He knows the end is near. He has realized at last that imaginary guitar notes and imaginary vocals exist only in the mind of the imaginer . . . and ultimately, who gives a **** anyway? Who gives a **** anyway? So he goes back to his ugly little room and quietly dreams his last imaginary guitar solo . . .
Zappa continues the story of the unlucky Joe on this record and it is, surprise, surprise, yet another double album. There is, perhaps, more justification for being a double than there often is with Zappa’s doubles (no, I still do not consider making Freak Out a double in order to make room for Return of the Son of Monster Magnet to be a legit justification) since Act I was a single and Zappa is here releasing the final two acts as one album. But the material here is even weaker than on Act I. In Act II, Joe falls under the sway of a Scientology-esque religion, starts having sex with robots, goes to prison and is anally raped. This would be the typical second act structure of leaving your hero at a low point. I mean, that is, I suppose a lot of story to get through, but some of these songs just belabor the point. Does Keep It Greasey, a not particularly witty ode to anal rape, really need to be over eight minutes long? Does Sy Borg, a not particularly witty ode to ******* robots, really need to be almost nine minutes long? Act III is about as weak, if not as crass. Packard Goose is almost twelve minutes, He Used to Cut the Grass almost nine and neither make much of an impression. But Zappa finds an odd redemption at the very end of this weak double album with the epic Watermelon in Easter Hay, which concludes Joe’s story with what seems to be real fervor and sincere emotionalism. Zappa is no stranger to beautiful instrumentals, but this one is, for my money, his absolute best, a haunting, melancholy piece that encompasses both real sadness and a beautiful, quiet hope. The Central Scrutinizer proves his worth again with his introduction to this piece. Zappa breaks for a moment on this one and laughs in the middle of the speech, but that somehow adds to the emotional power of the track. The snickering “who gives a **** anyway” overlays the music as it slowly fades up and underlines the sadness of the piece, rather than cheapening it. Zappa has, if nothing else, finally perfected the way to use spoken word snippets to enhance rather than detract from his music. But it’s doubly frustrating when Zappa undercuts his sincere & beautiful climax by tacking on an extra song at the end, A Little Green Rosetta, that doesn’t add anything to Joe’s story. As mediocre as I find a lot of this stuff, if the album had just ended with Watermelon in Easter Hay, it might have jumped up an entire star in my estimation. But Zappa, never comfortable with sincere emotional vulnerability, has to get his ironic distance back and he ruins would could have been a brilliant ending. I feel like Joe’s Garage is kind of a missed opportunity. It turns out to be a triple album, taking the thing as a whole, and for once I find myself actually WISHING Zappa had one a double album. I think you trim a few songs (just dropping Green Rosetta gets almost ten minutes back), shorten a few others and you could tell this whole story across two albums and it would be, if not great, at least a lot, lot better. Watermelon in Easter Hay deserves better than this record. 1 ½ stars.
tl;dr – pretty terrible follow-up to an already middling concept is overlong and inconsistent; does contain one of Zappa’s finest instrumental moments. 1 ½ stars.