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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Book Review: Trout Mask Replica by Kevin Courrier (33 1/3 Series)

Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica
Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band

by Kevin Currier
Continuum Press 2007
33 1/3 Series

             I bought this book at M Theory records sometime in 2008, and it sat on my book shelf till about last week, when I read a Last Blog on Earth post where Seth Combs slagged this record.  Which is funny, because I bought this book in an attempt to understand Trout Mask Replica, an album I have never liked.  Appreciated?  Perhaps.  Not really, though.  I also bought this book because I've been meaning to delve into the 33 1/3 series: Each book about a different album, even though to me it seems to embody everything about popular music culture I hate.
            From this book I learned the following interesting facts:  Frank Zappa and Don Van Vliet grew up together in Lancaster CA.  Frank Zappa did really well for himself while hardly embodying indpendent culture outside of the music he actually produced.  Don Van Vliet is a crazy a**hole.  Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica was inspired by Southern Blues and the combination of free jazz and beat poetry.  Trout Mask Replica should not be considered a "DIY" record, or really a part of DIY culture, because Zappa had plenty of money to do what he wanted.
           In fact, I think that the self-indulgent sonic experimentalism that this record released is, in the end, a total fucking disaster.  I think that the attitude that Beefheart embodies, that of the dedicated romantic artist trodding on his own path come hell or high water, is literally, the stupidest thing an artist could do.  DIY is about the mode of production and the relationship between artists and the music industry.  DIY is not (or should not be) about self-indulgent jazz fusion combined with ripping off African American blues artists from the 20s.  In fact, Trout Mask Replica is more like a wierd off-shoot of the late 60s southern california MOR Rock scene then a precursor of DIY culture.
           Despite the fact that I found nothing to love about Trout Mask Replica in this book, I thought the 33 1/3 series well represented.  Probably the best service these books provide is by compiling out of print magazine interviews with the artist involved.  I will probably buy more.  As for Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band?  Well, I think everyone needs to understand where Trout Mask Replica came from, even if you don't like it.

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