Hungry and Weird

Trout Mask, from packaging to musical content, is the focus of Grow Fins. But while Trout Mask was in deed revolutionary, the following year's Lick My Decals Off, Baby be came one of my hallmarks of sonic utopia the moment I first applied needle to groove. Cotton had quit the band after an intraband altercation left him with broken ribs, and percussionist Art "Ed Marimba" Tripp had replaced French, who quit the band after being shoved down a flight of stairs by Van Vliet. French, however, returned, and the group resolved its double-drummer dilemma by letting Tripp learn the second guitar parts on marimba. It's as though after having reinvented the wheel, CB&HMB had slapped a set on a Lamborghini and taken it out for a spin.

Except for its historical footage (e.g., the Milk band flailing wildly on the Cannes seashore), disc four is something of a dud, consisting other wise of 12 minutes of Beefheart, Zappa, and a lady from down the street shooting the breeze. Disc five is an intermittently dazzling hodgepodge that touches down only briefly on the post–Trout Mask years. The highlight is a remarkably Dylanesque radio rendition of "Orange Claw Hammer," with Zappa providing his on-again-off-again friend with straightforward chordal accompaniment. Sellouts.


Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
Grow Fins: Rarities [19651982]

The Dust Blows Forward Rhino

Rhino's imminent double-disc hits anthology, The Dust Blows Forward, extends a more democratic overview than the Trout-centric Fins—the sexy, swampy goodness of 1972's The Spot light Kid and Clear Spot should have made CB&HMB the rock stars they coulda-woulda been, but Fins whittles those albums down to just one live track. The Magic Band quit in a huff in 1973, following the strained sugar-binge pop of Unconditionally Guaranteed. Maybe they couldn't have pulled off the sly warmth of "Tropical Hot Dog Night," but several other later songs, including "Sue Egypt" and "Ice Cream for Crow," are fairly obvious knockoffs of early-'70s material. The Trout Mask lineup provided the dynamic template from which such otherwise worthwhile albums as Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) and Doc at the Radar Station sandpapered and developed. Beefheart's post-'73 combos included such able musicians as Eric Drew Feldman, Gary Lucas, and Jeff Tepper, whose youth and fandom undoubtedly tempered Beefheart's temper. If the music they made retained the spirit but not the shock of the Captain's classic crew, no big whoop. By 1977, weirdness had virtually been institutionalized.

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