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Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica CD (album) cover

TROUT MASK REPLICA

Captain Beefheart

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.76 | 392 ratings

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Axel Dyberg
5 stars Another reviewer trying to explain the sound of this music. What can I possibly say about Trout Mask Replica, one of the most original statements in high arts ever. Usually when people say ''It was completely new at the time'' you can still trace roots of the music back to some sources, but Trout Mask Replica literally had no predecessor, whether in spirit or sound. It came completely out of nowhere, and that turned a lot of people off the album itself. It's hard to imagine an old man buying a double LP in some cheap store labeled as ''Blues/Rock'' and putting the needle down only to be blasted away by such an atonal and furious opener as ''Frownland''

Indeed, this music is difficult to handle for those who've never been exposed to it. I'm not trying to say that I'm better than anyone at all because I appreciate and love this music (A lot of avant-garde musicians/listeners tend to think so) but simply that if you give this the time it needs, then it may grow on you. But I also admit to have a small personal love for this album. After all, who knows how many bands this has secretly influenced? The furious, loud vocals may have inspired a lot of punk rock bands, and the twangy yet distorted guitars may have influenced a lot of guitarists sounds. But of course, this has left a mark on the entire avant-rock scene.

The music sounds very unorganized. As TheGreatGlorph said, it sounds like an unorganized mess at first. But know this; Every single part of the backing music was written by Don Van Vliet. I find it rather amazing how the music sounds so confused yet so undeniably structured and straight-forward at the same time. Beefhearts vocals are lovely I think; he has an amazing four and a half octave range... Now you probably think ''Wow he can probably hit some high notes!''. Wrong. He can hit the REALLY low notes perfectly. I have yet to find more than a handful of people who can reach as low notes as Van Vliet can.

There is a lot going on at the same time on this album. The music is fast and unexpectable. The drumming is amazing throughout, and the Magic Band are extremely talented at what they do. And you hear Captain Beefheart sing that last idiotic yet somehow poetic line, only to then be struck in the face by the uncontrolled free-jazz saxophone that pops up in a matter of seconds later. The sense of brilliance at those moments is unexplainable, and that is what urges me to give this five solid stars. But there are a few times when the songs carry on for too long. ''When Big Joan Sets Up'' is a good example of this. The sound of almost all the songs is dirty and generally quite unpolished. The ''sound'' being the Magic Band of course, not the audio quality which is excellent throughout. There are bits of studio jokes and some word-only songs, all of which are quite humorous.

The lyrics are in a league of their own. Extremely difficult to interpret and analyze (Due to the seemingly unconnected lines) yet strangely poetic and smart. Some of the lyrics are easy to understand, as in ''Steal Softly Thru Snow''; Breaks my heart to see the highway cross the hill/Man's lived a million years and still he kills. Quite interesting lyrics, yet some of them seem to be nothing but drunken scribbled notes kept for the sake of humour. But of course, the entire album was written in a little more than 8 hours (All 28 songs of it), though it took almost a year for the Magic Band to learn it all. This tells you something about not only how brilliant of a musical writer Van Vliet is, but also how complex this album is.

Overall, this album is a difficult one for most people. But I urge you to give it a listen and if you hate it, listen to it even more. If you love it the first time through, then I can only advice you more great Avant-rock bands such as Henry Cow or Univers Zero. But 'Trout Mask Replica' has to this day maintained a very special identity, both musically, poetically and in sound. For a very different ride through progressive music, give this a try. Five stars.

Axel Dyberg | 5/5 |

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