FEATURE: I Don’t Get It!

troutHey , gang. Here’s a new feature in my endless list of new features.

Oftentimes, in the world of rock music, you hear a lot of buzz about a particular band or album. Depending on the level of hype/how long it takes you to actually listen, the band in question may not live up to the expectations placed upon them from external sources. Then again, sometimes the musician or album exceeds the hype. For example, by the time I finally heard Pavement in my junior year of high school, I had been reading about them from various sources for years. Surprise! They were every bit as good as I was told.

But then sometimes you hear nothing but universal praise for an album. Everywhere you turn, someone is heaping laudatory remarks on this “life-changing work of art.” Excited, you play the album, and it’s less of a letdown than a complete sense of paralyzing confusion. You’re left with the unmistakable feeling that this can’t possibly be the same album everyone is talking about.

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This is how I feel about Captain Beefheart’s 1969 album Trout Mask Replica. 

I want to like it so badly. I am quite a fan of avant-garde music, art rock and psychedelic rock. I have a general tolerance for Frank Zappa, and Ween is one of my favorite bands of all time. I love the wacko fusion of Can and the ambient tones of Godspeed! You Black Emperor. The post-apocalyptic tape loops of This Heat fill me with a sense of purpose. I love No Wave New York. Basically, I wasn’t born yesterday. I’m not expecting my music to be spoon-fed to me. True art takes work, yo.

So why don’t I like Captain Beefheart?

I’ve listened to this album at least three times, twice sober and once while drinking, and each time I found it a miserable slog through barely-half formed song ideas that sounds like it was recorded by the drunk guy on the bus. There’s just no way around it. I hate this album. I find it completely and irredeemably unlistenable. You know it’s a bad sign when you’re pausing the album after five minutes to take a break. It’s not that it’s too abrasive. I’m fond of noise-rock bands such as Big Black and Sonic Youth. I even get that the whole thing very well might be a joke. It’s just not very funny or intelligible. It’s not that the songs are too short and bizarre. Guided by Voices cram as many songs as possible onto their albums. But they bother to write songs.

I beg of you, friends and colleagues. Help me like Captain Beefheart. What am I doing wrong? If I’m approaching this record with the wrong perspective or if I’m doing the wrong kinds of drugs, I need to know about it. For such a so-called “important” album in progressive rock, I am getting literally nothing from it. The only joy I experienced was when, during a long pause between tracks, I thought the album was over.

Help me!



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2 comments to “FEATURE: I Don’t Get It!”
  1. It’s almost 50 years old! It’s crazy when I listen to it that it doesn’t sound dated. It’s wild and unpredictable. You can listen to it 1,000 times and still pick up new things.

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