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Frank Zappa - Sheik Yerbouti CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.86 | 460 ratings

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3 stars This album kinda disappointed me. This is Zappa's infamous peak of sexual juvenilia, filled to the brim with over-the-top lyrics about s&m, golden showers, anal sex and other delights, set to a backing of assorted styles often used to promote hip-gyration and other dance-like movements (that isn't to say that this album itself is dancable, just that it has things in common with dancable music). Now, I've been rather iffy about Zappa's sexual juvenilia to this point, but I have to say that on this album I buy into the joke hook, line and sinker. The intensity of meta-humor required to sing a line like, "Aw' little girl, there ain't no time to wash yer stinky hand, go 'head 'n' roll over, I'm goin' in you again" or "I'm gonna ram it, ram it, ram it, ram it up yer poop chute" the way Frank does is off the charts, and this album repeatedly makes me choke myself laughing in ways that, say, "Dinah Mo Mum" never ever could. In other words, were this album fully devoted to its reputed cause, it would be rated very highly.

The problem, though, is that this album is inexplicably a double, thus wrecking a perfectly depraved concept by throwing in pointless half-minute interludes like "Whatever Happened to All the Fun in the World" or "Wait a Minute" and instrumental wanks like "The Sheik Yerbouti Tango" or "Rat Tomago" or "Rubber Shirt." Not to mention, of course, the decision to shoehorn an eight-minute discordant guitar passage from another performance into the middle of the closing "Yo Mama." I guess that this was done to increase the diversity of the album, but ... if he wanted a diverse album, why would he make the subject matter of so many of the songs similar? Either shoot for a concept album or shoot for a diverse album, I say; aiming for the middle just creates a mess.

So let's sort things out and figure out my ideal version of this 70-odd minute jumble, shall we? The first five tracks are definitely keepers. "I Have Been in You" is a hilarious doo-wop (at the base, anyway) number that has lines like the "Go 'head 'n' roll over" line above, and it does a fine job of pushing across Frank's idea that pop, rock and its cousins are mostly about sex anyway, so we might as well come out and express what's been hiding beneath the surface of the "gentle" lyrics of the genre all along. The following "Flakes," then, is one of the greatest Zappa songs I've ever heard, a return to general misanthropy instead of the misogyny of the rest of the album, and which is just so dense that I can't help but admire it tremendously. It starts as a rock (sorta) rant about flakey people popping up in all parts of life, then turns its focus to flakes at car repair shops, and after a minute of this we get Adrian Belew (yes, that Adrian Belew) delivering a PERFECT imitation of Bob Dylan circa 1966, especially in the intermittent harmonica breaks and in the way he finishes lines like "That'll get your senses reelin'." Holy cow, and then this is followed by a goofy Wakeman-like synth solo, a shift into quasi-reggae rhythms that have more great lines, which include what's probably the greatest toilet joke I'll ever hear in song. And those anthemic last two minutes, with that chord sequence and those backing vocals, are just incredible, not to mention that, "Can't escape the conclusion, it's probably God's will, that civilization will grind to a standstill" is one of the best lines I've ever heard Frank write. What a song.

This song immediately segues into the gloriously-titled "Broken Hearts are for Assholes" (which was originally intended for Lšther), which contains the above "ram it up yer poop chute" line, and which has a nice handful of cool riffs and melodies in its three and a half minutes (and the lyrics, GAH). Following is "I'm So Cute," sung by Bozzio in what I swear is a parody of Sting's vocals circa Outlandos D'Amour and featuring more great lyrics and riffs and melodies that make it seem like this is going to be one of the best Zappa albums ever. And finishing this stretch is "Jones Crusher," with Adrian Belew singing lines like, "She can push, she can shove till it's just a nub" (!!!) over a bunch of fun riffage. Yeehaw.

After this point, though, finding great songs becomes a little sketchy. "Bobby Brown," a pop- reggae excursion about a bisexual guy who likes S&M (and which breaks every possible taboo of decency with lines like, "I got a cheerleader here wants to help with my paper, let her do all the work 'n' maybe later I'll rape her") would be a keeper, definitely. "Baby Snakes" is a fine piece of poppy guitar-rock, the mock disco song (full of loud power chords in the beginning) "Dancin' Fool" is AWESOME (and the ending monologue is probably the funniest moment on the whole album), and hell, even the ULTRA-offensive "Jewish Princess," which may give "Bobby Brown" a run for its money as "most offensive Zappa lyrics ever," is so goofy and wrong on every level that it's enjoyable. And, ehn, "Tryin' to Grow a Chin" is a lesser instance of Bozzio screeching lyrics a la "I'm So Cute," but it has enough charms to warrant final consideration.

But the rest I can definitely leave. Which means that out of the 18 tracks on here, I'd keep 9, maybe 10 if I'm in a good mood. I've already mentioned some of the tracks I don't like, and the rest is just boring to my ears. The end result, then, is that half of the album is awesome, and half ranges from pointless to dull ... which means a high *** is the best I can do for it. There's a great album trapped inside here, but don't expect consistency here.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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