TROUT MASK REPLICA, the third studio album by the controversial artist, Don Van Vliet, who billed himself as Captain Beefheart as his stage name, is a very strange work of 60's era psychedelic art and certainly not for everyone. This album was produced by Frank Zappa, and really broke much new ground when the original two record set was released back in 1969. ROLLING STONE rates this album as the 58th greatest album ever released and other critical praise abounds for this very strange work of avant garde experimental music.
Some really interesting parts of this album include what are pretty much strange poetry readings that really create some very bizarre images such as "Dust Blows Forward 'N Dust Blows Back". "Orange Claw Hammer" comes across as a real epic of sheer strangeness that certainly inspires another really bizarre image. In a really perverse way, this poetry reading seems great. "Dust Blows Forward 'N Dust Blows Back Again" also includes some old recording sounds like a really scratchy old record from the 30's or something, as is a most unusual and disturbing listening experience. However, the musical sections of the album are deeply original as well, with some interesting little hooks in the songs that create real value to them.
Interestingly, even Matt Groening, who created THE SIMPSONS, first considered this album as the "worst thing" that he had ever heard, but it gradually grew on him to become one of his favorite albums of all time.
While not every musical experiment on this album was completely successful, this album helped to inspire punk, alternate rock, grunge, and many other more modern styles by creating a new sense of musical freedom to produce music far from the mainstream.
And this album often comes across as very funny in some parts for what it was attempting to achieve. Whenever this album is not overly creepy or weird, it is often quite comic in many ways, and sort of very entertaining on that level as well.
Frank Zappa seemed like a good match to produce this landmark recording from a true bunch of starving artists who lived communally while rehearsing for the album on welfare and contributions from relatives. Some band members were even arrested for shoplifting food and Frank Zappa had to bail them out of jail while they were working on the album. For as much musical anarchy as this album sounds, it still has a tightness and structure that was carefully and painstakingly choregraphed. It is real achievement of avant garde art music and a real 1960's icon recording.
Artist Don Van Vliet, who is now 68 years old, eventually became something of a recluse and exile from the musical world during the 1980's, and only now works on paintings. However, TROUT MASK REPLICA is one of the most outrageous underground music, counter culture, psychedelic era products ever produced. The album stands as a significant monument for all that it helped to inspire with other modern acts such The Residents and others who seemed to draw so much from this outrageous and groundbreaking musical work.
Not all art is beautiful or entirely pleasant to behold. And TROUT MASK REPLICA is not always pleasant. But it is a great 1960's counter culture monument album that you should own. Thankfully, this entire 78:51 minute masterpiece of the bizarre is still available on Cd these days, although not every mainstream record store will stock this item. You'll probably have to really search for it or order it, very likely. But it's certainly worth the effort.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!