Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band Trout Mask Replica (Straight)
Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
Um, so if you know this album, maybe you're already laughing. (You should be.) Grant handed it to me with the comment, "It’s pretty weird." That's it. Then I listened to Trout Mask Replica. Yesterday, I confronted Grant. "I have absolutely nothing to say," I told him. "Are you kidding me with this?" "People love that album," he said. "You have to write about it."
To which I say: PEOPLE! Who are you? What is going on? Context-free, just listening to this for the first time, do you think I should appreciate it? The different instrumental parts seem to have only the most passing relationship to each other. They regularly go off on the sort of screechy musical tangents that drive me up a wall ("now I'm just gonna play this scratchy out-of-tune bullshit for a full minute at the end of a song, I’m so amaaaaazing"). And the lyrics are insane: "A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast and bulbous. Got me?" NO, I DO NOT GET YOU!
My emotional response to this was annoyance-morphed-into-irrational-anger, kind of like road rage, or slowest-line-at-the-grocery-store rage, or why-won’t-the-fucking-printer-print-my-boarding-pass rage. There's no point in being upset by things you can't control, like someone cutting you off in traffic or the sound of printer wheels churning to no observable effect. But sometimes a thing hits the solar plexus of your animal rage brain and before you know it, you're Hulking out. I was fully Hulking out on this shit. My sanity was basically a shredded pair of purple pants. I haaaaaate this.
Then Grant broke the cardinal Never Heard of 'Em rule: He explained the context. "Frank Zappa recorded it in a basement while they were all on acid." Um, yeah. OBVIOUSLY. That is exactly what it sounds like. But why would I want to hear that? That sounds terrible! Still, after this most basic of explanations, my rage was extinguished. Now it just seems like a bunch of silly dudes on drugs, and even though that's boring, I don't really care. Plus I like some stuff just fine—"Moonlight on Vermont" and "Veteran’s Day Poppy" are neat. This Beefheart guy's voice is fun to listen to and I'm thinking maybe I should try something of his that's a little bit less, you know… insane? Does that exist?
I give this a "damn, music nerds, you are crazy" out of 10.