Call any vegetable
And the chances are good
That the vegetable will answer you
The Mothers’ second album is a vast improvement over their first in one way. The sound quality here is really great. The mixing of the various tracks is fantastic and the instruments really pop . And that’s about all the good I really have to say about this one. Zappa goes even farther in experimental directions, making the album up of song suites of a sort that (supposedly) go together as an “underground oratorio.” Unfortunately, the “songs” on display here are mostly just chaotic and dissonant. This album is really physically unpleasant in my opinion. It actually did physically hurt my ears. I find this kind of pomposity to be pretty annoying really. So, the first five minutes of the album is Plastic People & The Duke of Prunes and this album isn’t being great and then the third track, Amnesia Vivace starts and it’s just this really ugly, chaotic music and this vocal comes in and it’s this guy just bellowing (just BELLOWING) “LA LA LA LALALALALALAAAAAAA” in this really stentorian voice and I was suddenly filled with rage. Just what the **** do you think you’re doing? I’m supposed to listen to this bull****? Who the **** are you? You really think I’m this ******* stupid? That I’ll just be like “Oh, this is wonderful music?”
I mean, I suppose the question with this kind of thing is always the same: is the artist actually up to something? Does he think that he’s saying something important here? Is he actually reaching to create real music? Or is he just acting like an idiot? Is he just banging and screaming like a maniac and thinks that this cacophony is actually music? Or does he know that this sucks and he puts it out anyway? Is he a genius, an idiot or a fraud? I . . . kind of think he’s a fraud. Because Zappa knows how to craft really great music. On this album, there is one really great song, Status Back Baby, which is a pitch perfect pastiche/spoof of teen rock. The amazing opening line, “I’m losing status at the high school” is a perfect distillation of teen angst music, but the music is upbeat, the melody really wonderful. It’s a great song. Or listen to Hot Rats, a full-on musical masterpiece. Listen to Peaches en Regalia or Willie the Pimp. And ask yourself if Zappa really thinks The Duke of Prunes is also really good. I mean, come the **** on. Zappa knows what good music is. He knows what good musicianship is. He knows what song craft is. And I’m supposed to believe that he knows all of that and still thinks Uncle Bernie’s Farm is a great song. No way. No way. And that’s part of what is so frustrating about it: the actual talent Zappa has. I mean, the time he spent in the studio making this album could just as easily been spent in the studio making another Hot Rats or another Over-Nite Sensation or whatever. But instead of using his formidable talents to make a genuinely good album, he decided to dick around being stupid and then release the godawful racket into the world. And ask you to pay good money for it, by the way, which is insult to injury.
I should probably say at this point, that I did go through this album four times. I don’t do the thing about not liking an album and either not finishing or hearing it once and then putting it away. I’m always open for something to unfold on repeated listens. Four times. In a row. Which I feel like is probably the most times anyone’s listened to this record in sixty years or so. Again, I’ll admit that there are a couple of flashes of the kind of greatness Zappa would get into later. The long instrumental Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin is decent for at least some of its running time and there’s probably thirty to forty-five seconds of the nearly eight minute Brown Shoes Don’t Make It that is genuinely good. Though, you know, I haven’t gotten into this at all, but titles like Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin . . . that’s just a whole other thing. I mean, Jesus Christ. On the whole, I found this one super-disappointing. Absolutely Free? Still a hefty overcharge, if you ask me. 1 star.
tl;dr – Zappa’s second album is even more chaotic, experimental and unlistenable; there’s a case for fraudulence here & that’s if you’re charitable enough to decide it’s not just idiocy. 1 star.