Don’t it ever get lonesome?
Don’t it ever give a young man the blues?
When the P.A. system eats it,
And the band plays some of the most terriblest **** you’ve ever known.
Chunga’s Revenge is an endearing album. It’s got a refreshingly hard edge to it. Zappa’s taking on seventies era hard-rock in his own special fashion, which is to parody something while also executing it flawlessly. Chunga’s Revenge starts with Transylvania Boogie, a gritty, rocking little number that is already cranked to eleven when it starts; the opening seconds of this song feels like falling through the floor into a concert you didn’t know was happening. There’s a lot of super-strong material here: the blues pastiche Road Ladies, the surprisingly heartfelt Sharleena, the high-intensity Tell Me You Love Me & even the winking spoof songs Rudy Wants to Buy Yez a Drink & Would You Go All the Way. The instrumental stuff is more variable and, in point of fact, smacks of filler. To this point, I’ve always felt that, even when an album was too long, that everything was where Zappa wanted it, but with this album, I can see the places where Zappa had to plug in some stuff off the floor in order to get to a respectable running time. The album is only forty minutes and both the two minute percussion track The Clap and the interminable ten minutes of Nancy & Mary Music feel like stuff that wouldn’t have made the record if Zappa had a couple more actual songs. Without those, we’re under thirty minutes, which wouldn’t really be long enough. Even if you leave half of Nancy & Mary Music, which you could maybe make a case for, we’re still well under forty minutes. But the filler isn’t a huge problem for me in this case. I have a problem with album filler when it’s padding the album to an hour or more, but when padding and all only equals forty minutes, well, that’s short and brisk enough that I can be kind of charitable about it. Still, like a quarter filler? That’s not going to be a masterpiece, no matter how strong the rest of the stuff is. But it’s a lot of fun, only briefly kind of tedious and the energy level is high; everyone, from the band to the listener, seem invigorated by the grungier, garage-band-esque sound on a lot of this album and it’s a distinct pleasure. 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – harder, grungier sound collides with some well-written genre tunes to create an energetic party feel on this solid album; a not unsubstantial amount of filler detracts a bit. 3 ½ stars.