on July 18, 2004
I remember the first time I heard this album I was simultaneously confused, and intrigued. My little stoned teenage brain couldn't comprehend the good Captain's music. Was this for real? Was it a joke? Yes to both questions. The music to be found on this album is absurd, polyrhythmic, complex, yet melodic and humorous. Its one of the only albums to make me laugh out loud with bemused joy.
Beefheart has a childlike delight in words for their own sake. The lyrics are very imagistic, "God please f--k my mind, for good" (as opposed to evil), sometimes nonsensical, and are delivered with all the styles in Beefhearts vocal arsenal. He moans, he screams, does his best Howling Wolf imitation, speaks his wickedly funny and clever lyrics and even sings a bit. Unlike much of his truly groundbreaking material like Trout Mask Replica or Lick My Decals Off Baby the music and lyrics are completely integrated. They compliment one another to a degree not found in any other Beefheart album. Enough praise can not be given The Magic Band for they are truly magically sympathetic to Beefhearts eccentric vision. This may well be Captain Beefhearts best album. Certainly its his funniest and most entertaining. As the Captain says "I think this is the best batch yet"
Here are some lyrics from "Ashtray Heart"
"Each pillow is counted out like a rock
The Mother-father figure
Somebody had too much to think!
Send your mother home your navel
Case of the punks!
Stood behind the curtain while they crushed me out
You used me like an ashtray heart"
With lyrics like that you know its gotta be good Beefheart.
on June 5, 2004
When you think Beefheart, you think fractured, challenging, jerky, hoarse. Doc at the Radar Station is all that, but it's also exhilarating, rhythmic, passionate, exciting, and accessible. There's an energy and focus here that no other Beefheart album quite comes up to. Odd instruments are used for flavour, not simply to throw the listener off balance -- check the way the mellotron in "Sue Egypt" takes over and seems to throw the entire song off, and yet the strong pulse of the song is still pulling it onwards underneath. Then there's the tribal stomp of "Run Paint Run Run", the petulant sneer of "Best Batch Yet", the infectious party rock of "Dirty Blue Gene". "Dirty Blue Gene", of course, also shows off Beefheart's love of puns and wordplay. There's the obvious pun in the title; there's also the wry observation that all of Beefheart's music is mutant blues, with its own dirty blue gene. It's just an example of the layers of meaning that make this album so worth coming back to. If only it was available in the US!
on November 20, 2002
The Captain is a strange & eccentric man, and not all of you will like this album. He's one of those I-don't-give-a-damn-what-you-think artists that we thought died out in the Beat era, and he's not afraid to throw in whatever suits him, lumps & all. This is why he scares many, but endears himself to those of us who dig him.
That being said, this is my absolute favorite Beefheart album, even more so than the infamous "Trout Mask Replica". Why? I think it's because this is the closest the Captain got to a punk/new wave album, but then again, everything he does is his own kinda' wave. There's more modern electric guitar upgrade on this than TMR which delves heavily into a puposely dirtied up Delta blues & folk setting instead. A new, younger Magic Band helps drive this into Pere Ubu territory & pull it off as cleanly as a Motown backing band behind Syd Barrett.
"Making Love To A Vampire With A Monkey On My Knee" is the acid test of listening to this album. In it, the Captain rants about a [messed] up hallucinatory situation that sounds to be Tom Waits on acid trying to describe that the monkey on his back has now crawled around to the front to look right in his eyes. Sound weird? Then Beefheart isn't for you. I get a kick out of it because whatever bad situation I'm in it couldn't possibly be as bad as this guy's, yet it's funny because it's so absurd you know it's not real. The cacophonous ending has to be heard ("DEATH BE DAMNED!...LIFE!")to be believed.
My favorite here is "Run Paint Run" another bittersweet piece of primal scream therapy. The Captain & the Magic Band make a frat house chant by way of Fellini out of an ode to dripping paint. It seems to say that letting it run naturally will give way to new insights that will free you like Jackson Pollock's tears or something.
Wild women muses show up here: The tempermental mistress in "Hot Head", the cruel hearted femme fatale that stubs out her cares on Beef's "Ashtray Heart", and the exotic "Sue Egypt", one of the album's best.
The tripping verse of "A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond" is a great ditty about humility.
"Best Batch Yet" seems to be about the opposite of "Run Paint Run". The artist is now satisfied with his work and has his technique under control.
All Beefheart albums are batches of riddles that are stetched on a canvas that echoes the likes of Salvador Dali or Francis Bacon. He's surreal, and sometimes this mode helps us
deal with aspects of existence that we hadn't considered.
Consider "Doc At The Radar Station" next time you're stuck in a rut.
on January 18, 2002
As a Unitarian, and a housewife, I often find myself wondering about the music my kids listen to these days. I am not "down" with many of the gangster-rap groups my 12-year-old likes, but I do try to keep up and guide him and my daughter down a good path. Back in my younger days, I used to live in San Francisco and there I heard many of the progressive rock groups of the late '60s and early '70s. Among those was the Grateful Dead, Country Joe and His Fish, Santana, the Flaming Groovies, Frank Zappa and many others, including Captain Beefheart. I have always liked Captain Beefheart, especially "Safe as Milk" and "The Spotlight Kid," as I have always thought the Blues have an element of religious feeling to them. When we moved away and I began a new life, I forgot about Captain Beefheart. Then one day a few months ago I bought this CD used in a small "independent" record shop, and I immediately fell in love with it. It does contain some harsh imagery and some swear words but it is just the right thing for those rushed and tense afternoons when I am trying to get ready for the kids' arrival from school, or preparing a meal. As you can imagine, many of my friends find this music frightening, but I think they are missing out on a wonderful and surrealistic experience. My husband Ben also likes it, as it fits in well with his time on the Stairmaster after work. From what I have been able to find out, Captain Beefheart is now a painter, and has suffered from a debilitating disease, and I would like to extend my hope that he is happy in his career now, and that he overcomes his disability. Now I am going to get "Abraxas" on CD and see how well it stands up to the new millenium.
on March 25, 2001
First of all, to correct one of the reviewers here, "Ashtray Heart" is NOT about punk bands ripping beefy off, or any nonsense like that. All you have to do is listen to the bloody song to realize that!!!! It's about a dame, broad, chick, bird, or shela for our Australian friends... probably the same fictional (?) chick he's singin about in "Long Neck Bottles"... As for my critique of D.A.T.R.S., it is without a doubt beefy and the magic band's most AGGRO album. "BRick Bats", "Sue Egypt", and "Run, Paint, Run Run" are some of my favorites. If you listen to nothing else that I have to say about this album heed this warning: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY WHILE LISTENING TO THIS ALBUM!!!!! Clear Spot/Spotlight Kid or Safe As Milk are MUCH BETTER driving albums... This one is dangerous...
on September 25, 2003
Doc remains a very refreshing and engaging listen 23 years after it's first appearance. Something to titilate the intellect with a tapestry of close miked guitars with trombone here and a mellotron there making fine use of the stereo soundstage. The recording quality is bell clear, and because of the 'dry' sound Doc sounds more vital than, say, Trout Mask Replica, which these days I regard with an historical perspective. The ideas here are solid and there is terrific economy in the execution of the pieces, however complex, so they hold the listeners attention and are very very entertaining. I sense that this music must have been a lot of fun to play and the band are up to the task.
Brazen Punk and garage band swagger with the passionate gutsy vocal histrionics that aficiandos have come to expect from Konzert Meister Van Vliet.
on December 9, 2000
Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) was a great comeback for Van Vliet,but unfortunately I can't be as enthusiastic about this follow-up to that great record. I rarely listen to Doc At The Radar Station,which received praise from all over back when it was released in 1980, although I admit it has it's moments, "Ashtray Heart" being my favorite. Too much off it chugs along in a similar abrasive manor that makes one's ears tired at the end. Eric Drew Feldman's mellotron seems strangely out of place and innapropriate in the spots where it appears.I think Ice Cream For Crow was an improvement over Doc,much more accessible certainly, despite what anyone says.If you want to appreciate Beefheart,don't make Doc your first purchase.
on February 9, 2004
The Ex and I happened to catch the good Captain on SNL (back when it was funny) when punk was new to the scene and this album was newly released. Her previous experience with the Captain was to catch a small piece of Trout Mask, then buy me a headset for my stereo. The band came on doin' Hot Head. "This guy created punk," she said. "Yup. Lots more, very bulbous." Later on Cap performed Ash Tray Heart. We were dancing, and her eyes teared. I pulled out Trout Mask, and she still loathed it. By the time I got this record home, she'd left. I still think we'd be together today had she stayed and danced to Ash Tray Heart again. I still dance to it. This music is immortal.
on September 15, 2000
One of my desert-island discs. When I recommend it to people, I encourage them to listen past the angular rhythms and dramatic vocals to perceive what is my favorite quality of the record: its atmosphere of joyful creativity in a relaxed communal setting. Picture the Magic Band working out these tunes in the sunny living room of the Captain's California digs and you'll see what I mean. ("Double Nickels on the Dime" by the Minutemen, another beloved classic, also has this cheery vibe. Buy it today!)
on May 2, 2001
his best album since lick me decals off baby, it's back to 'hard to listen to music' . great musicianship of course. Bruce fowler on trombone is one of my faves. there is great rhythm on this album. standouts are 'sue egypt' 'run paint' 'dirty blue gene'