The music of Captain Beefheart, a.k.a. Don Van Fliett, leads one to an instant analysis: He is a manic expressive.
Beefheart, who played four sold-out shows at the Childe Harold over the weekend, is something of a rock legend, based as much on personal style as musical substance. After years of experimenting Beefheard entered a high-energy, ultra-progressive, insistently unconventional and original creative phase. He has yet to abandon it.
His first album, released 12 years ago, featured amateur musicians specially trained by Beefheart in the rhythmically jagged fundamentalism of his frequently minimalist musical vision. Hearing his new Magic Band indicates that things don't seem to have changed there either.
Listeners to love the music or hate it; some actually pretend to understand it. Coherence, musical or lyrical, is a state that is entered only occasionally by Beefheart, but such is his charisma that almost everyone who hears him is intrigued, fascinated.
There is a blues underpinning on too much of Beefheart's music, as well as an aural dadaism. He hasn't really changed much in a dozen years, though he seems more accessible then ever. Perhaps rock audiences are growing more sophisticated. Or maybe it's taken that long to become accustomed to his phase.