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Captain Beefheart - Lick My Decals Off, Baby CD (album) cover


Captain Beefheart



4.07 | 143 ratings

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4 stars Beefheart's finest hour. This is better than Trout Mask Replica and ever so slightly more accesible as well. It is nothing short of criminal that this album has been out of print for so long. When it is in print it doesn't stay in the marketplace for too long. Sad, because more people need to hear this album. This is also a unique album in Beefheart's discography because instead of having two guitarists Art Tripp(ex-Mothers Of Invention) replaces one of them by playing marimba. Art is actually playing lines that were written for guitar! Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet) produced this one himself, and I prefer what he did here to what Zappa did on TMR.

At first listen the music you will find here(and on TMR) sounds like a punk band attempting to play jazz. Only Art's marimba playing sounds like the work of someone who knows what they're doing. But in fact this music is written to sound the way it does. If you pay close attention you can hear how complicated this music is and how talented the musicians are who perform it. Only Beefheart's own harmonica and sax playing may be not top quality, and some of the most avant/free jazzy/noisy parts of the album are because of his playing. Although Van Vliet wanted people to think that it was him alone who created all this music, guitarist Bill Hackleroad and drummer John French had a big influence on the final product. I actually think French's drumming on TMR is a lot more crazy and shows better how good of a drummer he was. But overall the music here is more consistent and flows better. A lot of the album is not as bluesy as some of the stuff on TMR(and Beefheart's vocals are also less bluesy in general).

This is generally avant-rock with a strong free jazz and Delta blues influence, although there is a healthy dose of 20th century classical composition here too. You can hear the latter occasionally in the guitar and marimba parts. The title track kicks things off and includes the immortal line: "She stuck out her tongue and the fun begun"(sung in Beefheart's Tom Waits-before-Tom Waits style). Van Vliet has a wide vocal range but his singing in general is pretty weird. The only time here where he sounds 'normal' is on the only song that comes closest to being mainstream, the bluesy shuffle "The Buggy Boogie Woogie". "I Love You, You Big Dummy", "Woe-Is-A-Me-Bop" and "The Smithsonian Institute Blues(Or The Big Dig)" are *almost* catchy in their own weird way.

"Peon" and "One Red Rose That I Mean" are instrumentals that feature nothing but guitar and bass. They sound vaguely like the acoustic instrumentals Steve Howe did with Yes, or the little acoustic ditties that Tony Iommi did on Sabbath's '70s albums. Except more angular and dissonant than either example. The other instrumental here, "Japan In A Dishpan"(namechecked in a Sex Pistols song), is a wild boogie-woogie free jazz piece. Beefheart's lyrics are poetic in a weird and avant way. You can hear some of those lyrics in the controlled chaos that is "Petrified Forest". Beefy and the Magic Band do more in this under-two-minute song that most bands would do in a 20-minute epic. Must be heard to be believed. Not a good place to start with Beefheart(try Safe As Milk or Clear Spot), but his best nonetheless and a solid 4 stars.

zravkapt | 4/5 |


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