Play your harmonica, son.
If you’ve been paying attention to my exploration of Frank Zappa’s discography, it will come as no surprise that my reaction to Weasels Ripped My Flesh is basically negative. There are a few good things on it. I can’t get enough of Sugarcane Harris’ sweet electric violin so Directly From My Heart to Yours is, while also kind of forgettable, pleasurable. The Orange County Lumber Truck is a nice instrumental piece. And, you know, let’s call a spade a spade: great cover. Past that, the album starts to become frustrating for me. This is an album seemingly comprised of pieces originally judged so inferior as to be left off of albums. There are moments where instrumental pieces that aren’t bad segue into people screaming at the top of their lungs for several minutes or into fart noises that go on for a minute or so. In one live piece, a beautiful piano performance suddenly becomes the backdrop for at least two minutes of snorting. No, really. And then there’sa piece where Zappa proudly informs the audience that the instruments on stage are all playing in different time signatures from each other. But there’s one burning question that this album raises again and again and never answers satisfactorily: Okay . . . why? Okay, everyone’s playing in different time signatures. Why? To what end? For what artistic purpose?
It’s at this point that people might start telling me that this is “experimental” music. But it’s not; not really. Because the purpose of experimenting is to reach a conclusion and act accordingly; I have no issue with this. Hmm, I wonder what it would sound like if everyone was playing in different time signatures? Well, let’s find out. I’m all for challenging conventional wisdom and experimentation. Okay, well, we tried it; turns out it sounds like ****. Do we need to keep doing it for fifteen minutes? No. Let’s put it in these terms. I’ve got a turd in my hand. (Go with me here.) But maybe it’s not a turd, maybe it’s actually gold. Now, it looks like a turd, feels like a turd, smells like a turd, but, okay, let’s go ahead and challenge conventional wisdom and have it tested in a lab. And the result? It’s a turd, not gold. Okay, I’m going to throw it away then. Zappa is the guy that, two weeks after the results came in, is still trying to use the turd to buy a house. I mean, point made. Music sounds better when it’s all played in the same time signature. Let’s move on. It actually sounds stupid when someone spends several minutes just snorting into a microphone. Let’s move on. But Zappa isn’t moving on; later in his career, he certainly did, but not here – on this album, he’s still waving that turd around. 1 star.
tl;dr – Zappa’s “experimentation” has run its course, but he doesn’t know it yet; chaotic, unpleasantly weird album boasts a couple of good tracks, but, on the whole, a failure. 1 star.