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By Denny Burt

Winona Daily News, November 29, 1970

There are two new items out from Bizarre: Captain Beefheart's long awaited album, called LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY, and still another album from the prolific Frank Zappa, commissar of the Bizarre/Straight recording enterprise, called CHUNGA'S REVENGE. First a look backwards.

More than one year ago Captain Beefheart and his Magit Band released an album called TROUT MASK REPLICA, which must stand as one of the milestones of popular music, a milestone because of its poetic content, which is vast, a milestone because of its wierdness, which is equally vast, and a milestone in terms of tie conditions under which it was produced. For the record, TROUT MASK REPLICA is approximately one hour and 45 minutes worth of music that was all done in one eight-hour session with none of the material written in advance, everything done spontaneously in the studio.

Most of the music is free form and atonal, grating and close to being audially homicidal. Captain Beefheart himself (born Don Van Vliet) does wiggy things like playing three saxophones simultaneously with just his one mouth. The lyrics match the melodies. A few random titles: Dachau Blues Them Poor Jews, Hair Pie Bake 1, She's Too Much For My Mirror, Pachuco Cadaver, Neon Meate Dream of an Octafish, My Human Gets Me Blues, and so on and so forth. Needless to say the world was somewhat taken aback by this assault and all the critics were, saying thinks like Captain Beefheart was playing Dada rock.

It was so strange that nobody had the nerve so say they thought it was bad. Well, as far as Dada goes, most rock music is,: if you compare it to serious things, like say comparing something like TOMMY to a Webern opera. Rock is anything but art, as most idiot musicians will indirectly contend, even though that trend has been changing of late. But we'll get to that later. As far as Captain Beefheart is concerned, let is suffice to say that TROUT MASK REPLICA is more than an anomaly, is unique, daring and brilliant.

Now the Captain has hit back with LICK MY DECALS which is more "polished" – that is to say he spent more than eight hours putting it together – but the music is more of the same, atonal improvisations and free association lyrics. Contrived insanity that is absurdly beautiful.

Now it seems that many years ago (this is a transition into CHUNGA'S REVENGE) Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa went to the same high school and would drive around together hustling . . . er, well, that can't be put politely so use your imagination. And when they grew up they both became musicians renowned for their eccentricities. Frank Zappa became something of a legend, sort of the Orson Welles of pop music, with that poster of him sitting on a toilet that graced more than one psychedelic dungeon. Captain Beefheart remained obscure. In fact, most people have never heard of him, in spite of four albums.

But Frank Zappa always had the feeling that maybe Captain Beefheart was doing very effortlessly something that he'd worked very hard at. But Zappa's endeavors have spread over a much wider area. Musically he has incorporated such diverse elements as Stravinsky, Varèse, avant garde jazz, surfer music, muzak, and rhythm and blues, 1953 thorugh 1956. In addition to which he scores ballets and makes movies and video projects and has his own recording label with a stable of talent that ranges from Tim Buckley to Alice Cooper. Yes, he certainly is selective and diverse and all that, and if you don't believe me just listen to CHUNGA'S REVENGE made with some old Mothers and some others, or better yet listen to WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH, the last Mothers album which is even more so.

Which is my major reservation about Zappa; sometimes his ecclecticism is monotonous, like a private joke. You spend all your time identifying sources. But he compensates. The music is always listenable and, like Captain Beefheart, there are plentiful doses of absurdity, in the musical combinations (a piano solo will blend into some vintage surf music to be accentuated by a sythesized belch), and in the occasional lyrics which are almost always cynical takeoffs on the teen syndrome, something which is so deeply based in the Fifties that if you weren't alive then you might not even think it's funny.

A simple test would be if you can sing all the lyrics to "Peggy Sue." Chances are if you do, then you'll get the Zappa thing. If not, eat a glass or something. Actually, you needn't know any of this to enjoy CHUNGA'S REVENGE; it's instrumental. It's good. The End.