Captain Beefheart, “Pachuco Cadaver” from Trout Mask Replica (1969): One Track Mind

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I used to have this quote from Captain Beefheart’s “Pachuco Cadaver” printed on a small slip of paper on my office wall: A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast ‘n bulbous, got me?

People would come in there, read, and get a concerned look on their face. Despite the fact that I don’t really enjoy making my fellow human uncomfortable, those moments felt sort of exquisite. I guess that’s because I’ve always thought that our culture in general needed some stretching. “Safe” has always been the fallback position and what most would consider to be “out there” never made it past “mild” in my book.

Still, it’s not like Captain Beefheart was the sort of artist who was going to change a lot of minds. “Pachuco Cadaver,” which arrived this week in 1969 as part of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica, is some pretty bizarre stuff. It sounds like the blues band of the apocalypse, wasted on acid, cheap tequila, and the Howlin’ Wolf catalog.

I can’t even begin to understand what Mr. Van Vliet is getting at with the lyrics (Captain Beefheart cultists have their well thought-out ideas), but the music? It sets my mind on fire. The high point is the short-but-crazed horn solo that squeals in its circular, blissful logic.

Some people have described the music from Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica as a big, sloppy mess. It does have a certain loose quality, but if you pay close attention you’ll find that the instrumental interplay is impossibly tight, as if the band had been playing together for decades. From tales of the recording session, maybe it just seemed like an endless process. No matter, we’re all greater for their suffering.

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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