Given total creative control by producer and friend Frank Zappa, Beefheart and his Magic Band rehearsed the material for this 1969 album for over a year, wedding minimalistic R&B, blues, and garage rock to free jazz and... more » avant-garde experimentalism. Warner Brothers Records.« less
Given total creative control by producer and friend Frank Zappa, Beefheart and his Magic Band rehearsed the material for this 1969 album for over a year, wedding minimalistic R&B, blues, and garage rock to free jazz and avant-garde experimentalism. Warner Brothers Records.
Juvenile and annoying. Like the most irritating free jazz I've ever heard, but with much less coherence and instrumental competence. Might be enjoyable if you want to hear the aural equivalent of a surrealist painting/sculpture. I love visual surrealism, but this makes me want to punch somebody. It sounds like something a group of 17-year-old boys would make if they got hold of a bunch of weed and recording equipment.
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Can't listen to it enough.
ewomack | MN USA | 11/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes yes yes. It's cacophonous, it's gritty, it's unpleasant. Put it on at a party and watch people make a mad dash for the door. Just try and dance to some of the arhythmic beats that fill the album like a car being thrown down a large flight of stairs. It's not popular music was never meant to be and will never apologize for not being so. It is as about an acquired taste as you can get.Nonetheless, I truly think this will be one of the albums that survives the twentieth century. I think people will still be listening to this in a few hundred years when the concept of music changes and dissonance and staggering rhythms are as harmonious as the choir in the fifth plane of heaven. Rock has produced nothing like this up to this point. Nothing with this sense of exploration and personal vision. Nothing as playful, nothing as fun. Nothing that stretches the boundaries of what people think of as 'rock music.' I don't think 21st century music listeners in America are ready for this. To truly appreciate this album for what it is you need to have a different definition of music and rhythm from the norm. No words will prepare you for how jarring it is. Your friends will hate you, people will think you're insane or on drugs (Beefheart, by the way, was not a drug user even in the early 1970s). My girlfriend still won't allow me to play it when she's home. People plain wonder what's wrong with me. Why would I listen to such tripe? Such ridiculous trash?The answer is that if you're one of those like myself that discover what's in this music, you simply can't stop listening. It's not for arty reasons, or reasons of influence (I could care less who Beefheart influenced, to be honest), or showing off my tolerance. There really is something here for those who can find it. I get more and more from every listen."
Sorry, I guess I still don't get it.
Shotgun Method | NY... No, not *that* NY | 11/17/2003
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Wow, this album is one of the most divisive I've ever heard. Nobody thinks that Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica is simply "okay." Most of the reviews on this page either dismiss it as contrived, deliberately atonal, pretentious trash, or think it's a work of genius, and naturally both crowds are antagonistic towards each other.
So let me clear this up: You are not necessarily an MTV-watching mainstream drone for hating this album. By the same token, enjoying Trout Mask Replica hardly makes you a Mensa member (that said, you probably are more interested in "out-there," non-conformist music if you are in the latter camp). This album is strictly an acquired taste, and that's how the Captain intended, I think. I enjoy plenty of weird stuff--Zappa, The Boredoms, some RIO prog, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Zorn, etc. along with quite a bit of abstract jazz and fusionized metal; and after multiple listens I still find this album to be pretty exhausting, especially in one sitting where 2 LPs of this material tends to become obnoxious after a while. It probably would've been better as a single record.
I don't hate the Captain for making this album. For better or worse, it's interesting, and both a product of its era (in that it seems to be psychedelic in a rather odd sort of way) and yet exploits musical idioms that were unheard of in rock during its time. The free-jazz-meets-Delta-blues-at-a-postmodern-poetry-slam sound of Trout Mask Replica is rather unique. There's plenty of abstract rhythmic ideas going on--it all sounds rather stupid at first, but Beefheart actually intended it to sound this way, and the Magic Band practiced for nearly a year trying to hammer these compositions out. So, you can't call it "amateurish" or "incompetent." These guys knew what they were doing. As for Beefheart himself, I rather like his great bluesy growl at times. It's like Howling Wolf if he read a lot of Burroughs and did plenty of acid.
Trout Mask Replica is definitely innovative. So, why do I persist on giving it only one star? Actually, if I could change the rating I'd give it two, as there are a few decent (not outstanding, merely decent) tracks on here that are listenable--Ella Guru, My Human Gets Me Blues, China Pig, Moonlight On Vermont, and Veteran's Day Poppy. And then there are the straight poetry tracks and other bits that are amusingly weird, though not musical in any real sense.
The rest of Trout Mask Replica is not my bag, frequently bordering on unbearable in its pursuit of the abstract. It goes off on tangents that make bags of cats thrown in a dryer seem downright musical. Case in point: Either of the Hair Pie Bake tracks. I can't imagine many people listening to this album without hitting the skip button at least once.
So, what we have here is a bold, unconventional, and influential recording...that does not compel me to listen with any sort of frequency. It's just not worth the effort, and believe me I have tried.
Those interested in checking Beefheart out probably shouldn't start here anyway. The bluesier Safe As Milk is more accessible and musical, while still being quite avant-garde. If you like that album and want to dive deeper, go right ahead and try your hand at Trout Mask Replica. You may love it; you may hate it; but you should definitely *listen* to it."
A piece of music that will sustain you for life
ewomack | 06/05/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, it's difficult. Yes, sometimes it's silly ("a squid, eating dough in a polyethylene bag, is fast and bulbous" - see?). Yes, sometimes the production is atrocious (most of the album is a sound engineer's worst nightmare). But you need to know this album.You need to know it because it doesn't have any pretence at being more than it is. You need to know it because it's "seminal" (I think that means that lots of people cribbed from it..). But most of all, you need to know it because it has a depth and a complexity which you really just don't find outside the classical greats, which means that each time you come back to it, you'll find it says something different. You'll hear a different game being played between instruments, or a different set of word games being played across tracks (if you enjoy Joyce's "Ulysses" you'll love TMR!).There are no cliches on this one. "Moonlight on Vermont" isn't just the standard formula rock track - hear the lyrics. "China Pig" works on more levels than cotton field blues guitar. The poetry is rough, off the cuff, but narrative ("bore me seven babies, with snapping black eyes, and beautiful ebony skin").I first heard TMR when I was 16 - I have to say I got it so that I'd look REALLY cool carrying it around high school. I'm now 37 (wife, kids, Volvo estate car, desk, secretary, MBA, etc. etc.). But I'd say I still listen to this every two or three months. It's one of the few CDs I'll make time to sit down and listen to (rather than have as background-to-life) - because it really repays the effort. And, if I make to retirement age, I'm sure that I'll still find hidden corners to this album that haven't yet sprung themselves on me.So if you want to stretch yourself a bit and perhaps confuse yourself for a while, but you want to make a musical friend for life, this is a must have.Enjoy - please enjoy!"
So Beautifully Deeply Strange
Shotgun Method | 10/21/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first heard of Captain Beefheart somehow in reading about late 60's music. I saw his first album "Safe as Milk" in the cutout cassette tape section of my local music store for 3 or 4 bucks and brought it home. Upon listening, my reaction was that it was the most obnoxious obscene piece of crap I ever heard. I actually found it offensive! Rarely have I had such a forceful reaction to a piece of music. A few days later (a week? a month?), I thought, well, let me give it another shot before I sell it. Oh my God, it was brilliant. The only other time I had such a dramatic negative reaction to an album and then on second listen or refleciton realized it was a work of genius was with Last Exit's "Iron Path." Quickly I rounded up the rest of early Beefheart's work, and of course I fell in love with the deeply strange (and boy is it different from "Safe As Milk") "Trout Mask Replica." This is truly one of the most unique pieces of music ever recorded and I must admit it had to grow on me. It was quite some time before I could listen to the whole thing at one sitting, but time has been kind to me and to this album. It's still as freshly invigorating as it was 30 years ago. It doesn't fit the times now, but then again it didn't fit the times then. This album just doesn't fit, and thank God! Popular music would have been a little sadder than it is now if this bizarre piece of beauty never emerged. And I do admit it's not for everybody, God it just couldn't be, but if you're an adventurous heartly soul, you're gonna be amazed..."
Not for the musically squeamish
Darrell Goodman | Canada | 11/26/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought Trout Mask Replica as a very young man when I saw the cover. Anything this strange, I thought, deserves a chance.I forced myself to listen to it, once, all four sides -- hell, I'd paid good money for it. Caveat emptor, I thought to myself, and put it away for several years.Then, when I was listening to Bongo Fury by Frank Zappa, which rapidly became one of my favourites, I recognized that voice, reciting the wierd poetry. I listened to Trout Mask Replica again.I don't know how I missed it the first time -- not musically sophisticated enough, I guess -- but they were one of the tightest bands I'd ever heard.You will not tap your foot to Trout Mask Replica, nor will you dance to it. But, if you can get your head around the oblique, sometimes obnoxious changes and time signatures (in some songs there are a number of simultaneous time signatures), you will never be the same.The bass, at times, sounds like a drunk falling downstairs, but in tight rhythmic harmony with the drums. They just never miss.This is extremely challenging music. This is not music for people who want to think about or do something else while they're listening to it. But it is for people who enjoy the unusual, and appreciate the whole notion of anti-pop."