TO THE casual observer, Captain Beefheart’s vibe must appear to be similar to the window blind painting he has created to adorn his latest batch of surreal surface barking.
It looks and sounds a blur, right? No. You’ve got to scratch deep down to relieve this particular musical itch. You’ve got to get some of that dark paint under your fingernails.
‘Captain Beefburger’, as our illustrious Ed mockingly refers to him, wallows deep and silent for years shrouded by his own notoriety and then without warning, emerges into the musical gloom, armed with tunes and words of earthy energy that only he can properly manipulate.
Only the ‘master’ can conjure up such home-spun fantasies, thick and bloated with corkscrew language, and make them sound totally convincing. The secret is that the Cap is a veritable gourmet of words, he relishes the sounds they make in his throat and chews them over before releasing it all in a gush of Fleischer cartoon imagery that bobs and weaves effortlessly and free, all of which is biffed and butted into a reckless dance shape by the currant, wildly shorn, Magic Band.
For the hardened Beefheart devotee who has followed every twist and trick, there are initially few surprises on ‘Ice Cream For Crow’, little artistic advancement has seemingly been made and it would be easy to dismiss it as just being ‘another’ Beefheart album.
This may well be the case, but look into it properly and the full raw power unleashes itself and explodes in front of you, a power that will delight the purist and dismay the soulless.
Chief glories on here for me are the spoken poem ‘”81″ Poop Hatch’ and the following ‘The Thousandth And Tenth Day Of The Human Totem Pole’ which is also spoken but accompanied by the Magic Band and played out with a quirky clockwork tension that includes a breathing, free form Beefheart saxophone solo nodding elegantly in the direction of Ornette Coleman. Both tracks are pure gems of Van Vliet open-hearted prose that huff, puff and stutter out blasts of rich verse making me yearn for the release of a spoken and unaccompanied Beefheart album one day.
The other songs are equally blessed with the same gruff affection that he pours into his compositions, all lovingly thrashed out and individually labelled with such flamboyant titles as ‘Skeleton Makes Good’ and ‘Hey Garland I Dig Your Tweed Coat’ where Pena from ‘Trout Mask Replica’ makes a fleeting re-appearance. Finally, it is in his favour that unlike many of his Sixties contemporaries floundering way out of their depth, Beefheart has managed to haul his music safely on board the Eighties without ever having to resort to eating crow of any flavour. This one however, beak and all, tastes real good.