Uh, out of sight. Are . . . are you hung up?
We’re Only In It For the Money finds Zappa in an odd place or maybe it’s me that’s in the odd place. Either way, I think that one of us or maybe both of us is in a place of perfect balance. Zappa’s albums tend to kind of whiplash between more experimental material and his own twist on more traditional song-forms. This album, in my opinion, is kind of the most perfect balance of those things. I have, in the past, been very critical of Zappa’s more experimental, dissonant, abrasive material, but this album reveals to me that it isn’t that I dislike Zappa in that experimental mode; it’s that I dislike how extended his experimentation usually is. We’ve talked about this before: the nearly twenty minute stretch of weirdness that ends Freak Out; the basically song-less, unbearably long Uncle Meat; the last three-quarters of Weasels Ripped My Flesh, etc. But here the experimental stuff comes in bursts; it’s not exactly that there isn’t a lot of it – it’s that the noisy bursts of static, the weird spoken word bits and the studio trickery plays right alongside and intertwined with what is surely Zappa’s strongest song set of the sixties. The lyrics are sharp & satirical, the melodies catchy & memorable, the arrangements lively & energetic. So, maybe Zappa is tweaking and twisting the vocals or interrupting with weird whispering or huge blasts of static, but when he’s tweaking or interrupting a song as great as, for instance, What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body, well, who gives a ****? The songs here are nothing short of fantastic. Who Needs the Peace Corps is one of his wittiest songs and his vocal performance, especially on the naïve spoken word section, is wonderful. The retro-styled Bow Tie Daddy, the grim Mom & Dad, the high-energy Mother People, the catchy lament Lonely Little Girl, the somehow genuinely inspiring yet also funny Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance, the hilarious Let’s Make the Water Turn Black (complete with hilarious coda) . . . these are great tunes. The roster of songs here gives Zappa super-strong foundation to build his experimentation on top of and it really works. The experimental bits meld and merge with the songs in a way that they previously hadn’t in my opinion. This album has only grown in my estimation the longer it lives in my mind. There were a few fairly lengthy bits that challenged me on initial listen and I ended up planning on giving it 3 ½ stars after my initial listen. But the longer it’s lived in my head the more high I’ve gotten on it. But it’s a challenging question: can I really give 4 stars to an album that ends with the nearly six minute Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny? Watch me. 4 stars.
tl;dr – Zappa’s strongest songs of the sixties gives him a strong base to experiment with & everything merges to near perfection; the perfect balance of Zappa’s songcraft & experimentation. 4 stars.