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Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica CD (album) cover


Captain Beefheart



3.74 | 321 ratings

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Man With Hat
5 stars This album may be too much for your mirror.

Of all the albums on the archives that are considered (or could be considered) avant-rock Trout Mask Replica may take the cake in terms of avantness, unpredictability, abstractness, and sheer ability to stupefy. (A minor footnote to that: While some avant-garde music may best Trout Mask Replica in any or all of these qualities I don't believe any of those are on/should be on Prog Archives. ) Even with its far reaching influences and variety of styles presented (in whatever bastardized form the Capt. wanted), this album rocks. The energy, the attitude, the instrumentation (for the most part)...all of it scream out rock.

In some ways this album makes me question my definition of avant-rock. I have used Cartoon's Sortie as my "standard" for judging the avant-rock quotient of albums that are classified (at least by me) as avant-rock/avant-prog. This album has very little in common musically with the aforementioned Sortie. Yet, there is no debate if this album is can add in a number of other styles (blues, free-jazz, etc) but the two genres that can not be left out are avant(-garde) and rock. The only reason I add this anecdote to my review is that truly progressive albums make you think about music differently, make you analyze music differently, and force you to forget everything (or at least some things) you thought you knew beforehand. And Trout Mask Replica does that for me.

Musically this album is very diverse. However, there is one unifying factor: The music is jagged, rough, irregular, and can come off as crude and unprofessional sounding. But, the magic here is that it all works together to create a complete sound. The music is akin to a jigsaw puzzle. The guitar is fused with the drums, which are fused with the saxophone, which are fused with the bass, which are fused with Beefhearts vocals, which are fused with whatever other sounds are introduced in that particular song. Removing any part of this puzzle would weaken the overall foundation, if not crumple it all together. Once again, this is a unique trait to Captain Beefhearts music, especially in 1969 when it was originally released. As for the music itself, others have described it very well. Blues meets free jazz meets abstract poetry meets rock meets avant-garde meets a meat grinder. Yet, everything is still perfectly crafted in a way similar to that of tying fourteen dozen knots together is.

In some ways its best to consider Trout Mask Replica as a whole, using only the track titles and separations as signals to where the lyrics switch, however, I will still point out a couple of favorites of mine. 'The Dust Blow Forward 'N The Dust Blow Back' is an excellent vocal solo that focuses on the craftsmanship of Beefhearts lyrics, perhaps juxtaposed, by Beefhearts gruff voice. I must say that I really enjoy the sound of his voice. Its not majestic, its not sweet, its not serene, its not smooth, but it is gritty, like it has lived its life on the streets and is now showing the scars of those endeavors. In a strange way it seems to justify the obvious blues influences. Additionally, it fits the music perfectly and hearing any of these songs with "clean" vocals would detract from the experience significantly. 'Dachau Blues' is another highlight with lyrics that I've always liked (for perhaps reasons unknown). 'Hair Pie' (Both bakes) are excellent musical excersions that really show off the chops of the musicians. It would be appropriate to emphasize Drumbo's excellent playing. Not only does it highlight the music perfectly, it rarely "settles down" into, so called, regular beats. I can't imagine this is easy to play, yet it sounds flawless. 'The Blimp (Mousetrapreplica)' is another top notch piece that is actually quite catchy (and also probably my favorite song on the album). Other highlights include: 'Neon Meate Dream Of An Octafish', 'Pena', 'Hobo Chang Ba', and 'Pachuco Cadaver'.

To be fair, there is one main downside to this album (other than its strangeness and repulsive air, which some may see as a downside, but this reviewer does not): its length. Seventy-Eight minutes...admittedly it is a little difficult to sit all the way through this album in one listen, but not because of its contents. (Personally anything nearing the Seventy minute mark is a bit difficult to listen to all the way through without stopping for me...even if its gentle, soothing music.) This can be even more off-putting, but at the end of the day if you can sustain interest in this for the entire time you would have grown as a person, and come out for the better on the otherside.

All in all, Trout Mask Replica is fully deservent of the full five star rating. Its progressive, influential, and unique (in a historical context mostly, but still...even now there are few works that can reside on the same pedestal as this beast). It is sound art. However, this album is certainly not for everyone. If you are a strict fan of symphonic prog, neo-prog, or crossover prog, you will probably not enjoy this. If you don't like your music with dissonances, awkward structures, the feeling that the music can fall apart at any time, rough vocals, you will probably not enjoy this. If you shy away from Henry Cow, Frank Zappa's more difficult works (Lumpy Gravy, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, etc), Univers Zero, and this ilk, you should probably stay far far away from Trout Mask Replica (and Beefheart as a whole) However, if you like your music to push boundaries, to be different, to be bold, to be unconventional, to be whatever it wants to be, to be complex, to be off-putting, to be chaos in motion, this is a record you should hear. Fans of truly progressive music need to hear Trout Mask Replica at least once in their life. Call it ugly, disgusting, vile, revolting, hideous...just call it genius as well. 5 stars.

Man With Hat | 5/5 |


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