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Captain Beefheart - Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) CD (album) cover


Captain Beefheart



4.20 | 107 ratings

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Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars Beefheart returns to avant-rock after attempting(and failing) to go commercial in the mid- 70s. It must have been touring with Frank Zappa in 1975 that knocked some sense back into him. This album began as Bat Chain Puller(no Shiny Beast) recorded in 1976 with Zappa as producer. Due to Zappa's management at the time, that album never got released. Most of the songs from those sessions ended up on Beefheart's next three(and last) albums.

The cover artwork features a painting by Don Van Vliet(aka Beefheart). After quitting the music biz in the early 1980s, Van Vliet became a full time painter. He was making more money selling his paintings than he was selling his music. I honestly can't blame the guy for wanting to be a painter instead of a musician during the MTV era. This album is probably the most consistent he ever made and is not as crazy as his Trout/Decals era. But it is also the proggiest album he made since that era. Here he has a completely new band with only percussionist Art Tripp having worked with the Captain before. Trombonist Bruce Fowler is here too after having worked with Zappa.

One of the things that stands out about this album is that most of the bass lines are done on synthesizer. Super cool. The last song, "Apes-Ma", is a spoken word piece with no music; it's a throwback to the spoken words pieces on Trout Mask Replica. Wise decision to put it at the end of the album. "Harry Irene" is actually the most avant piece here, because it sounds so 'normal'. It's a Frank Sinatra style song featuring Beefheart crooning the lyrics. For an avant-rocker in 1978 this is very weird. It's mostly guitar and piano. Brushes on the snare drum with some good accordion and whistling. The title refers to a couple, not an individual. I like the line: "their tuna sandwiches would turn the dark into day".

"The Floppy Boot Stomp" is equal parts twangy and funky with some back up vocals. "Tropical Hot Dog Night" is almost Caribbean disco. Love the bass synth here. Features trumpet(or trombone?) and marimba. I like the guitar chords during the chorus. The lyrics are about girls coming out "to meet the monster tonight". "Ice Rose" is the first of two instrumentals. Nice trombone. Almost sounds like Zappa-style symphonic rock in the middle. "Bat Chain Puller" has a wind shield wiper rhythm. Literally, Van Vliet got the idea for the song from listening to the sound of a wind shield wiper. Lots of angular guitar playing. Cool sounding sequencer parts. The song gets more dissonant with trombone and guitars whining like cats.

"When I See Mommy I Feel Like A Mummy" is a song you can listen to on PA. It has great bass synth and marimba for most of the song. Over halfway through the synth plays a symphonic part. "Owed T'Alex" is named after former Beefheart guitarist Alex Snouffer. Good bass synth. Some harmonica. Angular but melodic guitar playing. Later some trombone. Noisy distorted guitar near the end. "Candle Mambo" is melodic mambo-rock with good drumming. "Suction Prints" is the other instrumental. Starts with bluesy guitar and jazzy synth. Good trombone. The drumming is really good and changes throughout the song.

Possibly the Captain's best album, this is a great place to start with this guy. Although it won't prepare you for the madness of Trout Mask Replica. More evidence that not all prog went to hell in the late 1970s. Almost a masterpiece. 4 stars.

zravkapt | 4/5 |


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