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9 November 2009

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - 'Clear Spot' (Reprise)

I know I just ranted about The Spotlight Kid mostly sucking because it's so commercial, but for some reason I kinda like Clear Spot even though it contains some of the most overtly smooth, "inside" tunes of the orthodox Beefheart canon. I mean, 'Too Much Time' has Van Vliet sounding like a lounge crooner, with bright brassy horns and some genuine balladry -- yet I'm okay with this. I think it's all to do with the production. The Spotlight Kid sounds pretty shitty, while Clear Spot is bright and bold, and because of that I think it somehow sounds weirder. Plus, there's a balance here. For every 'Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles' (a tune I actually like cause of Lebowski), it's immediately followed by a crunchy stomper like 'Big Eyed Beans from Venus'. Likewise, 'My Head is My Only House Unless it Rains' has 'Sun Zoom Spark' after it, and 'Sun Zoom Spark' is an awesome song. I kinda think that the problem is in how Beefheart tried to embrace a larger market. I mean, the stuff from Safe as Milk is fairly "accessible", meaning it doesnt sound totally insane like Lick My Decals Off does -- but it's somehow not as squeaky clean as this. Maybe on The Spotlight Kid Beefheart was trying to write music based on what he thought other people wanted to here, whereas on Clear Spot he's being himself a little bit more. Cause the man was -- is -- human, right? Lots of points go to the packaging, being one solid card with a clear mylar sleeve where the words/logo "Clear Spot" are embossed in a pretty cool idea. Unfortunately my copy has yellowed and the flap is starting to fall off - but this is a radio station copy from some station called WCCB, which the internet tells me is Baltimore community college. This isn't my favorite Beefheart record by any stretch, but it's definitely a keeper (even if there's no Drumbo).

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