Captain Beefheart "Trout Mask Replica"

By Andrei Gosciejew

Scene, 23 September 1971

Captain Beefheart
Straight STS 1053

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band is produced by the mad genius Zappa, and is on Straight Records. It’s called “Trout Mask Replica.” The jacket cover has an appropriate picture of Beefheart in a furlined coat with the face of a resplendent rainbow trout.

 Each of the 28 cuts on the two albums has something to offer. Its been said of Zappa that his song titles resemble the entrees in a psychedelic menu. The Magic Band does him one better on that score. Songs like “Dachau Blues,” “Ella Guru,” “Neon Meate Dream of an Octafish,” and “She’s Too Much for My Mirror” are just as original as their titles. To the uninitiated listener (which was my case) most, of the cuts may seem to be a discordant cacophony. But we all remember how Zappa, at first, was greatly unappreciated.

The Mothers’ extra little notes and movements and fancy counterpoint were around us; only it took somebody like Zappa to put them together into heavy music scores.

It must be said for Beefheart that he isn’t as ambitious, yet he and his group is heading in the same general direction. Maybe his stuff is just a totally different world. Like a good book, you can’t get it all at once, at one sitting. And that’s exactly what you have to do with “Trout Mask Replica” is sit down and listen.

Let me dwell on some ot the selections for a moment. The already mentioned “Dachau Blues” is grim, as the title suggests. Beefheart sings low-pitched in this one. There’s no attempt to create a melody. An off-keyed saxophone gives the feeling of the chaos of war and mass-murder. His words are telling:

Dachau blues those poor jews
Dachau blues those poor jews
Down in Dachau blues, down in Dachau blues
Still cryin’ ’bout the burnin’ back in world war two’s
One mad man six million lose