“Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)” by Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - album review

TJR says

An album called “Bat Chain Puller” had been recorded in ’76 for DiscReet in 1976, but label co-owner Frank Zappa withheld the master tapes, seemingly in a huff because his partner, Herb Cohen, had funded the production surreptitiously by the use of Zappa’s royalty cheques. Alas, Captain Beefheart was forced to abandon the thing and wholly record a new work, hence the title “Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)”. “The Floppy Boot Stomp” gets us off to a great start, harking back to the stop-start blues-rock goodness of the “Safe As Milk” debut from all those years ago. By sheer contrast, “Tropical Hot Dog Night” is firmly in the here and now, all funky flamencos with bright and breezy brass to go. It’s an extra-ordinary sensory experience – and a reminder that the unexpected is actually just what you expect from your Beefheart. “Harry Irene” is completely different again, an entirely whistle-able French-cabaret number on a dead-end-street beat, with a bizarre narrative incorporating four lesbians and a tavern. He’s having a laugh. “Bat Chain Puller” closes side 1 with an insistent swamp-stomp beat, some spectacular use of language, and finds the Captain in full-on expressive-vocal mode, up, down and all over the shop. It’s simply marvellous – and completely unique.

The good thing about the album’s delay is that these songs had now fully matured with a staggering range of new tricks n licks incorporated. Also, the delay gave us some new songs, the best of which, “When I See Mommy I Feel Like A Mummy”, opens up side 2 with a syncopated rhythm, some ace Mardi Gras trombone and some choppy Post-Punk guitar action. Again, Beefhearts vocals are all over the place, veering from paranoid whispers to gruff bellows. Truly, he is like no other. “Owed T’Alex” is another which seems perfectly in vogue with this Post-Punk era, and could easily sit on any of Pere Ubu’s sets from this year. The magical harmonica at the end simply connects eras, like all good artists should. The album’s supreme cut, “Candle Mambo”, embodies all that’s good about this set – it’s mambo Jim, but not as we know it, with progressive disco beats that would sway even the most reluctant of hips. So there we have it, Post-Punkish and not entirely Dancefloor-unfriendly, the sound of Captain Beefheart ’78 is simply a joy to listen to. DiscReet’s loss was Warner Brothers’ gain.

The Jukebox Rebel
23-Mar-2007

A1 [03:51] 7.7.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - The Floppy Boot Stomp (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A2 [04:48] 9.4.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Tropical Hot Dog Night (Don Van Vliet) Cerebral Pop
A3 [03:37] 7.6.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Ice Rose (Don Van Vliet) Prog
A4 [03:42] 8.2.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Harry Irene (Don Van Vliet) Crooner / Cabaret
A5 [03:14] 6.7.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - You Know You’re A Man (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A6 [05:27] 8.0.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Bat Chain Puller [1978 version] (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
B1 [05:03] 8.3.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - When I See Mommy I Feel Like A Mummy (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
B2 [04:06] 8.1.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Owed T’Alex (Don Van Vliet, Herb Bermann, Jerry Handley) Post-Punk
B3 [03:24] 10.0.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Candle Mambo (Don Van Vliet) Cerebral Pop
B4 [05:03] 6.8.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Love Lies (Don Van Vliet) Blues / Rhythm n Blues
B5 [04:25] 5.6.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Suction Prints (Don Van Vliet) Prog
B6 [00:40] 4.5.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Apes-Ma (Don Van Vliet) Poetry




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