With the likes of Frank Zappa and the folk-rock undertones, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band are an exceptional catalyst for the strange. Their debut record Safe As Milk is fairly easy on the ears but has subtly behind the odd and experimental. With the now seventh exhibition, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band is more tame and less frightening as a main road approaches out of the shanty towns and into the smog of the big city.
Much of Clear Spot has these Louisiana-styled bayou instrumentals like “Circumstances” or even the title track, “Clear Spot.” The title track especially is easy to fall in love with for these strummed metallic strings and pounding drums on the track are foundational bricks that stick to the mud with no problem at all.
The cover from Mark Lanegan is more of an homage, but the direct vein to the source gives an appreciation for the 1972 sound. Captain Beefheart’s vocals alone are poetic but describe a Southern cowboy adventure. “Sun’s all hottin’ and a-rottin’ hot, swamp’s all rotten ‘n’ stinkin’. Vegetation’s hot, sleeping in a bayou on an old rotten cot.” As the drum circle picks up, Beefheart describes, “Can’t find my kind of folks havin’ fun, I have to run, run, run, run, run to find a clear spot. Can’t shadow down on the sun big brown, mosquitos ‘n’ moccasins steppin’ all around.”
Though the heated adventure might end with “Clear Spot,” the record holds much in the form of being a riverboat poker game in the intense summer night. Where six-shooters are drawn at the idea of being a cheat, “Long Neck Bottles” is reminiscent of a bar jamboree where Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band plays the tunes for a shootout.
The instrumentals create nearly no-tension, but continue to rise with this dusty production over and over that gives Clear Spot an identity of recognizable sound. There are moments of being easy on the ears with “Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles” where the guitar and Captain Beefheart are almost the only entities on the track. Speaking nearly directly to the audience as an isolated performance, Clear Spot shows times of less of a rugged wrangler and more of a gentle ranger.
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band still is a strange step away from the normalcy of sound, but this isn’t Trout Mask Replica and has no real similarities to the overwhelming and shockingly different. Clear Spot is nearly a safe bet for any lizard under the sun that wants nearly 40-minutes of warmth.