Rock Primer: How to Start Listening to Captain Beefheart

Much like the efforts we take to write more, exercise more, drink less, spend less, work harder, take more time for ourselves and family, etc. etc., we also make resolutions at the beginning of a new year to change our cultural consumption habits as well. Maybe you’d like to visit more art museums, or read at least three historical non-fictions by the end of the year. Maybe you also want to start listening to an artist that you never really considered listening to before. Here at Electric Comic Book, we are dedicated to helping you get the most out of your musical experience, and so, we’d like to offer this short Rock Primer on how to appreciate a classic artist that can seem daunting to jump right into. Our first subject to this new feature is the notoriously intimidating Captain Beefheart.

Whether you’ve read past essays on this site on the life, times, and death of the good captain (aka Dan Van Vliet), Captain Beefheart still remains a mystifying and daunting figure for both the myths and legends behind his personal life, but also what’s actually on the records. While many of them are worthy of acclaim after years of gestating in the critical back shelf, it seems that since his death in 2010, interest in Captain Beefheart’s music has enjoyed a slight upswing as other critics (namely, Rolling Stone, who, I’ll admit, put together a good list of songs, but not albums) pointed to his ‘best stuff’ in their  eulogies — many of which pointed to his masterpiece, 1969’s Trout Mask Replica.  However, because it does remain a haunting, challenging listen — even now, and after I published last week I would sooner turn that album on at a party before White Light/White Heat — the focus of his ‘best’ is not the intention here. This primer will be a guide for those who still look upon the Captain’s work with trepidation, and need a guide on dipping your toes in first before diving in to the rest of the Beefheart legacy. And even though many of your favorite artists will be quick to cite him as an influence, and usually point to Trout Mask Replica as the starting point (indeed it was for me), there are some who are still unable to make the plunge. Mind you, among the artists who consider Beefheart an influence include (but are not limited to): Tom Waits, Jack White, Kurt Cobain, John Frusciante, Black Francis, John Cale, Little Feat, the Clash, Johnny Rotten, Beck, the Black Keys, Beck, and Matt Groening — who got the Magic Band to reunite for the year he curated All Tomorrow’s Parties. And if you like any of them, chances are you’ll find something to love about the shambling, intentionally mad, silly darkness and intentionally ‘wrong’ music of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. And for that, we don’t start with his most well-known work, but in a some safer territory.  

After the Jump: Loving One of Rock’s Most Difficult Personas. 

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Another Spin: “White Light/White Heat” by the Velvet Underground

Without any kind of expectations, without anything in my slate of things-to-do, my roommate and co-writer of a potential comedy troupe/series has fostered upon me a Very Lou Reed Kinda Christmas this year. Er. . . Hanukkah, in my case.

After scouring the record shops that he and I regularly frequent, he bought a copy of White Light/White Heat behind my back, and offered it to me on the fifth night of Hanukkah.  Indeed, it is missing from my collection, but it’s one I did not think I would so readily miss. I bought the album on CD, and short of one awkward car-ride listen and several attempts to reconcile the album’s extremely polarizing nature (both within itself and in criticism of the Velvet Underground’s avant-garde improvisation and their lyrical content), I haven’t really had the chance sit down with it and judge it for what it is: The 293rd entry on Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500 list of the ‘greatest albums ever made.’ For those of you playing at home, that means that (in the immediate sense), the MC5’s Kick Out the Jams is slightly worse than White Light/White Heat, which is marginally better than Bob Dylan and the Band releasing The Basement Tapes. But hey, it’s Rolling Stone, so take what you will, with many grains of salt.

After the Jump: A good reason why everyone should try heroin at least once, okay? Okay? Here we go. 

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Bootleg: Talking Heads at Stardust Ballroom, in LA September 28, 1979


Every once in a while, I get on these kicks for the Talking Heads. I was never a huge fan growing up, and I still prefer the primitive-but-arty qualities of their CBGB brethren, Television. But, unfortunately, Television’s relative inaccessibility compared to Talking Heads’ innate funkiness leaves me wanting more bootlegs than I’m able to find. There’s some out there, but not as many as I would hope — nothing like The Blow-Up or Live at the Old Waldorf, but those are also official. Oh well.

Still, hearing a bootleg from that era of any of the CBGB bands is something special to behold, and this one thus far has been my favorite. Blog-friend Sarah sent it over to me this morning, and it has vastly improved my mood despite being sick.

At this show, the Talking Heads seem to be embracing a little more of the wilder aspects of ‘punk,’ sounding far more aggressive than usual, while David Byrne is deeper into his nervous stage persona. He growls through his teeth, shakes, and sweats throughout the show, while the rest of the band match his fervor with intense attack and release. There’s tension in this show, and gives me reason to enjoy Talking Heads a little bit more.

Check it out over at Aquarium Drunkard.

Celebrating Puerto Rico’s Move Toward Statehood.

Album Review: Tame Impala – “Lonerism”

“This could be the day that we push through / the day that all our dreams come through / For me, turning at the end just to look.”

When you think of the title, and look at the album cover of Tame Impala’s second album, Lonerism, you build an assumption that this is a record that’s going to come across with certain attachments the whole ‘us and them’ mystique that a lot of prog and psych records peddle either so cheaply, or make it a hallmark of the genre. You’re not listening or experiencing a proper psychedelic album unless you’re turned on to what we’re talking about. The whole ‘are you experienced?’ trip, but combined with the kind of pastoral folk sentiment that makes me loathe to listen to stuff that concentrates on sounding like the product of a fairly entrepreneurial communal farm. Lonerism could have been that simple-as-fucking hell album, and in many ways, it is. But that’s also because Kevin Parker, the band’s chief architect for these walls of sound, gets it better than any one else who tries their hand at neo-psych these days. And while many will harp on trying to pick out the influences one by one (a fun game on any rainy day for those of us who care about the trivia), it’s more important to point out that he crafts this stuff like an old master, but still takes the time to get the record to sound painfully personal, and that is a task that goes beyond the intimacy of good lyrics.

After the Jump, Tame Impala shows that there’s not so much an ‘us’ and ‘them.’

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Video: Pavement, “Stereo” Live on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”

As with any Pavement live performance, the best part is where Malkmus doesn’t give any fucks.

But knowing that this was recorded just before the Tibetan Freedom concert, I can’t help but think that Bob Nostanovich’s scat singing after the second verse is kind of a dig at the Beastie Boys.

Store Review: Co-Op 87

Admittedly, the name originally turned me off. Something in Greenpoint, Brooklyn called “Co-Op 87” conjured up images of dry, flavorless baked goods, home-made knicknacks culled from dumpsters, and all manner of screen printed   what-have-yous. For about a year, I would pass by the sandwich board, perched at the end of Guernsey St. in Greenpoint outside of the beer hall just outside of McCarren Park, and assume that “Co-op 87” would not be a proper record shop, but this could not be further from the truth. It took my own indulgence in new age living (more on that in a later post, trust me, it’s related) to finally break down and take a look at this little shop tucked away on Guernsey Street, not far from McCarren Park and a few of the other more recent landmarks of the area. To say the least, this dismissal was a tremendous mistake, as Co-Op 87 is actually something of a gem for such a small shop in a fairly out-of-the-way shop.

Not that it’s an uncommon characteristic of any other shop in Greenpoint, be it the unusual Heaven Street, or the other Electric Comic Book-favorite, Permanent Records. But where Heaven Street excels at stocking up on curios and Permanent caters to a little bit of everything, Co-Op 87 strikes a balance between having some of the more important releases in most bands discography, and having a few interesting finds in between. But moreso than any other record shop in the area, they go out of their way to find the finest quality in all of their bins.

More Co-Op action after the jump.

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Why We Rank: An Introspective

Fig. 1: Some Kind of Point I’m Trying to Make.

Let’s forget about what a year-end review means in terms of best-ofs, or how records reflect the zeitgeist of a generation, a time, a country, a political movement, etc.. And beyond favorite songs that you can think of off the top of your head. Let’s forget about all of that.

If you seriously sit down and think about the songs that have influenced your taste in music more than above all else, I think you will find that the songs within the top ten will be more revealing than you think. Lately, I’ve been thinking less about the songs that I like because I instantly feel good upon hearing their opening riffs or notes, or about the songs I turn to when I feel blue, or the songs when I need to get a party started. Instead, I’ve been thinking about songs I legitimately respect, and love at the same time.

These are the songs that do so much at once for us personally. Not talking about firsts here — I don’t care about songs by artists that were the first to use a counterpoint guitar solo — a distinction, I’m going to assume, was Frank Zappa’s anyway, but I’m too busy/lazy to check. And I’m certainly not talking about personal firsts. I could give a damn about the song you heard upon your first kiss, or the first song you turned to when you learned that mom got custody and it just pissed you off, blah, blah, blah. Doesn’t matter. But I’m not necessarily talking about the songs that, in any mood, you include in a list or play over and over.

I’m talking about the songs that make you respect music as an artform, but also derive a degree of pleasure from. That simultaneous quality of being, above all else, good and capable of bringing happiness to the sedated masses. But also the quality of being a well-crafted, obviously labored-over piece of artwork on behalf of both the principal songwriter and the performer(s) who bring it to life.

Without going into a terrible amount of detail, I believe I have a personal three. But before I post my own three, I want to hear from the fans out there: What are the three most influential pieces of music in your life that are not only good and fun to listen/dance to, but also make you really think about music as an art piece? Post your answers here, as well as your reasoning behind each choice. Hell, go into extreme detail, and list why it ranks above all others.

Not saying the following is numero uno, but it belongs in my top three.

Talking Heads, Live at CBGB, Dec. 1975.

Well, well, well. Lookie at what we found here! The title says it all, folks! In glorious black and white, awkward-vision!

Set List:

1) “Psycho Killer”

2) “Tentative Decisions”

3) “With Our Love”

4) “I Wish You Wouldn’t Say That”

5) “I’m Not In Love”

6) “96 Tears”

7) “No Compassion”

Review: King Khan and the Shrines at the House of Vans (with the Everymen, Nicky Da B).

All Photos by Charles Poladian,

Dark clouds rolled over Brooklyn in the most ominous way on Thursday, July 26th. Dense layers of storm clouds gave an early sundown over the House of Vans in Greenpoint, where music lovers are treated to a concert within their converted indoor skate park, and enjoy free brews and cheap eats outdoors. But as those clouds piled up and darkened the outdoor brew tables and grease trucks, fans were crowded inside early, and treated to an early start to a night of intense rock and roll salvation (with a break for some odd, gimmicky rap – more on that in a minute).

After the Jump: Soul, Psych, Gospel, and Rump Shakin’!

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