The Further Adventures of Der Shrimpkin (Mammoth)
by Clarendon Lavorich
Let’s face it, in Zappa’s later years, he got a bit too serious with the satire and oddball humor. His pieces became constant epics – huge and lumbering pieces of music with no apparent direction. He lost the “Mothers” rock aspect, which used a constant feed of stabilizing back beat to orient the listener.
Apparently, Eskimo picked up those lost threads, and has launched a sprawling mass of tight, rocking little ditties under the collective heading of The Further Adventures of Der Shrimpkin (Mammoth). Adding a marimba and a trombone to the standard power trio setup will bring memories of Captain Beefheart, and for good reason. The disjointed and looping lines combined with semi- traditional rock formats sound like a completely re-vamped version of our good Captain, even down to the Dadaist lyrics (though nobody will ever sing the way he did). Eskimo certainly know their roots, covering Snakefinger’s “Kill the Great Raven,” and throwing in sound bites of nursery rhymes and other collective consciousness melodies a la Charles Ives.
I do have a few problems with …Der Shrimpkin though. It seems that funk is the one style of drumbeat that will fit with anything, and its offbeats fit in so well with the erratic melodies that it’s a sure thing. But it gets tiresome after a while. Beefheart had his drummers come up with beats that were unique to the song, if not unique to the world of drumming itself. It never got stale. The two stand out songs are “Bones of the Saints,” and “Buttplug,” simply because the drums shift to a different style of rhythm. Also, the music is off-kilter, but still comfortably within a recognizable context and form, safe inside the contemporary-avant-funk-with-a-good-dose-of-Zappa-for-good-measure genre. Music students will love this album, because it still fits, and when you’re goofy, you can get away with anything. It’s more of a challenge to make stuff weird as well as serious. Maybe Zappa did have something going there…