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Frank Zappa - 200 Motels CD (album) cover

200 MOTELS

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.03 | 144 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
1 stars The danger of living your artistic life in the realm of the avant-garde and the "shocking" is that, every so often, you put out something like this. This is an hour-and-a-half soundtrack to a film of the same name that Zappa masterminded, and it largely ends up as a prominent display of everything that could possibly go wrong with such a venture from that time period. In theory, it could actually be somewhat interesting to have an album where modern classical is intercut with tweaked rock songs and some skits, but it all ends up being done in the most offensive way possible, and I end up lamenting the hours upon hours I spent trying to convince myself that this could be anything close to good.

I'm not completely sure what this album says about Zappa's abilities in the realm of modern classical, whether he really had a legitimate talent in it or not (of course, BWS suggests he did in fact have talent in it, but I'm only considering this album for now in regards to this question). The reason for this is that the snippets of modern classical strewn all over this album (and not especially grouped together at any point) are for the most part so short and undeveloped that they're almost never given a chance to rise above the level of background noise. The main theme of the closing "Strictly Genteel" is kinda pretty and even majestic in its own way, but it's difficult for me to think of many other passages that could be described the same way on here. And guess what, when the avant- garde classical aspect is as dominant as it is here, it's hard for such non-descriptiveness to not have a negative effect on my perception of the album, even if the individual passages don't tend to be actively offensive or anything.

The songs and skits, however, do tend to be actively offensive. They're so awkwardly and pointlessly offensive and sexist (I mean, at least the later Joe's Garage showed some real creative spunk in its offensive sexism) that I really have trouble imagining the kind of person who would actually find the majority of this enjoyable. There are some neat bits, I'll admit; for instance, it's amusing when Jimmy Carl Black sings in the guise of a really crude, really redneckish cowboy. I also think the endlessly repeated chorus to "What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning," with some well-placed falsetto vocals, is a terrific little piece of bubblegum parody, and the skit ("Dental Hygiene Dillemma") where a band member is being coaxed by the voices in his head to run away from Zappa's stupid comedy skit ensemble to do serious music is kind of a riot (especially since I too would be in favor of somebody running far away from the band that did this album). But the rest of the tracks are just so stupid and unenjoyable that I can't even be bothered to namecheck them.

Frankly, it's no wonder to me that this was out of print for so long. It's hilarious that this is one of the most expensive items in the Zappa catalogue, and were it not for the fact that I was able to get it for about $2 courtesy of a certain online Russian site, I would be pretty furious right now.

tarkus1980 | 1/5 |

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