Some albums are just impossible to comprehend. The only reason I bought this album is because I became a Little Feat fan around “The Last Record Album” (in 1975, their fifth album) and liked it enough to delve into the band’s back catalog.
The most striking thing about working backward through their career was their progression. Other than David Bowie, I never heard a band change so much from album to album, and this (now recognized as a) quality made it difficult to appreciate each album on its own merit. After all, if you approach a catalog backward, there are expectations, but Little Feat in reverse never matched my preconceived notions. Each record required multiple listens to reveal itself, but none more so than the first ‘eponymous’ album.
Hearing “The Last Record Album” first, I couldn’t even comprehend that this was the same band. The core personnel (guitar, piano, drums) were essentially the same, but everything else was different. What on earth is this record trying to be? What could possibly cause a band to release something as uncategorizably strange as this debut record?
I played this album about ten times before I drew genuine pleasure from hearing it. Without being cognizant of my subtle but steady change in attitude, “Little Feat” became a passion and an ‘all-time favorite’. I’m not implying that I understand it. After four decades, I still find myself wondering about the band’s motives, their intentions, and especially their lyrical ambiguities (Lowell George’s in particular). As I literally find myself growing old with this album, I recognize that the thing I love is the combination of simplicity and confounding weirdness.
How can I reconcile the superficial ‘dumbness’ with the profound spirituality? Fully half of Lowell George’s songs are told from the perspective of an American cross-country trucker, yet somehow balanced by tales from a warped and lustful teenaged hippie hitchhiker. I’ve gone gray in the interim, but I still cannot believe that the same guy wrote both “Truck Stop Girl” and “Brides of Jesus”. “Hamburger Midnight” (what the hell…?) is pulled together by the same human being who composed the heartbreakingly sad “I’ve Been the One”?
This is an album that wants you to laugh and cry simultaneously, and the push/pull of emotions are aided and abetted by George’s love for surrealism and multi-syllabics . Scattered among his amusingly bizarre diatribes are Billy Payne’s complex lyrical compositions, blatantly focusing on soul searching and honest requests for truth. Regardless of the author, song structure is never less than weird. It’s the twists and turns, the dropped beats and half measures, the raw unpredictability, that makes “Little Feat” such a dense and difficult album to latch onto. The lyrics read as prose more than poetry, and the music is bent to match, but the core impact is never damaged. Do not underestimate this album. You may never ‘get’ it, but it will accompany you for a lifetime if you do.
January 1971 - Billboard: Did Not Chart
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