Music: Trout Mask Replica
Frank Zappa: Okay, do it again, then we've won... Captain Beefheart:Captain Beefheart
(laughs) I love that, I love those words. The Mascara Snake: "Fast and bulbous!" Captain Beefheart: "That's right, The Mascara Snake, fast and bulbous." The Mascara Snake: "Bulbous, also tapered." Captain Beefheart: Yeah, but you've got to wait until I say, "Also, a tin teardrop." The Mascara Snake:
(snickering) Oh, Christ. Frank Zappa: All right. Again, beginning. The Mascara Snake: "Fast and bulbous!" Captain Beefheart: "That's right, The Mascara Snake, fast and bulbous. Also a tin teardrop." The Mascara Snake: "Bulbous, also tapered." Captain Beefheart: "That's right!"
— Intro to "Pena"
's most well known and notorious album. Released in 1969, and produced by Frank Zappa
, the record has never been a mainstream success, but became a Cult Classic
for anyone with an ear for the bizarre and experimental.Trout Mask Replica
is a good example of True Art Is Incomprehensible
, especially for first-time listeners. The record is known for its jagged rhythms, lack of traditional harmony and melodies and dissonant sounds. Many listeners give up after trying only a few songs or only playing it once. However, for the patient listener Trout Mask Replica
can be an experience that changes one's view of traditional harmony and melody.
Several avant-garde, progressive and alternative rock musicians have been influenced by Trout Mask Replica
's free, bizarre and adventurous spirit. Nowadays it's Vindicated by History
as a landmark album in rock music history.
Trope Mask Replica:
- Album Title Drop: "Old Fart at Play".
(...) the nose of the wooden mask / where the holes had just been a moment ago / was now smooth and amazingly blended camouflaged in / with the very intricate rainbow trout replica
- And Starring: Frank Zappa, producer of the record, can be heard on the tracks "Ella Guru", "Pena" and "The Blimp".
- The Mothers of Invention are responsible for the backing track of "The Blimp", as Zappa recorded guitarist Jeff Cotton reciting one of Beefheart's poems over the phone and then played it over the Mothers' previously-recorded instrumental "Charles Ives".
- Zappa's engineer Dick Kunc can be heard in the Studio Chatter of "She's Too Much for My Mirror"
- Bawdy Song: "Pena": "The smoke billowing up between her legs made me vomit beautifully."
- Control Freak: Beefheart forced his musicians to listen to his orders and wanted everything to sound exactly as he wanted it. He even recorded his vocal parts without ear phones, listening to the leakage from the studio, resulting in the lack of synchronisation between vocals and music (when asked about the synchronisation, he joked "That's what they do before a commando raid, isn't it?"). And when Zappa suggested the album be recorded in the band's house as an "ethnic field recording" (and because his engineer Dick Kunc had already been recording provisional backing tracks at the band's house; one of them made it to the album as "Hair Pie: Bake 1"), Beefheart suspected he was trying to record it cheaply and insisted it be recorded in an actual studio.
- Beefheart also physically, verbally, and mentally abused his musicians, forcing them to submit to him and beating them until they were in tears. He also put them on a subsistence diet (to the point that they were once arrested for shoplifting food, with Zappa having to bail them out), forced them to practice for up to 14 hours a day without leaving the house, and kept what drummer John French described as a "Manson-esque", "cultlike" atmosphere in the house they shared in Woodland Hills. (He also mentioned that he had to live on a small cup of soybeans a day for a month.) Beefheart later gave the excuse he was suffering from drug-induced paranoia and believed the musicians would conspire against him otherwise, though how this explains his throwing French down a flight of stairs while recording Lick My Decals Off, Baby and constantly underpaid them for touring (Beefheart and the managers were first paid from gross proceeds, then once expenses were paid what remained was divided amongst the band) is anyone's guess.
- Beefheart was most definitely not in a sane frame of mind during the writing of the album; he banned LSD from the band's house after he went down into the cellar on an acid trip, found mushrooms growing in a corner, and suffered a panic attack when he thought he'd discovered an alien life form invading the house.
- Cryptic Conversation: The intro to "Pena".
- Cryptically Unhelpful Answer: The intro to "Pachuco Cadaver": "A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast 'n bulbous, got me?"
- Darker and Edgier: Not only was Trout Mask Replica musically more extreme than Beefheart's previous albums (due to the fact that Zappa gave him total creative control!) but the lyrics were far more absurd and disturbing.
- "Dachau Blues" sings about the Holocaust.
- "Veteran's Day Poppy" is about a woman lamenting the death of one of her children during the war.
- "Ant Man Bee" tells about man's destruction of the environment.
- The tracks ''"Pachuco Cadaver," "Bill's Corpse", "Fallin' Ditch," and "China Pig" all feature death.
- "Pena" describes how a woman sitting on a turned-on waffle iron makes the protagonist "vomit beautifully," while "Neon Meate Dream of a Octafish" features a pun on the word "incest."
- Everything Has Rhythm: Patient listeners eventually discover that this record does have rhythm.
- Fictional Country: "Frownland"
- "Frownland" is what Beefheart calls someone else's negative outlook on life. He's saying he wants to enjoy the world without being put off by the cynicism of others around him. It's not literally about a country, although plenty of Beefheart-inspired fiction uses this as a setting.
- Fish People: Beefheart wears a carp's head on the cover, not a trout as the title implies. (Then again, it's a trout mask replica, so who knows.)
- Genre-Busting: Beefheart was originally a blues singer, but this album doesn't sound anything like it. It's too extreme for rock either and is usually categorized under avant garde or progressive rock. Sometimes it's categorized under "outsider music" as well.
- Except for "China Pig," which is standard blues, albeit with some slightly odd lyrics (and occasional porcine snorting).
- Grief Song: The mother in "Veteran's Day Poppy."
- Guttural Growler: Beefheart.
- Hobos: "Orange Claw Hammer" and "Hobo Chang Ba"
- Humans Are Bastards: Arguably a major theme throughout the album.
"The world can't forget that misery
An' the young ones now beggin' the old ones please
To stop bein' madmen 'fore they have t' tell their children
'bout the burnin's back in World War Three's..."
"All the ants in God's garden they can't get along
War still runnin' on
It's for that one lump uh sugar
That they won’t leave each other 'lone"
- "Steal Softly Thru Snow": "Man's lived a million years an' still he kills."
- In Harmony with Nature: "The Dust Blows Forward And The Dust Blows Back," "Sweet Sweet Bulbs," "Ant Man Bee," "Wild Life"
- Lyrical Dissonance: But then again, even the music is dissonant.
- Nature Hero: "Wild Life" is about a man who decides to go up to the mountains to live with the bears.
- The Poppy: "Veteran's Day Poppy"
- Pun-Based Title: "Sugar 'N Spikes" instead of the phrase "sugar and spice."
- Record Producer: Frank Zappa.
- Sanity Slippage Song: Multiple examples, but most obviously in "Orange Claw Hammer": "God, before me if I'm not crazy is my daughter!"
- Self-Deprecation: After the vaguely pretentious-sounding poem "Old Fart at Play" concludes, a bit of studio chatter is left in, with a band member saying "Oh, man, that's heavy."
- Something Blues: "Dachau Blues" and "My Human Gets Me Blues"
- Shrouded in Myth: The entire album is the stuff of legends.
- Stage Names: Beefheart gave his band members new, colorful stage names during the preparation of this album, including "Zoot Horn Rollo" (guitarist Bill Harkleroad), "Antennae Jimmy Semens" (guitarist Jeff Cotton), "The Mascara Snake" (clarinetist Victor Hayden), "Rockette Morton" (bassist Mark Boston) and "Drumbo" (drummer John French).
- Stop and Go: "When Big Joan Sits Up", after the line "she's out of reach".
- Starving Artist: The entire band was on welfare during the gestation of the album. Some of the band members were once arrested for stealing food because of the starvation diet they were all reduced to, with Zappa bailing them out.
- Studio Chatter: The page quote.
- Throw It In: Seeing as Frank Zappa was fond of this, it's unsurprising that a certain amount of studio chatter was left in some of the spoken-word tracks.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Every track with lyrics.
- World of Chaos: Beefheart's lyrics and topics defy the laws of physics.
- World War Three: Mentioned in "Dachau Blues"