Trout Mask Replica


I remember a Glee Club trip back in college when we went up to sing in the Cleveland area.  A bunch of us were staying overnight at this house in Medina, and I remember all of the guys crowding into the living room to watch David Lynch’s “Eraserhead”.  And I remember feeling left out because I just didn’t get it.  Of course, it didn’t help that my chin was bleeding profusely from an injury I had sustained playing driveway basketball in the sub-zero northeast Ohio temperatures, but even so, I just couldn’t grasp what other people were seeing in that movie.  And pretty much the same thing had happened, minus the bleeding chin, when I had watched David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” with the Elusive One a few years prior, so maybe it’s a David Lynch thing.

But it’s also a Captain Beefheart thing, because I had the same feeling of being left out of the party when I was listening to this album.  I found it in the bin for $6.99 (minus my teacher discount) at the Half Price Books in Upper Arlington (where all the hippy-beatniks hang out), and its only the second record on this list after Love’s “Forever Changes” for which I had absolutely no preconceived notions.  But then I saw Frank Zappa’s name listed as producer, and well the only Zappa I have is his set with John and Yoko on the live disc of “Some Time in New York City” (“this song only has two words…SCUM-BAG!”), and I thought “oh no”.  And sadly, my worst fears were realized when I heard this 80 minute set of experimental, hippie-beatnik garbage.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I usually like experimental.  And I think I have talked several times on this blog about the experimental nature of my favorite band, Radiohead.  But while Radiohead experiments with song structure, they leave the rest of the elements of music intact: rhythm, pitch, harmony, etc.  This album completely disregards all of the above, leaving a completely free-form mess that is an extremely difficult listen (supposedly Captain Beefheart rehearsed the band obsessively for a month to get this?).  And I might even be able to forgive this disaster if the lyrics were any good, but the good Captain’s poetry is almost as bad as his musicianship.  At times he tries to be playful, almost like a beatnik Dr. Suess, but he falls far short of the good Dr.’s wit, charm, and social commentary (read the Sneetches if you want the best ever commentary on capitalist society!).  So what if the Mascara Snake is fast and bulbous?  Whatever dude.  It’s like going to see some awkward performance art/poetry slam in a tiny little theater in an abandoned warehouse with a bunch undergraduate English majors.  Blech.

Other lists: To my knowledge, this album and it’s songs do not appear on any other Rolling Stone lists.

Ch-ch-changes: This album dropped two spots from #58 due to the rise of “Meet the Beatles!” and the addition of CCR’s “Chronicle”

My favorite track: “China Pig”

Honorable mention: “Moonlight on Vermont”

Quote: “She wears her past like a present”