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18 November 2009

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - 'Doc at the Radar Station' (Virgin)

Man, I love Doc at the Radar Station. It's probably my third overall favorite Beefheart album. And who would have thunkit from the (lovely, yet limp) coverart and necktie-adorned band photograph? Sure, Shiny Beast was the comeback album but this is the true comeback. The record explodes with 'Hot Head' and there's the crunch and menace that was missing for most of the 70's -- this is 1980, too, not a year particularly remembered for fucked up music. As hinted at in the last post, John French is here on slide guitar and maybe he's just what the missing element was before. 'Run Paint Run Run' always makes me think of the VU's 'Run Run Run'; the trombone finally fits here. And best of all is the voice - it ain't what it was in '69, sure, but it sounds a lot better than the Spotlight Kid era crooning. In 'Ashtray Heart' you can literally hear him turn it on, like stepping on a BigMuff pedal for the larynx. There's so much to love here. 'Dirty Blue Gene' is wonderfully bonkers; it's like a swirling cloud of office supplies over ice. French cuts through this all like an inbred Eddie Van Halen. 'Sue Egypt' is a fairly free love poem over a haphazardly strummed cacophany. 'I think of the dust on the chair / and under her eyes' and reading that line doesn't even hint at the true beauty of this piece. Not to mention this song is presumably where the Bad Vugum label got their name. 'Flavor Bud Living' is one of the best guitar riffs I've heard out of all these records - it bubbles and burns, perhaps due to Gary Lucas' guest guitar playing. And 'Making Love to A Vampire With a Monkey on my Knee', despite its title, is all plunderous lurching and f-bombs; not at all the novelty song you'd fear. Dark sexuality rages but maybe it's just the neckties. A classic for sure.

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