Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band – The Smithsonian Institute Blues (Or The Big Dig)

• “The Smithsonian Institute Blues (Or The Big Dig)” set to a picture of the housing album cover. Thanks to MrWzzzW.

9.3 “Classic Blues Rock / Soul Rock from the USA”

From their album “Lick My Decals Off, Baby” (Straight RS-6420) in 1970.

I can barely move forwards for glancing back in my music project. Perceived “key album” gaps continually nag me, what can I say? Just a few short weeks back I finally got with Beefhearts’ 4th, from which todays track was boss. “Sure looks funny to see a new dinosaur in an old dinosaur’s shoes“. No one twists your mind quite like the good Captain.

My album review:

Following on from “Trout Mask Replica” 18 months earlier, the mad gruff one and his crazy gang began the 1970s with “Lick My Decals Off, Baby” which was in the shops in time for Christmas ‘70. The free jazz complexity of the group is still very much “in their system” unfortunately but, generally speaking, there are more accessible concessions on-board this time around, relatively speaking. It’s the “conventional” rockers which do it best for me – “I Love You, You Big Dummy” is best from side 1 – those riffs sure slam it home. “Quit asking why, I love you big dummy”. Alpha male romance or what? “The Smithsonian Institute Blues (Or The Big Dig)” seems completely wonky, but it reaches depths which are beyond most bands. Despite threatening to fall apart at any given minute, the thing hangs together majestically. To sound this haphazard is an art in itself. His advice to the “Space-Age Couple” is clear and to the point: “Why don’t you drop your cool tom-foolery, ‘n shed your nasty jewelry?” These wild dance rhythms are post-post-punk. The real killer ingredient, as ever, is Don Van Vliet himself; his drawl and his wordplay are a sheer joy. “What this world needs is a good $2 room and a good $2 broom”. Culture-rich and cash-poor is the continuing story.

You can read the rest of my favoured album reviews from 1970 here.


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