Whether through detours or design, the antics of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart were enough to ignite the flames of misguided idealism that creeped eerily from the neo-hippie movement of the late 1960s. Who knows, maybe they just didn’t get the punch line. Anyway, Zappas We’re only there for the money and beefhearts Replica of the trout mask would shatter any preconceived notions of flower power, love, peace and the like. Close observers only had to read between the lines.
While Zappa tapped the whole free love faction more or less directly between the eyes, Beefheart decided – with a little friendly rebuke from the late and great FZ – to do things a little more outside the box. Together with the latest line-up of the Magic Band (Zoot Horn on glass finger guitar and flute; Antennae Jimmy Semens on steel appendage guitar; The Mascara Snake on bass clarinet and vocals; Rockette Morton on bass and narration (?); And Drumbo on drums) , Beefheart and Zappa shot Replica of the trout mask to a true hootenanny who flings and dangles like a strange and exotic mixture of country, blues, free-form jazz and boogie-woogie – all in all confusing, innovative, unsurpassed and fleetingly obnoxious.
They say that to break the rules effectively, you have to know the rules. Without Zappa behind the boards, the entire Magic Band could easily have been mistaken for a group of drunk chimpanzees pounding aimlessly without knowing how melody and harmony should encompass the functioning parts of the “song”. Oh, the Magic Band could play – they just had their own approach. And let’s face it, wrapping any semblance of cohesion around the twisted words of something like “Frownland” or “Moonlight On Vermont” can’t be the easiest thing in the world.
After a while, the intricacies of the instrumentation begin to show through, while Beefheart’s psycho-decayed lyrics almost make sense. “Old Fart At Play” is poetic and ingenious. “China Pig” – gross but lovable. The banter from “Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish” … um, I need a little more time to figure that out. Clearly, records like Replica of the trout mask are taboo for delicate ears with big hearts and dance shoes. That alone is reason enough to enjoy this 28-track train wreck and not worry about it anymore.
~ Shawn Perry