Sunday, September 24, 2006

song of the week: tropical hotdog night

Okay, I admit it – I don’t get Captain Beefheart. I really tried with Trout Mask Replica, honest I did, but I really believe life is too short to spend trying to force yourself to like something because you 'should'.

Saying that, I have forced myself and been forced to come to terms with peppers, Geoffrey Chaucer and ironing and I now (quite) enjoy all of these necessary evils, so I am prepared to concede that I may, one day, come to terms with Captain Beefheart. Although I'm pretty sure that this day is a fair way into the future, perhaps I'm one step closer.

Homo Ludens very kindly made me an excellent double compilation, entitled, of course ‘I’m playing this music so the young girls will come out to meet the monster tonight’. I immediately stuck it on my i-pod without inputting any of the track's or artist’s names, so imagine my shock when my initial favourite track was by Captain Beefheart. Could it be that he had actually created something my ears found listenable as opposed to torturous and confusing?

So, perhaps there is hope for me yet, as Tropical Hotdog Night is this week’s (belated) song of the week. It’s so daft, I love it.

Superficially I suppose you could argue it sounds rather shambolic, but everything in it conspires to make it a truly genius song. The restrained, low-key opening lulls you into thinking this is a rather conventional guitar-based 70’s party track, especially the poppy little lead into the verse. And then he starts singing / speaking / preaching.

The flirty little carnivalesque backing, muted but enthusiastic parps from a trumpet and '70s guitar jangles provide the perfect accompaniment to, I must admit, one of the greatest vocal performances I have heard in a long long time. Frenzied, raspy, part crazy preacher-man with just the right level of creepy heavy breathing and playfulness, I adore it.

If you’re not familiar with this song, it’s really difficult to describe and do full justice to, so I implore all Beefheart virgins and non-believers to give this a go. I suppose the best I can say is that if Tropical Hot Dog Night was a drink, it would be 5-Alive spiked with the most noxious hooch available to under-age teenagers – random and wrong but makes you feel good.


At 24 September, 2006 23:03 , Blogger paddington said...

Glad I've broken through the Captain's hoodoo. There is plenty of accessible Beefheart stuff out there - your song of the week is from Shiny Beast (probably his best album), but Clear Spot is also a good one for Van Vliet virgins. It has a lot of Philly style horns on it - it could almost be a Isley Brothers album at times ... until the Captain starts singing, of course.

This may fall on deaf ears, but stick with Trout Mask Replica. Because it is so unlike anything else ever recorded, it takes a bit of experimenting with. So if you've tried it as an accompaniment to doing the washing-up, or having a shower, or walking through the park, and it still hasn't got under your skin, keep going.

Maybe it'll work on headphones at 2 in the morning, or maybe it'll work going up the escalator at Brixton Tube. Maybe you'll be sober as a judge, maybe you'll be as merry as a Christmas cake. Perhaps you'll be down a pothole in Wales, or maybe 30,000 metres in the air.

But eventually, all those opaque chords and squealing saxophones and jarring rhythms will all click into place, and Trout Mask Replica will make perfect sense. In fact, you'll wonder why all records don't sound like it.

I promise...

At 25 September, 2006 18:08 , Blogger minifig said...

I'm not sure I've got time in my life to listen to it that many times...

At 26 September, 2006 15:53 , Blogger Alexandra said...

I've listened to Trout Mask Replica approxmiately twice, and I like it for its...uniqueness, but I wouldn't listen to it for pleasure. Perhaps I should give it another go.

I think my introduction to Beefheart was with the mad performance of "Upon the My-O-My" on the OGWT.


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