Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
Doc at the Radar Station


4.5
superb

Review

by menawati CONTRIBUTOR (90 Reviews)
December 8th, 2012 | 22 replies


Release Date: 1980 | Tracklist

Review Summary: One of the most focused and accessible albums that Captain Beefheart ever released and certainly one of his best.

If ever there was an artist whose output sums up the word "eclectic" it would be Don Van Vliet, more commonly referred to by his stage name Captain Beefheart. Whether you believe that the man was a genius and a visionary or merely an overrated buffoon, there is no doubt as to his abject refusal to play by the rules. Such is the reputation of his bizarre musical experiment entitled "Trout Mask Replica", which was released to a generally dumbfounded audience in 1969, it is often the first place someone will go who is unfamiliar with his work. A common reaction to the album is one of unbridled hatred and a vow to never go near his music ever again. This is unfortunate because this often maligned piece of work is quite far removed from the main bulk of his material which, while still being admittedly quirky and rather bizarre, is rather more accessible.

After losing his way during the early to mid 1970's Beefheart assembled a new virtuoso "Magic Band" featuring future Pixies member Eric Drew Feldman, guitarist Gary Lucas, and old sidekick John "Drumbo" French on drums. The revitalised ensemble released the well received "Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)" in 1978. Fuelled by the positive reaction to this album he went on to record "Doc At The Radar Station" which was released to favourable reviews in 1980. The musical landscape at the time was of course dominated by punk rock and the looming onset of the new wave but Beefheart was anything but a conformist and refused to embrace the contemporary norms. What we have here is a selection of lean and abrasive Delta blues influenced rock songs infused with shifting rhythms, unequal phrase lengths and jagged riffs, all stamped with Beefheart's indelible brand of craziness and humour. If you told someone they could tap their foot to a catchy Beefheart tune after they had just listened to "Trout Mask Replica" they would probably laugh in your face. Stick on the album opener "Hot Head", with its relentlessly infectious groove and angular stomping rhythm propelled by an inexorable stomping beat, and they might just be convinced. The song exhibits subtle shifts in meter that induce an unresolved quality to the music which drives it along as a suitable backdrop for Beefheart's characteristic barks and growls. The vicious slide guitar attacks that permeate the music also serve to enhance the overall feel of unhinged aggressiveness.

Beefheart was renowned for his eccentric and often baffling way with words and this album certainly doesn't disappoint in that respect. At the most conventional end of his particularly warped lyrical spectrum his words do lend themselves to an attempt at interpretation. However, when confronted with lines such as "Brickbats fly at my fireplace, Upside down I see them in the fire, They squeak and roast there, Wings leap across the floor, Fold up the wall shadows, The window curtain ghost" on the chaotic jazz laced avant-garde number "Brickbats" one can only wonder at what the hell he is going on about. Whether the lyrics make sense or not, it's hard not to admire the sheer conviction in Beefheart's delivery. Blessed with a four-and-a-half octave vocal range, he rants, growls and shrieks his way through the album highlight "Sheriff Of Hong Kong" with aplomb. This is a maelstrom of raging intensity, full of syncopated rhythms, shifting time signatures and wild mutating riffs which nevertheless manages to maintain a coherent groove throughout its impetuous six and a half minutes.

This is an angry, intense album with untamed rhythm lurches and restless tempo shifts which act to keep the unwary listener continually off balance. In spite of these qualities this was about as close to the mainstream that Beefheart ever wandered and it stands as possibly his most approachable release. It has got its fair share of the avant-garde excesses, mean ass attitude and sheer outright zaniness that characterises a lot of his music but there is a sheen of accessibility to much of the material. It would be stretching the bounds of reality to proclaim this as an easy album to embrace but for a gateway to the eccentric musical world of Don Van Vliet it is probably the first place to look.



Recent reviews by this author
iamthemorning BelightedMonty Python Monty Python Sings
Hominido Estirpe LiticaDisconnect Planned Obsolescence
Synaesthesia (UK) SynaesthesiaCamel A Live Record
user ratings (76)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
menawati
Contributing Reviewer
December 8th 2012


16026 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hot Head - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASDCoI2bk14
Sheriff Of Hong Kong - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shA1F44kYyc
A Carrot is as close as a rabbit gets to a diamond - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1fPaH3Ypq0

Digging: iamthemorning - Belighted

Graveyard
December 8th 2012


5740 Comments


making love to a vampire is one of my favs of his

pos'd

Digging: Nurse With Wound - Spiral Insana

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
December 8th 2012


4435 Comments


I notice there's a lot of Captain Beefheart talk going around today. Also nice work on reviewing this. POS'd.

YoYoMancuso
December 8th 2012


11113 Comments


never liked him, but the review was good and backed your opinion up well. pos

Chortles
December 8th 2012


17969 Comments


awesome review mena, beefy pos

Digging: Pinback - Blue Screen Life

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
December 8th 2012


16026 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks, was hard to do

VheissuCrisis
Contributing Reviewer
December 8th 2012


977 Comments


Good work man. Informative, especially for someone like myself who has never heard him before. Pos'd.

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
December 8th 2012


19798 Comments


great review. your reviews are very informative and descriptive keep it up.

Digging: Yellowcard - Lift a Sail

tommygun
December 8th 2012


24954 Comments


really great stuff mate, pos hard

reminds I forgot to get this and milk, god damn it

tommygun
December 8th 2012


24954 Comments


you really sell this well here, like I was extremely turned off by trout mask and you made me really want this anyway, props

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
December 8th 2012


16026 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

well if the review makes you want to listen then great, can't guarantee you won't hate it tho hehe

tommygun
December 8th 2012


24954 Comments


it's ok, if I don't like it I won't hold it against you

much

CaptainDooRight
December 8th 2012


29453 Comments


im def due for a captain binge

as always excellent review, ur knowledge is tits

pos

Digging: Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III ? Saturnian Poetry

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
December 8th 2012


6149 Comments


Good review, pos.

I have yet to listen to this guy.

Digging: Sumerlands - The Guardian (demo)

NightmareCinema16
December 8th 2012


2016 Comments


POS, yes to the Beefheart, what type of rock is this?

Chortles
December 8th 2012


17969 Comments


crazy rock

NightmareCinema16
December 8th 2012


2016 Comments


huh...

hankdee27
December 9th 2012


259 Comments


Great review. I will check this out for sure, because you were quite convincing in your approach to writing this review.

DrGunther
December 11th 2012


184 Comments


So this is more accessible than Safe as Milk even? Interesting, absolutely love that album. I'm struggling to get into Decals, even though I quite like Trout Mask, so may well try this one next.

Pos'd, great review.

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
December 11th 2012


16026 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

'Shiny Beast' is worth a try as well Gunther, it's often referred to as the best of his late albums.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy