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Captain Beefheart - Doc At The Radar Station CD (album) cover


Captain Beefheart



4.08 | 118 ratings

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5 stars Grade "A" Beef

I always knew this album was ranked up among my favorites by Beefheart, but after listening to it again several times just recently, I'm still surprised at how HARD, TOUGH and MEAN this album is. From beginning to end, from "Hot Head" to "Making Love to a Vampire With a Monkey on My Knee", this album is razor sharp, intense, and Beefheart's energy and focus are at unusually high levels. It's now clear to me that Beefheart and his Magic Band have never been better than they were on this album, and it is with much joy that I award it five stars.

Track by track, this thing smokes. "Hot Head" sets a four-note octave-hopping riff in motion, propelled by a Drumbo-like beat by superlative drummer Robert Williams. Beefheart sneers, howls, and growls seductively as the riff repeats endlessly, punctuated by ace slide playing by Jeff "Moris" Tepper.. "Hot Head" is catchy and inviting, and rocks like crazy. The second track, "Ashtray Heart", also benefits from a hard-charging rhythm (like many of the tracks; the energy level borders on punk rock at times), but interrupts this rhythm frequently to bring in really weird sections of "ensemble meltdown", and even a Mellotron! On this track, Beefheart's voice reaches new heights of insanity too -- imagine your cranky neighbor shouting so loud across the yard that his voice starts cracking and going into quasi-falsetto. Next up is the guitar/piano duet "A Carrot is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond", a very pretty, short instrumental. Then it's more cranky neighbor screaming on "Run Paint Run Run" set to a galloping rhythm, colored with odd interjections by various instruments and sudden stops and starts. "Sue Egypt" is a neat change of pace, taking out drums entirely for a guitar/spoken word duet (but again with a Mellotron interlude), and Beefheart sounds no less intense even though he takes the voice down a register or two. "Brickbats" closes side one, a leftover from the Bat Chain Puller days, and it ratchets the album up a few notches on the avant-rock ladder. Mostly recited with plodding, chaotic ensemble accompaniment, until the inevitable shriek, "BRICKBAAAAATTSS!!"

Side two opens with the absolutely exhilarating "Dirty Blue Gene". Beefheart pulls out all his voices for this rapid fire assault of rollicking guitar riffs, speedy and quick-changing drums, and free-flying slide guitar, not to mention enthusiastic call-and-response shouts with the band. If there's one track on the album that represents all that makes this album what it is, this is the one. "Best Batch Yet" is more contemplative (shoot, even Slayer is more contemplative than that last song), but it's still a mind-bending maze of tricky rhythms, instruments coming in and out, and Beefheart's usual surreal lyricism. Beefheart goes back into maniac mode for "Telephone", which has such a crazed and wacky delivery, it's almost funny. This insanity is short-lived, as the one minute piece gives way to another one minute piece, the delicate solo guitar instrumental "Flavor Bud Living", executed by part-time member John French (who in the past was Beefheart's de facto musical collaborator for many years). This turns out to just be a brief breather for the climax of the album, the 6 minute hell-storm of "Sheriff of Hong Kong", where guitars rage and weave in and out without respite or mercy, drums thunder onward, and Beefheart rants and raves without caution or conscience, locking in completely with the music and bellowing with an intensity and rage that has by now become typical of this album. The hangover that follows, the closing "Making Love to a Vampire with a Monkey on My Knee", is a surreal, spooky piece of musical drama, with recitation by Beefheart (in which he uses the "F" word a couple of times, so beware kids), And lo and behold, the Mellotron is back too (thank you, Eric Drew Feldman!). The album ends on a sinister mystery chord like you might hear at the "cliffhanger" moment of a suspenseful TV show. What's next? You wonder. Flip the puppy over and start it all over again.

There isn't a track on here that I'm not uber-enthusiastic about, and I can't say that about many (if any) other Beefheart albums. Often lumped together with the two other (fine) albums surrounding it, this album stands apart from the pack as the most hard-hitting, intense album he ever did.

HolyMoly | 5/5 |


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