Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band - Lick My Decals Off, Baby (1970), 8/10

Lick My Decals Off, Baby showcases a more modern, concise, and focused approach compared to its monstrous predecessor, Trout Mask Replica. While still embodying the creative spirit and virtuosity that defined Beefheart in its era, Decals demonstrates a tighter artistic vision, centered around environmental concerns and a specific sonic aesthetic. The album's more streamlined direction sets it apart from the sprawling nature of its older brother, allowing for a more accessible listening experience, within reason. While personal preference may vary among fans who intimately know the band's discography, Decals undeniably maintains the synergy and cohesion of the band. In fact, it showcases the group in a (marginally) healthier state, with a clearer sense of purpose. Despite its merits, however, it often lives in the colossal shadow of its predecessor whether that is justified or not. Despite that fact, the album brims with endless great ideas and exceptional execution while successfully carrying out its artistic vision with a high level of creativity and uniqueness. Decals boasts a super-tight tracklist, where each song contributes to the story and the journey. Van Vliet delivers exceptionally creative lyricism throughout the album, Bill Harkleroad takes the reins in terms of musical direction and proves to be as proficient as French was on Trout Mask Replica. The more accessible tape recorders of the time played a significant role in enhancing the band's creativity, allowing for efficient and rapid honing of Don's ideas by Bill. The instrumentals on the album showcase the band's undeniable talent, particularly in standout moments like "Peon" and "Japan in a Dishpan." The band wastes no time in grabbing your attention, starting with the powerful and captivating title track, followed by one of my all time personal favorites in "Doctor Dark." "Bellerin' Plain" emerges as one of the most enjoyable tracks from Beefheart's entire discography, alongside the incredibly frantic and creative "Japan in a Dishpan." "The Buggy Boogie Woogie" infectiously embodies the spirit of Beefheart's composition ideals at the time, leading to outstanding performances in "Space-Age Couple" and "The Clouds Are Full of Wine (Not Whiskey or Rye)," showcasing both the band's musical prowess and Don's exceptional vocals. Lick My Decals Off, Baby stands as a one-of-a-kind record, further solidifying the revolutionary status of Beefheart, and The Magic Band as a unit during this era. For a deeper understanding of the band's inception and the creation of this album, I recommend diving into Bill Harkleroad's book Lunar Notes which provides insightful background.