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Frank Zappa - The Mothers Of Invention: We're Only In It For The Money CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.11 | 631 ratings

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3 stars Frank mocks hippie youth and their parents

"What's the ugliest part of your body? I think it's your mind..."

The Mothers albums were huge indictments of society in the 1960s. One of the pleasant surprises hearing them again was realizing Zappa was not simply going to take the easy path and trash only "them." He was willing to point the lens back at the "us" side of the equation and call the liberal youth to task for some of their vanity and hypocrisies. This time out the music switched again from the previous albums by moving more forcefully into psych-parody, while the banter's venom level was sustained if redirected somewhat. The band had flown from New York to London for shows and finished up this album upon their return. If the work from this period sounds connected it was no accident, Zappa was always working on more than one project and he would intentionally cross pollinate them musically and thematically, so you again hear references to other work. This helps give the Mothers years an even more rewarding overall feel.

Here the musical theme is a hilarious send-up of psych-rock/pop with trippy sequences and looped tape effects, all very period, but I suspect being offered with disdain rather than the reverence of his peers to this style. Musically the short little melodic ditties are more like the first album than the second, which had expanded more instrumentally, but the first album felt late 50s/early 60s while this one feels Summer of Love, maniacally bastardized of course. Zappa didn't hate the counter-culture for the parts he considered authentic but he did hate the way the scene was just as malleable by vanity and comfort as the mainstream, and the way that youth were letting themselves be defined by other forces. He was scathing in his views on the drug culture and his general displeasure for the hippie scene is unleashed here in hilarious lyrics. In my favorite segment, the hilarious "Flower Punk," they completely mock the flower warrior on his way to San Fran to join a psych band, play bongos at the love-ins, and live with a band in the Haight. Similar criticism appears in "Who needs the Peace Corps" where the stoners are mentioned in the quest for hair and good drugs before returning home the next week, the inference being the "movement" for many was little more than partying and getting laid before returning to Mom and Dad's basement to avoid supporting one's self. Equal vitriol is of course served up for Mom and Dad, for being sexually repressed and unable to raise children who think for themselves. All of these points are valid to consider, although I'm not sure the Zappa lifestyle was necessarily a healthier template for the youth of America. As the Zappa bio points out, Frank was pretty good at being "too busy for the kids" himself.

"We're Only In It For The Money is a remarkable album and still holds up well. Despite its jolly snatches of surfing music, the tape clips, the speeded-up tape, the chipmunk voices and the parodies of the sensitive flower-power music, it is a profoundly serious album. Zappa's view is bleak and filled with foreboding. The lyrics are about lonely, unloved children, fascist trigger happy cops, materialistic parents who are too busy consuming to notice their children are sad. ---Barry Miles, Zappa-A Biography (That last part is ironic as Moon once had to give her father a note pleading for his attention because Frank was always busy with the business and writing.)

Miles and most reviewers are far more satisfied with this album overall than I am. While lyrically there are some vintage Zappa moments, the musical experience gets by more on quirk and parody than on the actual strength of the songs. To me they do feel more obvious and less thrilling than they should for such a highly rated work. I'm surprised so many feel that this is the place to begin with Zappa. I would say the debut album "Freak Out" remains the true classic among these early works.

Finnforest | 3/5 |


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