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FRANK ZAPPA

Have I Offended Someone?
Rating: 3 (library disc)
Squirm factor: 4
   Listening to this album was like to talking to my wife about her work; I’m sure it’s meaningful and important, but I don’t understand it.
   You see, Jessica’s a scientist, and so when I ask her about her day, she says something like, "I went over to the Kellogg Eye Center to run a real-time PCR assay. We did a serial 10-fold dilution in triplicate testing our osteopontin primer." Because I know she’s smart and hard-working, I trust that this means she did something useful. Similarly, Frank Zappa had a reputation as one of the finest musical minds in rock and roll (a list of musicians who played in his bands reads like a Who’s Who of Rock Virtuosity), so there’s clearly something going on in this music that I’m just not getting.
   Because a lot of this music sounds like crap to me. The bridge of “Goblin Girl”, taken at a different tempo and key from the rhythm track? Ugh. Lame white blues of “In France”? Boring. The riff stolen from Bad Company? Sounds like Bad Company. Spastic lurching between grooves (numerous tracks)? Disjointed. On the other hand, the sound quality is fantastic, with crisp bass, rich midrange and undistorted treble.
   Zappa’s famous as a social critic, too, but I guess I know enough about words to not feel embarrassed by his reputation on that score. As humor, the songs don’t have enough laughs to play a second time; as satire, they completely misunderstand the concept. If you think “The bigger the cushion, the sweeter the pushin’” is an odious remark, how does repeating it numerous times make your point? If you think Valley girls are ridiculous, why subject the listener to four minutes of their chatter? If you think Devo and Culture Club make bad music (and, as targets within the early 80’s music scene, I think he could have found far worse), why put snippets of it into a song – you’re just making the listener hear bad music! As far as being subversive, I think the aforementioned Devo and Culture Club did more to change minds than any of these songs could.
   Worse yet, there aren’t even any pictures of Zappa in the package. At least his moustache was entertaining.

READER COMMENTS

  • From Mark Prindle: Unfortunately, that crap you're talking about (cheezy music, awful humor) permeates through a lot of his later material. There's still a lot of great music to be found there - I promise! - but man there's some shit shit shitty shit shitty shitty shit too. Stick with his pre-1972 work though and you can't go wrong!

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