Agony Shorthand

Monday, May 12, 2003
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART & THE MAGIC BAND “SHINY BEAST (BAT CHAIN PULLER)”….Am I way off base here, or does this record kind of blow? I’ve had it peeping at me in the racks for years – it was part of my must-buy-everything-Beefheart-ever-released project of some time ago, and after giving this one a sympathy spin again this week, now I remember what it was that stopped me from completing the endeavor. Instead of the deadly demon blues and stuttered noise of previous, much-heralded efforts, this 1978 record is mostly turgid, half-assed boogie competing against the shadow of punk rock USA exploding all around them in Los Angeles. Oh all right, it’s got some pretty good exceptions – I think I’ll burn myself copies of the opening “The Floppy Boot Stomp” and “Owed T’Alex” – but this is the bored and uninspired late-period Captain Beefheart that so many compare with boring and uninspiring Frank Zappa, not the half-baked musical oracle who launched a thousand ideas in the same riff whom we know and revere. I want to dig it, really, but it’s impossibly limp & I just can’t get my Beefheart jones going. Can I get a witness here, folks?