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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Listen To This While High: 'Clear Spot' By Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

Posted By on Tue, Dec 21, 2010 at 3:00 PM


Hear this while high: "Clear Spot," by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.

Behind the buzz: Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the rock blogosphere's reaction to last week's passing of the great Don Van Vliet is all that genuine grief is on behalf of an artist who hasn't made an album in twenty-eight years. Indeed, Ice Cream for Crow, beloved as his 1982 swan-croak is now, was greeted upon release the blank incomprehension customarily accorded the rest of his catalog. Music fans of the Seventies and Eighties -- as inured to radio-borne weirdness as Devo and Dr. Demento could make them -- shied away from the Captain's singular recordings, but the influence of albums like Trout Mask Replica and Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) on later indie rock is undeniable. "Zig Zag Wanderer" and "Candle Mambo" might sound startlingly contemporary today, but "Clear Spot" (title joint off his 1972 album) is just plain startling. Built on a swamp-snaky guitar line slightly reminiscent of CCR's "Born on the Bayou," the song deploys similar sweathog Dixie poetics to choppy, comic effect, with the late Captain bellowing "Vegetations hot/Sleepin' in a bayou on a old rotten cot" with unhinged conviction. The LP originally came out in America in a clear plastic sleeve, which is admittedly a long way for Reprise to go for the sake of a Joycean pun.

Today's weed: Fire O.G., a heavyweight indica strain popular in Los Angeles, where I spent most of last weekend.

Psychoactive verdict: This song is one long giggle from the Captain's opening croak of having to run so far to find a "clear spot," whatever that means. Veteran Beefhearties know better than to question the Captain's gnomic wisdom in these matters. For teahead audiophiles, the fun comes in hearing standard components of the era's psychedelic hard rock hacked and distorted into a kind of jukebox Cubism. Even so Strontium-heavy a strain as F.O.G. can do little to improve upon the joyous jabbering lunacy of this song, though it imparts enough distance from it to make you dance.

The part where you know you're high: The fakeroo ending at 2:33 gets you again on the second hearing.

The part where you wish you were higher: The actual fadeout at 3:40 doesn't make any difference, as the rattletrap riff continues to batter its way to earworm status in your head.

Palate cleanser: The Bee Gees' "Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You" is admittedly a drastic anti-earworm measure, but it's either that or "Montague Terrance (in Blue)" and one should hesitate before dropping a Scott Walker bomb under such psychically dicey circumstances.

Which Beefheart tune sounds best after a bong rip? Tell us on Twitter, or post a link to the song on our Facebook page.

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Ron Garmon


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