Fast ‘N’ Bulbous Reviews


“… Led by saxophonist Phillip Johnston and featuring ex-Magic Band guitarist Gary Lucas, Fast ‘n Bulbous proved that Beefheart’s songs deserve to be played in his absence and are, for all their knotty logic, quite PLAYABLE. It was odd to see four hornmen reading charts as they tore through the messy ecstasy of “When Big Joan Sets Up,” from 1969’s “Trout Mask Replica.” But Johnston’s brass scores hit the R&B meat and twisted swing that Beefheart embedded in spidery guitars. “Pachuco Cadaver,” also from “Trout Mask”, became a New Orleans marching-band romp. A power-trio medley of “Click Clack” and “Ice Cream for Crow” with Lucas on searing bottleneck guitar celebrated the rock in Beefheart’s extremes. Beefheart never became the star he felt he should be. Yet on nights like this, it still seems possible–if he’d just come back.

– David Fricke, The Rolling Stone.

“…the all-instrumental Fast ‘n’ Bulbous slammed into Trout Mask’s “Pachuco Cadaver,” replacing Beefheart’s vaguely licentious Howlin’ Wolf vocals (“She wears her past like uh present/Take her fancy in the past”) with rich, brassy harmonies that illuminated the epigrammatic contours of the composer’s earthy expressionism.

Fast ‘n’ Bulbous didn’t try to replicate the Magic Band’s unique deployment of parallel themes in differing tempos and keys. And while I missed John “Drumbo” French’s almost linguistic drum parts, I fell completely for the rampant party spirit that pervaded “Veteran’s Day Poppy,” “When It Blows Its Stacks,” and “Tropical Hot Dog Night.” The band’s joyful noises did justice to Beefheart’s nature-boy ardor for flesh and grit, in anticipation, let’s hope, for some after-school specials down the line.”

– Richard Gehr, The Village Voice.

“…as if by magic, the musicians began to grow fractious and obstreperous, with the horn players tugging in opposite directions from the core of “Abba Zaba,” chattering and arguing like squirrels engaged in a turf battle. That sound, at once grating and charmingly nature-rooted, would’ve made Beefheart proud. The same could be said for the band’s deconstruction of “When Big Joan Sets Up” (a piece that’s loopy even by Beefheart standards): Braying, giggling and cajoling brass elements — and wiry contributions from a slyly grinning Lucas — converged, creating a veritable carnival midway onstage.”


“…As arranger, Mr. Johnston had some clever ideas: he turned Mr. Van Vliet’s art-brut soprano-saxophone playing into notable material and assigned some slide-guitar parts to the trombone. The rhythm section, the bassist Jesse Krakow and the drummer Richard Dworkin, had a tough job in playing these saw-toothed, broken-field rhythms; they came close to the intended sound, and Mr. Krakow in particular played every nuance of the originals. The set kept returning to “Trout Mask Replica,” Beefheart’s masterpiece. From it, the band played the jerky “Pachuco Cadaver”; “The Blimp,” with its nutty recitative; the tearing-tempo “When Big Joan Sets Up”; “Veteran’s Day Poppy.”

– Ben Ratliff, The New York Times

“…Fast ‘N Bulbous play it just right. For starters, they are all excellent, exploratory musicians and cope with the structure of even the “Trout Mask” songs with great aplomb; “Pachuco Cadaver” had all the obtuse correspondences of instruments – and sudden time changes plucked from the ether – down brilliantly. The guitar and bass parts were spot on and only an ultra nerd/pedant would criticise the drummer for not playing John French’s parts exactly beat-for-beat. Anyway that wasn’t the point he got under the skin of the rhythm in a freewheeling, French-ian style and hit all the cues spot on. Meanwhile, Gary has obviously done his homework and got all the knuckle-busting chords down, and the bass player is a dextrous monster. I’m not surprised the crowd were baying in between the pieces.

The group’s big, physical yet intricate sound was a joy to hear for both the Beefheartophile and, I’m sure, for the merely curious. I was expecting it to be good but my expectations were surpassed in grand style. Who knows? Maybe even Don would have liked it.”

– Mike Barnes, Wire writer, and author of “Captain Beefheart.”