1978, Music

Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (1978) by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

For some reason, so much of my experience of Beefheart is tied up with Safe as Milk and Trout Mask Replica, and how the latter is such a huge departure from a former, that when I hear latter Beefheart records that are closer in spirit to his early work than Trout Mask Replica I’m not sure what to do, even if that record is probably not indicative of his oeuvre (the most I listen to him the more that seems to be true).

The thing that seems crazy to me about this record is that it is in recognizable time signatures, signatures that you could actually dance to in some cases. I can’t tell you how much of a surprise that is, even though I probably should have seen it coming. Had I listened to this when I first heard Trout Mask Replica when I was a young music snob, I probably would have had some hot take about how Beefheart was selling out, or some such thing. Fortunately I’m older and wiser and I appreciate the rhythmic feel of this. (Also: discernible, sometimes catchy, melodies. Imagine that.)

There is a crazy story behind this record but I don’t know whether or not the story adds to the experience of listening to what has to be one of Beefheart’s most accessible successful records. In fact, the more I listen to it, the more I think it’s this after Safe as Milk as the way into Beefheart’s discography for anyone put off by his reputation.

Beefheart’s lyrics are still fairly impenetrable and he’s still not for most people, but this is enjoyable even outside of whatever intellectual appreciation you have for it, which isn’t always true with the Captain.

All tracks written by Don Van Vliet

  1. “The Floppy Boot Stomp” 3:51
  2. “Tropical Hot Dog Night” 4:49
  3. “Ice Rose” 3:38
  4. “Harry Irene” 3:43
  5. “You Know You’re a Man” 3:14
  6. “Bat Chain Puller” 5:27
  7. “When I See Mommy I Feel Like a Mummy” 5:04
  8. “Owed t’Alex” 4:07
  9. “Candle Mambo” 3:24
  10. “Love Lies” 5:03
  11. “Suction Prints” 4:25
  12. “Apes-Ma” 0:40
  • Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) – vocals, harmonica, soprano sax, whistling
  • Bruce Lambourne Fowler – trombone, air bass
  • Jeff Moris Tepper – slide guitar, guitar, spell guitar
  • Eric Drew Feldman – synthesizer, Rhodes piano, grand piano, bass
  • Robert Arthur Williams – drums, percussion
  • Richard Redus – slide guitar, bottleneck guitar, guitar, accordion, fretless bass

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