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22 November 2009

Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band - 'Ice Cream for Crow' (Virgin/Epic)

Don's so earnest on the cover photo, as if he knew this would be his last record. There is some feeling of things winding down here, perhaps most evident in 'Evening Bell' and it's internal headbutting. It's a dismantling of 15 years of music, which in retrospect, doesn't feel very long at all given the journeys taken. 'Ice Cream for Crow' had a great video that MTV rejected for being 'too weird' although it's relatively standard for 1982 rock video - the band playing in the Mojave desert, a place that infects Ice Cream for Crow throughout. Go find it on YouTube if you haven't seen it. I don't think the Captain was looking for any more mainstream success after his flirtation with accessibility in the mid-70s; that video just looks like fun. Ice Cream for Crow is a fun album despite the ticking clock. The band's different yet again, with a few holdovers from Doc and Gary Lucas staying on, but sadly no John French. New drummer Cliff R. Martinez holds things down well and this one is produced well again. DVV's inspired too -- listen to 'Hey Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Coat' which has a melting mudsicle of his best imagery, touching back to the inspirations from the days of the dust blowing forward n' back, but without being in retrograde orbit. The lyrics sheets lays it all down, including the purely prosaic '"81" Poop Hatch". I can't help but feel like DVV had fallen into some sort of gently avuncular role by this point (as the video testifies to, too). Maybe Uncle Beefheart's wisdom by this point is what makes this such a nice departure point - with moments allegorical ('The Thousand and Tenth Day of the Human Totem Pole'), rhythmic ('Ink Mathematics') and strangely wistful/wistfully strange ('Cardboard Cutout Sundown'). Many have mourned the departure of Captain Beefheart from the world of music but I'm happy with what he left us.

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