The Captain Is The King: Doc At The Radar Station review by Declan Lynch

Taken from ‘Hot Press’ (a fortnightly Irish music magazine) on 24th October 1980 (Vol 4 No 10)

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART makes no mistakes, tells no lies. He is a painter, not a photographer. He doesn’t encapsulate, summarise, categorise, conceptualise, react. His music is pure, as pure as you like, not that it matters whether you like it or not. He is greedy, and selfish, not like a shopkeeper, but rather like a baby crapping on the floor.

It isn’t a case of his music not being like anybody else’s, but the other way round. The other’s aren’t even real hacks. They are hacks in inverted commas.

Comparison is irrelevant, so disregard the last bit. His music compromises less than most. It is awful, insulting, obscene, mixed up, lovely, generous, tender and proud. But of course.

It is as far beyond the realms of praise, criticism and condemnation as it is possible to be. Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band are not dabblers, they are acceptors of life, and this music is full of life.

To say that these songs sound like they’re played backwards presumes that “Smoke on the Water” is played forwards, but the fact is that “Smoke On The Water” is all assways. “Doc At the Radar Station” is totally unpretentious, because it doesn’t presume that you will “like” it, and doesn’t calculate a thing.

It sounds harsher and denser than the last album, “Shiny Beast”. The colourings aren’t as spectacular, it’s more the sound of winter than autumn.

The same amount of paint and the same amount of canvas is used, but the effect is more compressed and striking. The Captain doesn’t feel like tapping his toes anymore.

His voice is at times reminiscent of a Shakespearean actor, noble and fierce. He declaims his lines, defying the words to come out of his mouth. It all sounds crucial.

Doctor Feelgood are shitkickers, but Captain Beefheart is more of a ditchlicker. I can imagine the good people of RTE 2 lifting the needle 30 seconds into the first track for fear it might damage their lovely speakers or their pristine headphones.

Finally, I would recommend that you don’t attempt to write your own, private, review of this album because such practices do nothing to enhance your listening pleasure.

Bang your head on the wall.


Thanks to Brian Neavyn for identifying the source of this review for us.

1 Comment

  1. Declan Lynch, since a sports journalist, novelist and columnist, among other things, wrote for the Irish music magazine Hot Press in the late ’70s and ’80s. This review must be from Hot Press. Some of the jokes in the review (the bit about Deep Purple, for example) sound like the kinds of things DL used to write.

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