Neat Vliet: Bat Chain Puller review

This review for the then-unreleased album was originally published in the 6th August 1977 Sounds.

This is the Beefheart album very few people are going to hear unless the record and management companies involved with the Captain get moving. It sees Don Van Vliet returning to an area somewhere between ‘Trout Mask Replica’ and ‘Clear Spot’, undoubtedly his most satisfying period.

Possibly to prove the claim that he created the sound of his original Magic Band, the Captain has found himself an unidentified band and – guess what! They sound just like a Magic Band. Not the Magic Band, but they go a long way to rediscovering the drive from years past.

The album opens with the title track ‘Bat Chain Puller’ – Pure Beefheart. Guitars revolve around a central riff, while the Captain delivers a vocal as weirdly repetitive as that great track that finishes ‘Clear Spot’ ‘Golden Birdies’

Next is a poem delivered in monotone over a clanking electric piano, suitably eerie. Third track is about ‘Harry and Irene’ who ‘ran a canteen,’ line backing track on this sounds remarkably like an out-take from ‘Raindrops Keeps Failing On My Head’,

The fourth track is a rambling monologue.

Then comes a peach of an instrumental, a single guitar running along a basic theme, appealing in its simplicity. So the album continues, more songs, another poem and another instrumental. Every track startles, every track satisfies.

Without any track listing, (this is a private tape, remember) it’s kind of difficult to put titles to these tunes. As you’d expect, you can’t pull a hook-based title out of these sweethearts; Beefheart never offers anything as ordinary as a hook.

All I know is that it was recorded at the Manor sometime last year, probably just after the Knebworth show, and that it’s prime-cut-top-rib Beefheart. I also know that listening to it has given me great pleasure, and that it would be a Good Thing if that pleasure was readily available.

Howzabout it, Virgin, etcetera etcetera. The word from Virgin Records is that until the Beefheart / Herb Kohen wrangle is sorted out, the album would only be withdrawn on release….

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