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Frank Zappa - You Are What You Is CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.65 | 304 ratings

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3 stars My opinion of this release has changed fairly drastically, and having reread my review, I was too disgusted with the silliness of my first attempt that I have to try it all again. Even if it means a slightly less deep review than perhaps it deserves.

You Are What You Is is probably Zappa's quintessential 80s release, and perhaps his best studio work from the period. This album follows the logical progression from Sheik Yerbouti, with the clever melodies and little bits of quirk coming to dominate the previously standard jazz-infused progressive rock. You'll notice that there are a lot of songs on here, and none of them are very long. There may not be any extended pieces, but each side of the album flows together very well within itself. There are many instrumental moments, many different and eclectic styles of music presented, but not tons of soloing--but there is some, and it is done very classily. The primary focus here is vocals (and the words they sing), so if you don't enjoy vocal-oriented rock, perhaps there are better albums to go to. The lyrics frequently delve between the absurd, the sexually disturbing, and anti-religious-establishment themes. If any of those bother you any, than perhaps there are better albums to go to.

Typical of Frank's albums, the first track or two are some of the worst. The guy could never seem to get an album off the ground quickly. The music finally gets moving with Doreen, a nice little doowop type of tune. Theme from the 3rd mvt. of Sinister Footwear is entirely instrumental, and if you're familiar with the other Footwear movements, this one should be no surprise. But the real quality of the album begins with Society Pages, bolstered by a very catchy chorus. I'm a Beautiful Guy is heavier than most of Zappa's music, so fans of slightly harder hitting music should enjoy the crunchy guitar. Beauty Knows No Pain is kind of stilted and uninteresting until the outro hits--at which point we're treated to the best barbershop harmonies Frank ever put into music. A very good finish, which segues into the easygoing, upbeat Charlie's Enormous Mouth. Any Downers, which I believe is the last song on the original first LP (the whole thing was put to one disc for the CD release), unfortunately winds it down fairly weakly.

The second LP features the title track, a very upbeat, very irreverent, mesmerizing affair featuring Zappa's vocals at full tilt. The Mudd Club begins the series of songs discussing religious institutions and how Frank was not a fan. It's fairly gospelly, and soon becomes the even more scathing and more interesting The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing. And further the trend goes, with perhaps Zappa's most anti-religious song ever, Dumb All Over. Featuring cleverly flanged vocals over a Joe's Garage-esque riff, it is the first song in a while to be gifted with a guitar solo. Heavenly Bank Account takes the complains about organized religion and aims them directly at televangelists, From there, the religious statements quickly become generically vicious Zappa humor in the form of Suicide Chump and Jumbo Go Away, both good songs, but both fairly heartless as it were. The album closes on a very strong note, however, with Drafted Again. It's perhaps less initially-inspiring than many of its immediate predecessors, but a few measured listens should show you where the fun is in this release.

This is very much Zappa and somewhat hit or miss. If you know his 80s stuff and enjoy it, you'll probably like this one too. If you don't know much of his 80s stuff, this is a good place to go. If you can't stand his 80s stuff... perhaps this one isn't for you either. I would like to be able to rate it higher, but too many poor songs bring it down below the four star mark.

LiquidEternity | 3/5 |


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