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


Captain Beefheart


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5 stars Amazing album! This album may be Captain Beefheart's best since Trout Mask Replica. This album is basically varied music types done in Traditional Beefheart style. We've got all kinds of music on this. The two instrumentals, Ice Rose and Suction Prints are excellent. Candle Mambo is a great mambo type song that is actually pretty relaxing. The Floppy Boot Stomp is kind of hard to describe. Harry Irene is similar to 1920's/1930's style music. The whole album is flawless. This album is kind of commercial and uncommercial all at once. This is one of the best starting places for Beefheart.
Report this review (#33481)
Posted Tuesday, December 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars There isn't much for me to say here. I love the Captain and his Magic Band because the music they make couldn't be anymore daring and original. It is completely weird stuff lyrically and musically but uses excellent production, prog arrangements and delivers not only great music but laughter and excitement. This album is very out there, it is definetly not over the top in any way really, it is very subtle musical genius disguised as a noisy free for all in your face style of music. Captain Beefheart pretty much ignores any kind of musical structures. Him and his band just go their own way and most of the time they make it work really well.

For me this album was instantly accesible, a lot more so than "Trout Make Replica". I am quite used to his music but i know it is not for everyone and it is definetly an acquired taste. I think this album will fit in well with fans of psychadelia, drug orientated music and fans of general weirdness. There really isn't a bad moment on this album.

The standout tracks are "Harry Irene", "Bat Chain Puller", "When I See Mommy I Feel Like a Mummy", "Tropical Hot Dog Night" and "You Know You're a Man" though every track is amazing really. I highly recommend this to fans of Beefheart or anyone looking for something different.

Report this review (#33482)
Posted Tuesday, January 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Following the excellent Clear Spot, Beefheart parted company with the original Magic Band and made an ill fated stab at going commercial with the Di Martino brothers on 'Unconditionally Guaranteed' and 'Bluejeans and Moonbeams'. Following these underwhelming albums his career disappeared in a cloud of litigation until this album appeared in 1978 (it had been recorded considerably earlier but legal problems delayed the release - some tracks were also re-recorded, which is why the band credits seem to include 2 players for each instrument). It was well worth the wait - the Captain was back with his strongest album in almost a decade and a reconvened Magic Band worthy of the name.

It's a set which showcases the more successful aspects of the albums which had gone before. The Floppy Boot Stomp could have come from Lick My Decals Off Baby, while Tropical Hot Dog Night is an off kilter mambo that calls some of Clear Spot's more soul tinged moments to mind. Harry Irene demonstrates that Beefheart could play it straight convincingly - a gentle ballad with some lilting accordion that actually works. The title track and You Know You're A Man are closer to the almost abstract blues rock of Trout Mask Replica, while Suction Prints is almost straightforward blues rock. Throughout, Beefheart is in fine voice - imagine the voice of Howlin' Wolf transplanted in the body of a mildly disgruntled Kodiak bear. The band adapt themselves to the different moods beautifully - Bruce Fowler (sometime Zappa sideman) adds some virtuoso trombone to the familiar Magic Band formula and Beefheart veteran Art Tripp contributes some deftly executed marimba. The duelling guitars, unexpected drum rolls and bass lines that apparently wandered in from another song by another band are all present and correct, while the man himself adds his blistering harmonica and untutored sax here and there but always leaves you wanting more.

This is one of the strongest albums by one of music's most original talents of the last 50 years. 4.5 stars at least - one of those albums you must hear before you die.

Report this review (#39613)
Posted Saturday, July 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of the Captain's most under-rated albums, this one's really a lot of fun!! Probably a much better starting place than legendary opuses of weirdness like "Trout Mask" or "Lick My Decals Off."

"Bat Chain Puller" is just so incredibly awesome, one of his best tunes ever. The music is very hard to describe -- pulsing funk-like horns & bass (no actually, it's NOTHING LIKE funk, tho you can dance to it!), chirping electronics wandering through the mix, those unqiue "Chinese" guitar licks, and Don Van Vliet raving some of his most dementedly poetic lyrics ever. If you've never heard it before, I bet this song makes you want to get this album!

I also love "Tropical Hotdog Night", which is a swinging mambo number just like the title indicates! Don keeps singing that he wants the young girls "to meet the monster tonight!" It sounds sexual, but it's probably not!

"Harry Irene" is a lovely little ballad kinda thing -- when did the Captain start writing songs fit for Frank Sinatra to sing? I don't know, but it sounds great when he does it!

Then there are the "rockers" like "Floppy Boot Stomp" and "You Know You're a MAAAAAAAAN!!!!" It's all quite good!

Nothing else quite like this one in the Capt's discography -- this might be the Beefheart album for people who don't like Beefheart.

Report this review (#50552)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a great and fun album! When you get too tied up with all the serious music of other groups, it's time to stumble over to the other side of the fence,

This is a great introduction to Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. Much better and more interesting than the overrated Trout Mask Replica, which in no comparison to this much more advanced stuff.

Check out "When I See Mommy I Feel Like a Mummy". Great, weird, fun stuff.

Report this review (#50660)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars A return to what the Captain did best. This, along with Clear Spot is my favourite Beefheart album. Not as inaccessible as I find some of his early stuff but with enough weirdness to challenge a conventional view of what music should sound like.

Faves are Tropical Hot Dog Night and Bat Chain Puller.

Report this review (#98291)
Posted Saturday, November 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars As far as I'm concerned, this was the best album Don Van Vliet ever made. The song are more polished than ever, without losing any of that wierness that permeates most of The Captain's music. Perhaps this is because a good portion of this music was originally recorded for the first Bat Chain Puller album, lost in a maze of lawsuits between Van Vliet's friend, Frank Zappa, and Herb Cohen. Anyway, my theory is that instead of having to rely on rough outlines and vocal noises, this band had fully fleshed out musical ideas to start with, and therefore go take it much further than usual.

Most of this album is high points, but my favorite here is "Ice Rose", so technically complex that it sounds like it could have come from a Zappa album.

Other great songs are "Tropical Hot Dog Night", "You Know You're A Man", "Bat Chain Puller" and the slow blues of "Swamp Lies".

If you are afraid to delve into the Beefheart catalog because of his weirdness ans abrasiveness, I suggest you start here.

Report this review (#222491)
Posted Monday, June 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#340747)
Posted Thursday, December 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars What an astonishing, powerful, vital comeback! After straying in the wilderness for the majority of the 70s, and following an intense legal battle over some of the music re-recorded for this record, dear Captain Beefheart returns with what may be his most simultaneously commercial/odd/bold recording. Numerous musical styles are courted and conquered, each instilled with flavorful classic Vliet weirdness. The new Magic Band purrs along like the most elegant and well-tuned of machines, less accompaniment and more extension of Beefheart's rambling, growling, gorgeous escapade. Five stars easily: this is a masterpiece that I've rarely heard rivaled, and potentially my favorite Beefheart release alongside Safe as Milk and Lick My Decals Off, Baby.
Report this review (#433674)
Posted Thursday, April 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Captain Beefheart put together a brand new Magic Band and made a fantastic comeback with this album (issued in place of the original Bat Chain Puller, which still gathers dust in the Zappa family vaults...). Getting a new set of younger backing musicians seems to have worked out for the Captain - with sidemen who clearly loved his older material and were more than happy to follow his lead, he is able to bring his musical vision to life with a vividness not seen since Lick My Decals Off Baby.

The new backing group show off their impressive chops on instrumental numbers such as Suction Prints, whilst the Captain himself is having more fun than he's had for years with this material - from the opening number (The Floppy Boot Stomp) in the Captain's unique avant- garde style to the closing spoken word piece Apes-Ma, he sounds happier and more energetic than on any album since Safe as Milk. Particularly worthy of note here are songs such as Tropical Hot Dog Night and Harry Irene, two songs which couple the Captain's vocals to commercial musical styles (calypso and easy listening ballad) with far greater success than the botched experiments in the same vein on the two preceding albums, mainly because the Captain's personality is in full flow on both songs and the band add their own subtle twists to the material.

Going from two one-star wrecks in a row to this is an incredible turnaround for any artist, particularly one who had always struggled to attain commercial success like Beefheart. Thankfully, the Captain gave us three great albums before he retired from music, and this first episode of his final trilogy is quintessential Beefheart. Five stars.

Report this review (#559443)
Posted Saturday, October 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars For a long time I didn't dare to try out this late 70' record, because I was afraid I had to deal with a tamed beast instead of a avant-garde Shiny Beast. The pictures on the inner cover don't show this psychedelic cult band, but of quiet normal people and I thought the music would also be more standardized in comparison with The Trout Mast Replica and Lick my Decals off Babe. Well, it ain't as heavy as the aforementioned records, but it sure is comparable with Safe as Milk and Mirror Man.

The music still deals with a lot of slide guitar, xylophone play, and wind sections. Instead of only blues-rock based avant-garde and some proto-punk we have to deal now also with happy latin-rock (Tropical Hot Dog Night) and some funny ballads (Harry Irene, Lovelies). There are also some instrumentals (Ice Rose). While not all the tracks are necessary inaccessible, this record still has some heavy moments, like the Bat Chain Puller with those irregular rhythms, poly-rhythms and crazy vocal effects.

The 60' avant garde artists like Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa seem to fit quiet easily within the upcoming punk scene. This Shiny Beast did remind me sometimes to the post-punk group The Fall. So the captain made some proto-punk before punk was born and some proto-post-punk before the post-punk scene had arrived. He was always one step earlier! The sound did certainly change some over time, but this is less dramatic then I expected.

The first side of the record is somewhat better then the second side, but both sides are worth listening. This record is recommended for fans of Captain Beefheart's more accessible work and for fans of post-punk and avant-garde. 3,75 stars.

Report this review (#758890)
Posted Saturday, May 26, 2012 | Review Permalink

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