I figure the odds be fifty-fifty
I just might have something to say
On Over-Nite Sensation, Zappa finds a way to make standard music forms co-exist with his own unique, perverse perspective. This isn’t at all a standard rock album, not even a post-Dylan standard rock album, but it is Zappa feeling more comfortable using more traditional modes of song-writing. His lyrics remain strange and elliptical; he still utilizes shifting time signatures and unique instrumentation at times. But the music all meshes here. These are recognizable as songs with beginnings, middles and ends. He’s telling actual musical stories, albeit odd ones, and doing so in a catchy, smart and clever way. And it’s a masterpiece. I really loved this album start to finish. The lyrically brilliant Camarillo Brillo, instant raunch-rock classic Dirty Love, menacingly grim I’m the Slime. Then there’s horror movie rave-up Zomby Woof, which is almost certainly going to be on every Halloween party playlist I make from no one, third after Thriller & Monster Mash probably. Montana is some kind of brilliant, a shaggy dog story no one but Zappa could have ever come up, with wonderful backing vocals from Tina Turner and the Ikettes. And a word for Dinah-Moe Humm, one of the funniest songs I’ve ever heard. I’m not super big on comedy music (which is maybe another reason I’ve struggled with Zappa on other records), but the opening lines of this song elicited a strangled gasp of mingled shock and hilarity combined. Is this the best song ever about the female orgasm? Not that there have been a lot, but, you know, yeah. The only song here that I’m not super high on is Fifty-Fifty which is a bit long, but I’m a sucker for musical impressions (basically the reason I tolerated Of Montreal for as long as I did) and the impression of the Doors on the title couplet is unbelievably dead on. Over-Nite Sensation is, I think, Zappa having learned that the modes, styles and methods of mainstream rock (and maybe even pure pop) aren’t actually inherently evil. It wouldn’t be satisfying for Zappa to make a purely traditional rock record though and he hasn’t. He’s just learned how to make things work together, using more mainstream elements and his outsider weirdness to create something that’s better in aggregate than either of them would have been on their own. Over-Nite Sensation is an album that I respect artistically and also enjoy listening to. Call it the best of both worlds; I’m glad Zappa finally got here. 4 stars.
tl;dr – album mixes more traditional rock elements with Zappa’s unique perverse perspective; the best of both worlds adds up to more than the sum of its parts. 4 stars.