Music Monday: Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 32/250Trout_Mask_ReplicaTitle: Trout Mask Replica
Artist: Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
Year: 1969
Position: #59

What did I just listen to? Seriously, this is a weird hour and a bit of music.

To be fair, considering the name of the band and the album as well as the album cover itself you know that when you stick on Trout Mask Replica for the first time it is going to be… different. The fact that it is such a melange of genres including jazz, avant-garde, folk rock and spoken word just speaks to how different this album is.

If you delve a little bit into the history of how this album was made over eight months of writing and rehearsals (the recording taking only six hours) in rather cult-like circumstances involving starvation, physical violence and emotional torture… it’s mindblowing and rather scary. But then, as you listen to this album it makes sense since it is messed up. Really messed up.

It is something that requires multiple listens to even attempt to get it. In fact when you first listen to it a lot of the tracks just made me laugh out loud since they just sounded awful. In many ways it is a record of pure id and experimentation. Despite sounding slapdash a lot of rehearsal, care and attention has been paid to making it sound this way. The number of testimonials on the internet about how Trout Mask Replica is one of their favourite records but it took 6-7 listens to get it is immense but my favourite write-up is by Robert Christgau who said it is “great played at high volume when you’re feeling shitty, because you’ll never feel as shitty as this record.” I think, in many ways, he summed it up perfectly.

To “be fair” to Trout Mask Replica I have only listened to it 3 times which is not considered enough to be able to unlock why this album is an all-time classic. However, I can’t sit chortling on the train or at my desk because it makes me look like a simpleton.

One thing I can say is that, despite not getting it personally, I do see how this album has been influential to many musicians. The sheer experimental nature means that different people will be able to glean different aspects from it. Whether you think they were being pioneers or just trolling the music world is, in the end, your own interpretation. As for me, I stand agog that an album that appears to be so polarizing in terms of how long it takes to ‘get it’ has near unanimous praise whereever you choose to look it up.

I guess I should go in for listen four soon.

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