Few rock artists as washed up – and seemingly past it – as Captain Beefheart was in 1974 have come back with new music as dazzling as that on Bat Chain Puller. Having flirted disastrously with commercialism, the nadir of which was Bluejeans and Moonbeams, he took a lengthy sabbatical, returning two years later, aged 35, with an album legendary for the wrong reason – it has never been released.
Occasionally it harks back to the complexities of Trout Mask Replica but is more measured, with a vivid, plangent, colourful sound. The remit is as wide as anything Beefheart had attempted before: pop songs, poetic narratives and recitals, chamber-style instrumentals and songs in fantastic new shapes. Some material was later reworked as Shiny Beast, but the original album is the more vital example of this late(ish) flowering of Beefheart’s creativity.