The year is 1970. The Beatles were winding down and went off in separate directions, The Beach Boys released one of their best albums "Sunflower" and there were psychedelic bands all over the place. The Who was gaining popularity with their album "Live at Deeds" and Pink Floyd was just starting up their career. Now, I could go on and on ranting about bands, but the weirdest and most out their album of all time also came out in 1970. Sure there was plenty of popular and good music around in the late 60's and early 70's but Captain Beefhearts Trout Mask Replica is the oddest and most abstract album of it"s era, and for that matter it"s the most interesting and experimental album that I have ever listened to.
I"ll warn you guys right off the bat, that this is extremely unconventional music. Captain Beefheart does everything that isn"t supposed to happen. Beefheart fuses together genres that typically do not blend together, he has an interesting vocal delivery, and he uses about15 different instruments throughout the album. Trout Mask Replica is an amazing and inventive album, Beefheart is a musical genius but unfortunately he didn"t get much recognition because of the era this album was released in and the fact that Beefheart is a crazy pimp. This album contains 28 tracks and clocks in at around 75 minutes long. I realize that this sounds very overbearing and considering the fact that I recently described this album as extremely unconventional and abstract just stick with me, I"ll explain everything.
I don"t really know where to start, so I"ll begin by describing the wide variety of instruments used on Trout Mask Replica. Trumpets, guitars, saxophones, drums, violins, flutes, and clarinets are the main instruments that stand out on this album. Being a rock album the most used and stand out instrument would be the guitar. The guitar goes from blues influenced licks, to screaming riffs, all the way over soloing in the middle of songs. The guitar is simply uncontrollable, Zoot Horn Rollo is an excellent guitar player and covers genres from jazz, to blues, to classic rock. The brass instruments give the music an odd, jazz feel to the album. The combination of trumpets and saxophones create a psycho, free experimental mess. Every brass instrument clashes together and things will not seem right at first. The tempo"s and arrangements are very strange, and the instruments do not stand out on their own, the jazz-blues-folk-psychadelic nature of the album is created by clashing together various instruments used in all of the genres I just mentioned. All in all Captain Beefheart and his Magic band do an excellent job instrumentally, and they borrow influences from every rock related genre in the process.
Trout Mask Replica has a very sleazy, trippy, greasy, detached, and raw feel. Throughout the 28 tracks everything is sloppy and unorganized. None of these songs follow any formula, and every single song is different in and distinct in its own way. This album features very odd combinations of vocals, instruments, and just the way Captain Beefheart arranges things. He will mesh together a crazy saxophone line and a bluesy guitar lick, these odd arrangements make the album hard to listen to at points, so you will have to give this album some time to grow on you. Even if you listen to this album 20 times, things will steel feel greasy, sloppy and strange. Although Trout Mask Replica will eventually grow on you, the strange combinations and instrument arrangements Beefheart puts together will never get old or lose it"s touch.
Another element that makes this album different is the way Captain Beefheart sings. He has a very laid-back, raspy, blues influenced voice. His vocal delivery is rough and raw, his voice really adds on a heavy influence of blues and his raspy tone makes things even more sloppy. The roughed edged vocals will be extremely hard to tolerate at first, and they may ruin the listening experience for many people. The greasy vocals add more hazardous chaos into the album, it really adds on to the craziness of the album, not to mention that his voice really adds blues into the mix. Sometimes Beefheart sounds kind of spastic and rushed, he has a ton of range and he can hit high and low notes. While Beefhearts voice can be overbearing at times it is simply brilliant how he mixes in his raspy, somewhat sloppy voice. Throughout his howling and strained vocal delivery, he gets the job done and adds to the uncontrolled chaos.
These songs have absolutely no structure, and that"s the main reason why I love Trout Mask Replica. There is no repetition and everything sounds different, you will hear nothing like this. There are no washed up choruses or recycled guitar riffs, Beefheart offers something new with every song. This music will just put you in a good mood, everything is so childish and playful, Beefheart is constantly experimenting with the music, weather he is fiddling with his guitar or altering his vocals, he is always doing something to create chaos and try something new. Trout Mask Replica is just so spontaneous, although these songs are random and sloppy everything on here is pleasing in a bizarre way.
Here"s a little fun fact for you guys who really want to get this album, I"ve had about 10 people listen to this album and see what they think, every single one of them said something like "This is just a bunch of random noise, how is this music?" None of those people were really into music with the exception of one, if you aren"t interested in giving an album some time or if you"re not really into unconventional music than stay far away from this. Trout Mask Replica is a hit or miss album, those who hate it can"t stand it and those who like it love it. I"ve said this a lot of times throughout my review and I"ll say it again. Trout Mask Replica is chaotic, abstract, and it"s basically a combination of every single genre associated with rock. If you want something experimental, or different than you can"t go wrong but consider yourself warned.
Trout Mask Replica typically sounds like something that would be created by a few insane men that are on speed. The lyrics happen to be just as crazy as the rest of the album. Beefhearts lyrics are fun, sarcastic, and can sometimes be a bit obnoxious. Just to give you an idea here are a few lyrics from "Dachau Blues"
"War One was balls 'n powder 'n blood 'n snow
War Two rained death 'n showers 'n skeletons
Dancin' 'n screamin' 'n dyin' in the ovens"
I really don"t know how to properly comprehend this, if you really want to get into the lyrics you are in luck. There is a lyric sheet that comes with the album. The lyrics aren"t a key factor to the album, just because things are so chaotic you won"t really care for the lyrics.
If there is one thing for sure, it is that Captain Beefheart is one crazy guy. Anyone who had the guts or the talent to create an like this in 1970, or for that matter at any time gets my full attention and respect. To be completely honest, chances are that you will not like this album. You will find Trout Mask Replica to be to complex and chaotic, you will probably say that this music is to weird, or things are just to crazy for you. After all Beefheart combines blues-jazz-folk-rock-and psychadelica, that is a little overwhelming if you ask me. Most of these tracks feature no choruses, they are all extremely
greasy and sloppy, there are simply no rules when it comes to this album. Everything featured on Trout Mask Replica is detached, crowded, experimental, and unorganized. Just by hearing those words chances are that you will dislike this album.
Overall I can"t really recommend this album to anyone who is not a fan of unconventional music. Beefheart is an extremely talented musician and vocalist. If you name any aspect of music in general, Trout Mask Replica goes against it, there is simply nothing normal about this album. The vocals are greasy and raspy, the instruments clash together in odd arrangements, the lyrics are sarcastic and obnoxious, and there is no song structure. Trout Mask Replica is 75+ minutes long, you won"t be able to digest this all in one listen, it will take you at lest 10-30 listens to fully get used to Beefhearts laid-back blues style. Go ahead give this album a shot, you have nothing to lose. Even if you absolutely hate the album it will change the way you feel about music. Hell, you may even enjoy Trout Mask Replica, I surely do. Throughout this whole review I"ve been making comments about how odd and strange this album is, you need to listen to this.