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Captain Beefheart - Ice Cream For Crow CD (album) cover


Captain Beefheart



3.57 | 84 ratings

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4 stars A Fine Way to Go Out

By 1982, Captain Beefheart had gotten tired of the music business, and retired to pursue his painting and sculpting interests. This at a time when it seemed like the world was finally starting to catch up with him -- some high-profile appearances on Saturday Night Live and The David Letterman Show seemed to indicate that his popularity was on the rise. After the razor-sharp fury of Doc at the Radar Station, this album finds Beefheart settling into a more laid back groove. Laid back, but not happy and content. Not depressed or bitter either, just... a bit weary.

The title track opens the album with a jolt of electricity which is inviting and accessible -- the band released a promotional video clip of the song, even -- and it even sounds a bit bright and optimistic, as if the Captain still sees hope and good prospects ahead for delightful mischief. Things quickly settle back down into darker territory with "The Host the Ghost the Most Holy-O", a typically fine spoken piece with typical jagged accompaniment. The third song, "Semi-MultiColoured Caucasian", is less typical - a relatively smooth instrumental focusing on the interplay of the guitars, reminiscent of "Alice in Blunderland" from The Spotlight Kid (1972). My personal favorite Beefheart poem is next, the baffling "Hey Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Coat". Strange images ("...and the rainbow baboon gobbled fifteen fish eyes with each spoon!...") collide in random fashion, with suitably unpredictable and strange backing music. Gary Lucas (guitar) contributes the lovely solo piece "Evening Bell", and side one ends with another spoken piece similar to "Garland", entitled "Cardboard Cutout Sundown". So far we have plenty of odd and weird music, not to mention wild poetry, but these pieces differ from the prior album Doc at the Radar Station in that the Captain's rage and fury seems to be taken down a few notches.

Side two picks up the pace for a couple of peppy tracks, "The Past Sure is Tense" and "Ink Mathematics", both revealing a paranoid worldview in that abstract Beefheart way. "The Witch Doctor Life" brings out Beefheart's cracking falsetto and a bit more of a melodic singing style reminiscent of the Spotlight Kid album. "81 Poop Hatch" is a spoken word piece with no musical accompaniment, spoken in a low, serious tone of voice that intones lines like "my eyes are burnt and bleeding" and "trumpet poop on the ground with peanuts, its bell was blocking an ant's vision" in the same solemn tone. This song as well as the following "Thousand and Tenth Day of the Human Totem Pole" were leftovers from the original Bat Chain Puller album (see my review of that work for details), and the latter piece is one of this album's clear highlights. Totaling nearly six minutes, the music is long- winded and trudging, climbing in a linear fashion to a climax that never comes. Beefheart's recited allegory that accompanies this music is among his most astute and vivid bits of social observation. Ending the album is a scary bit of growling in the grotesque "Skeleton Makes Good", Beefheart's last spit of venom before he bows out of the music business.

In the context of Beefheart's discography, this sits as a very comfortable, self-assured album that indicates that he was on a creative roll, even if his energy level and emotional investment were quickly falling. It was a good note to go out on, a nice cap on a very solid discography.

HolyMoly | 4/5 |


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