Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Doc at the Radar Station (1980), 8/10

An oddly catchy and infectious record for Beefheart, yet perhaps almost as bizarre and brave as anything the band ever released. To my ears this is a true return to greatness after a very lackluster run of records throughout the mid 1970s; despite Shiny Beast also being a formidable record, it was not host to Beefheart's trademark flavor of endearing insanity. The blend of oddball songwriting and sonics mixed with sparse but present traditional song structures in tracks like "Hot Head", "Sue Egypt", and "Sheriff of Hong Kong" make Doc at the Radar Station a unique album experience and one of their best. "Hot Head" is about as straight forward of an introduction as you can find in comparison to what is to come, followed by the rollercoaster of groove and madness that is "Ashtray Heart", the instrumentally captivating and soothing "A Carrot Is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond", and the again uncharacteristically straightforward chant in "Run Paint Run". The one two punch of hysteria in "Sue Egypt" and "Brickbats" is what makes Doc a dismaying yet formidable, marvelous album experience. "Brickbats" is most definitely a highlight, combining Don's classic paranoia with overflowing creativity, along with some stellar musicianship from the whole group. There is perhaps no more fitting closer than the maniacal, animalistic piece "Making Love to a Vampire With a Monkey on My Knee" and its stirring balladry. Notably across the whole record we get an impressive variety of vocal performances from Don, showing some of his versatility and unique styles that are rarely presented so extensively in one album. Drumbo makes an assortment of contributions including guitar, vocals and of course percussion that add significantly at key moments in the record. While Doc doesn't quite stand up to the impassably high bar of Beefheart's greats in Trout Mask Replica and Decals, it has still earned a place among their better albums and certainly their most inspired and inventive.