Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Frank Zappa – Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1976)

Avant my ass. I certainly espouse turning musical norms on their head and always prefer experimentalism to traditionalism, but not this time. Sometimes, even Zappa can go too far, which is what he does here in this jarring, musically lopsided Dada noodlefest, replete with abrupt vocal nonsense, pointless jazz motifs and a whole lot of headache.

You know how some music can be listened to in the background? This is not it. This demands not only your attention; it demands that you waste it. Like a cashier who can’t find the sticker on a tomato and insists the manager is on the way, even though you know they aren’t. Like to eat soufflé with a recipe? Listen to “Toads Of The Short Forest,” where Frank intones over the demented proceedings by telling you the time signatures. Want to pay your respects to Eric Dolphy, the jazz saxophonist? Well, Zappa did, by composing “The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue” – a certified piece of near-noise. In the middle of “Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Sexually Aroused Gas Mask,” you can appreciate the gradual throng of moans into one cacophonous aural odor – er, stench; better yet, tune in to the last song, the title track, which sounds like it’s supposed to be one continuous ripping of flesh – which is to say, horrible dissonant static.

So what’s to like? The violin-laden “Directly From My Heart To You” (a Little Richard cover), “Oh No,” “Orange County Lumber Truck” and most importantly, “My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama,” which, if nothing else, has the greatest interjectory acoustic solo ever, not to mention it being one of Zappa’s best songs. I suggest listening to this with enough time to register to vote. Because this record makes me angry. Anger causes change. Change causes progress. Progress is like tea – it might be sugary or bitter or need a touch more milk, but if you stir it hard enough with your spoon, it might taste good. Well, sometimes. So switch this not-so-bitchen’ LP off your spin machine when you’re done and cast your vote of no confidence in November. Or today. Kiss my sharries. I love swirls. D+


Master Cianan said...

"oh no" is a fantastic song. I have to generally agree, though, this isn't one of his albums that I keep going back to.

The Mad Hatter said...

Many other good ones. I personally think the first few albums with the Mothers are the best, and the jazz fusion stuff is top-notch. The main problem, and it's not that big a deal, is that Zappa has so many albums, half of which I still haven't heard, and he's so experimental, that he's bound to produce some bad eggs eventually. Not many, but some.

Jeff said...

I'm all for artists thinking out of the box and being creative but Zappa's music goes way over my head. Granted, I haven't given that much effort into listening to him, but from what I have heard, it's just absurdity.

taotechuck said...

Zappa always struck as the kind of guy who pushed limits just because the limits were there. There's value in that, but I don't think he was often driven by music and music alone.

Master Cianan said...

Zappa was always trying to see what kind of things he was capable of pulling off. He pulled off a lotta, lotta shit. He was the Apollo program of rock. And like any space program, he blew up on the launch pad a few times, which is how we got that fucking awful "shut up and play yer guitar" TWICE over. He was just fortunate to be good enough that people are always interested, and always willing to hear his next (ha) project in spite of some moldy cabbages and really rude and icky noises along the way. Nobody's had the same "what'll he do next?" factor.

Starrlight said...

Absolutely Free is teh win. And brown shoes still don't make it.

Dimaension X said...

I love Frank Zappa. But I can't listen to most of his albums that came out before 1974 (except "Hot Rats" and "Waka Jawaka"). How the hell did they continue giving him record contracts? He really came into his own with Apostraphe when they stopped all the dadaist crap, and started to make real music.

By the way - I LOVE the "Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar" stuff.

The Mad Hatter said...


Really? I don't care much for his doo wop earlier stuff, but he still has some great early material. Hot Rats, Grand Wazoo, Burnt Weeny Sandwich are my favorite albums, I think. Love Apostrophe too. It's funny you mention Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar because I can't stomach it. It seems like visceral wanking. I mean, I love Frank; but that album is for him to listen to, not me.

Mighty High said...

Ha! I love this record but understand that it's not for everyone. Weasels/Uncle Meat/Burnt Weeny is my favorite era along with Hot Rats/Wazoo.