan. this shit KILLS.
"Dirty Blue Gene" (from "Doc at the Radar Station")
ridiculous hyperspeed new/no-wave glee/deconstruction. contains some totally fucking vomit-level amazing drumming from Robert Arthur Williams. sick deconstructed funk/disco that reminds me of Devo's Alan Myers in its sparseness but taken way, way up in terms of fracturedness and disjunction. again, you will hear John Dieterich here in those crazy firework fanfare guitars--Deerhoof fans, it is all presaged here. and there is a multitracked Beefheart outburst at 3:02 that sounds EXACTLY like David Yow. this is my favorite Beefheart track.
"Brickbats" (also from "Doc")
starts off as a pretty conventional beatnik Beefheart freakout. but then all hell breaks loose in the form of these insane off-kilter hits that remind me a lot of Zs. totally crazy and through composed and nonrepeating. you will not believe how advanced the band sounds on this track.
"A Carrot Is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond" ("Doc" too)
magical miniature, like some sort of alternate-universe Beatles outtake. strange chords that move from haunting to sort of jaunty, stately, what have you. just piano and guitar. this track is why the word "enigmatic" exists. you could listen to this thing a thousand times and it would never lose it's sense of just being an utter CURIOSITY, not to mention delight. you would never know this was Beefheart in a blindfold test unless you, you know, knew already. or would you?
"Sheriff of Hong Kong" (ok, fine, most of these are from "Doc")
another incredible performance. band constructs this ominous, relentless groove that sounds like a building falling down and then perpetually being reconstructed. Eric Drew Feldman's piano and the guitars are just doing this amazing chail-tasing tango and there's all these great clanging gong noises going on in the background. this track just kills you over and over; it's impossible to imagine how something like this would have been conceived, let alone rehearsed. it never repeats!!!!
"Lick My Decals Off, Baby" (from album of same name)
first track off follow up to "Trout Mask" shows you that that shit was no fluke whatsover. band interplay is similar to that disc, but structure has more variety--manic and uptempo and clattering to slow sleazy crawl. extra percussion--woodblocks and such--adds an amazing density to the sound; overall effect sounds a lot like Tony Oxley. band swings and slides wonderfully together during the slow part. also track is very short and concise, a great strength of a lot of the best post-"Trout" Cap'n.
"Doctor Dark" (same)
god, how can you listen to this and not hear Colossamite, U.S. Maple, all of that, just right here three decades before? all those guys owe Cap'n royalties. (not that they haven't made wondrous advances on this sound though.) this is a really soulful track; Beefheart sings over the chaos as if his band was just laying down the stone blues underneath. but really they're playing this insane counterpoint madness that coheres seemingly out of thin air. band going into those nice swingy, jazzy accents that are all over "Trout Mask" and remind me of that perverted little breakdown in the Jesus Lizard's "50 [cent]" off "Down."
"Apes-Ma" ("Shiny Beast")
hilarious weird one-minute spoken-word piece notable for how CALM Van Vliet sounds. he's not declaiming here like usual; he's just sort of gently reasoning with you and it's SO funny. best part is when he says to "Apes-Ma"--"Apes-Ma, you're eating too much, and you're going to the bathroom too much...." he just sounds like this sort of mildly exasperated parent. priceless.
"Observatory Crest" ("Bluejeans and Moonbeams")
great cruising tune. real Beefheart slow jam with most, if not all of the weirdness filtered out. but his voice is totally recognizable. total spacey slow-jam crooning. the band is just grooving along as if "Trout Mask" never happened. you only need to hear a minute of this to get the point, but it's worth it if you've never heard Van Vliet play it totally straight.
"Autumn's Child" ("Safe as Milk")
what in the sam hell is this? starts off as this weird sci-fi chanting thing that almost reminds me of Magma as played by the Byrds. then there are these weird fake-Oriental guitar lines and then Beefheart just starts belting--just really serious, amazing soul singing with swooning slow-Stones-style backing, except he's saying things like "hello, razor head." then comes this weird uptempo '60s-pop part and then this quiet psychedelic section and back to the belting, which is just so beautiful and desperate. then back to the Magma chanting thing. it's like some weird mini-suite. jesus, who IS this guy? anyone who heard this at the time would've had to realize that this guy was capable of doing some truly groundbreaking shit with rock.
"Suction Prints" ("Shiny Beast")
starts off as kind of this goofy, celebrational instrumental-Beefheart anthem. but what get me are these supersharp stabbing accents that come in 30 seconds in--they're just so manic and relentless. Beefheart isn't singing, but you can feel his presence. he just wants the band to play in a totally mad way. the music is at once so goofy and so incredibly precise, a real challenge to those who don't believe in serious fun. this makes me think someone should compile an album of Beefheart's instrumentals just so he could get his due as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century and not just a dada hollerer, though he is great at that too obviously. check out the great weird series of Chinese-sounding syncopated hits at about 3:05. trombone really gets funky at about 3:30, totally meshing with the band. and the crazy stabs come back at the end.