CAPTAIN BEEFHEART AND THE MAGIC BAND
ICE CREAM FOR CROW
Desert genius says good-bye to music on early-'80s albums
Nobody knew that Don Van Vliet's 1980 and 1982 albums would plunge the reclusive avant-faux bluesman into silence, but in retrospect you can hear it coming. Compared to 1978's goofy, songful Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), Doc at the Radar Station is as two-dimensional as the painting that soon proved Van Vliet's sole artistic passion. A typically deep, jagged, bent and unpredictable realization of his musical vision -- which was roughly triangulated by Howlin' Wolf, Ornette Coleman and Pere Ubu, with surrealist poetry for content -- it's certainly powerful. But despite a few Mellotron flourishes, it's also forbidding, definitely not the work of someone who takes much joy in lyricism or humor. Ice Cream for Crow, recorded with a reconstituted Magic Band featuring tireless guitarist Gary Lucas, is less of the same. Beefheart could be aimless or misguided. This music is neither. But it is the end.
Blender, Dec. 2006