Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band: Shiny Beast

By George Kay

Rip It Up, Mayr 1980



Since his first appearance with the Magic Band in the early sixties, Captain Beefheart (christened Don Van Vliet) has established his own credo within the broad boundaries of rock'n'roll. Trout Mask Replica set out unorthodox standards later picked up by the likes of Pere Ubu. After numerous other unique albums, two of them on the Virgin label 1974, he dissolved the Magic Band and reacquainted himself with his old mate Frank Zappa.

Since then he has formed a new Magic Band and written new material for an album titled Bat Chain Puller between 1976 and 78. It’s new 1980, dontcha know, and Virgin have thankfully released the aforementioned album that other record companies seemed reluctant to handle.

The songs date back, in many cases, to four years ago, but no matter, as Beefheart has a Magic Band that adroitly conveys the moods of his songs. On "Tropical Hot Dog Night" guitarists Jeff Teper and Richard Redus mesh busily below Bruce Fowler's carnival trombone. Beefheart's great talent has always been his ability to draw form and music from apparent chaos and shape it to suit his particular emotion. On "Owed T'Alex" it’s frustration and the band collide with all of them ostensibly playing something different. On "Love Lies" it’s sorrow, and here Bruce Fowler evokes Beefheart’s lost-in-love dejection perfectly with sleazy trombone.

Shiny Beast, like most of Beefheart’s albums, is an acquired taste but with a little persistence you’ll find that it's almost an embarrassment of riches.