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THEM OR US

Frank Zappa

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Frank Zappa Them Or Us album cover
3.21 | 133 ratings | 11 reviews | 11% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential


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Studio Album, released in 1984

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Closer You Are (2:56)
2. In France (3:32)
3. Ya Hozna (6:26)
4. Sharleena (4:33)
5. Sinister Footwear II (8:39)
6. Truck Driver Divorce (8:58)
7. Stevie's Spanking (5:23)
8. Baby, Take Your Teeth Out (1:54)
9. Marque-Son's Chicken (7:33)
10. Planet of My Dreams (1:37)
11. Be in My Video (3:39)
12. Them or Us (5:23)
13. Frogs With Dirty Little Lips (2:42)
14. Whipping Post (7:32)

Total Time: 70:45

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / guitar & vocals
- Ray White, Ike Willis, Napoleon Murphy Brock, George Duke, Bobby Martin, Roy Estrada / vocals, harmony
- Tommy Mars / keyboards
- Arthur Barrow / bass
- Chad Wackerman / drums
- Scott Thunes / bass
- Ed Mann / percussion
- Steve Vai / guitar
- Ray White / rhythm guitar
- Bobby Martin / harmonica
- Dweezil Zappa / guitar solo on "Sharleena"
- Patrick O'Hearn / bass on "Planet Of My Dreams"
- Thana Harris / harmony on "Planet Of My Dreams"
- George Duke / piano on "Planet Of My Dreams"

Releases information

Rykodisc #RCD 10543

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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Joe's Garage Acts I II & IIIJoe's Garage Acts I II & III
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FRANK ZAPPA Them Or Us ratings distribution


3.21
(133 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(11%)
11%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
35%
Good, but non-essential (42%)
42%
Collectors/fans only (10%)
10%
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)
2%

FRANK ZAPPA Them Or Us reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Another double LP here, as Zappa used to release in the 80's. Like many of his 80's albums, there are TONS of catchy & addictive lead and backing vocals here. Because of the presence of Steve Vai on guitars, be ready to hear many crazy & monolithic solos from him and Zappa himself, like on "Truck driver's divorce" and "Them or us", among others. Ed Mann does an excellent job on percussions (xylophone), and many percussive bits like on "Sinister footwear 3" sound like the "Mothers of prevention" album, and even like the "Ship arriving too late" album. I like the funny & childish style of tracks like "Baby take your teeth out", "Planet of my dreams" and "Frogs with dirty little lips". It seems there are no horns: some keyboards seems to emulate the sound of trumpet and trombone.

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#39641) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, July 16, 2005

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I really dig FZ's 80's albums but I admit that they are not essential to any causual progfan due to the crude and sleazy songs peppered with Zappa's usual satire. This album is a fun one and is made mainly up from songs that were performed in the early 80's (like Man from Utopia) and mindbending instumentals that will get any guitar freak to drool. At 70 minutes few songs really stands out though but I have to mention that the version of "Sharleena" (originally from Chunga's Revenge) featured here kicks ass and includes a warping solo from Zappa's then 15 year old son, Dweezil. The shortest pieces are nothing to write home about but the rest is highly enjoyable, but again this album suits the Zappa fan better than the average proghead.

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Send comments to Bj-1 (BETA) | Report this review (#86528) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, August 10, 2006

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars The 80s was not the best decade for Frank Zappa, in my opinion. Sure, it yielded some pretty strong material (The Perfect Stranger and Ship Arriving too Late to Save a Drowning Witch, for example). Unfortunately, it was also a time where he released his most contrived and hackneyed albums. This album, while having a few songs that would stand the test of time and prove some worth, in the end is more underwhelming than one can even imagine and one might even ask the question, what was the point of it all?

The songs in question that stand the test of time are Ya Honza, Sharleena, Stevie's Spanking, and Whipping Post. The first is an instrumental that has a chord progression similar to that of Survivor's hit track Eye of the Tiger. It also features some zany backwards vocals taken from various songs from various eras of Zappa's overall output. It's a pretty solid track that is relatively heavy for Zappa's standards, which makes it somewhat unique. Sharleena is an updated version of the track that first saw the light on 1970's Chunga's Revenge album. While not as good as the original, it has a certain flare to it that makes it above most of the other songs.

Stevie's Spanking is probably my favorite song on the album, as it's got some humorous subject matter and some wild playing on all fronts (especially from "stunt" guitar player Steve Vai, who is payed tribute to in the song, much like Terry Bozzio with Punky's Whips). Whipping Post is the concluding track, a cover from the famous Allman Brother's Band original, and the strong vocals from Bobby Martin help make this track worthwhile (along with the magnificent Zappa guitar solo that dominates most of the track).

With only 4 good tracks out of the total 14, that makes for a pretty bland album overall. I can't really say that I recommend this album all that much. Really, it'd be for the completionists or fans of the poppier side of Zappa (which as you can see from the various reviews of Zappa albums from the 1980s I'm not that much of). Still, Them Or Us has some worth to it, not that much, but there is some certain miniscule allure. Mostly for fans of FZ, in my opinion.

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Send comments to Cygnus X-2 (BETA) | Report this review (#106377) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, January 07, 2007

Review by Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars This Zappa albums offers a lengthy collection of songs, most of which are uneven in quality and somewhat meandering, though the record's collective wit and energy almost make up for a lackluster show of songwriting and instrumental performance.

For the most part, Them Or Us alternates between silly satires of other musical genres (especially do-wap and soul), and the free-form instrumental madness Zappa is most known for. While this sounds good in writing, the result is a sort of gutless avant-pop that only occasionally gets the gusto to impress the listener with anything other than Steve Vai's guitar/sound effect solos. There simply isn't much here to grab hold of.

The collection of singers on this album does do wonders for its levity though, so while the songs themselves aren't especially great they can still be fun to listen to. There's a lot of wit to the delivery and lyrics in the satire pieces, and most of the isntrumentals contain a few gems to their performances-- especially when Them Or Us picks up the tempo and gets heavy. Sometimes catchy, sometimes toungue-in-cheek, and sometimes jamming, this album shows that Zappa still has the goods... we just have to slog through 3 or 4 songs of filler to get to the interesting parts.

So while it definitely won't convince anyone who's never heard a Zappa album to jump on board, fans of Frank will most likely warm to the style of this one in time. Would easily be a 3- star album with some thoughtful editing.

Songwriting: 2 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 2 Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

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Send comments to Prog Leviathan (BETA) | Report this review (#298182) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, September 09, 2010

Review by tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I might be all wet, but I kinda get the feeling Zappa didn't really have his heart into making "normal" albums by this time. Given that his other 1984 releases were a venture into modern classical (The Perfect Stranger), a tongue-in-cheek glimpse at very average "traditional" classical, and the grossest rock opera ever made (Thing Fish), none of which had a chance of selling heavily even by Zappa standards, I can't shake the suspicion that Zappa only released this album so he could cover the cost of his other projects. The thing that stands out most to me and to a lot of other people is that the album is almost defiantly conservative by Zappa's standards; it's the closest thing he'd done to a "career retrospective" (at least post-'73) yet. The album starts with a doo-wop cover and ends with an Allman Bros. cover, and in between there's an updated version of "Sharleena," a bunch of fun pop songs with offensive lyrics, and a LOT of guitar wanking (not just from Frank; Steve Vai is a beast on this album).

Call me a plebe, but I'm fine with Zappa making a "generic Zappa" album if it's as good as this one. The aforementioned opening doo-wop cover, a number called "The Closer You Are," is given the same goofy vocal treatment that Frank had given a lot of songs in this vein, but Frank and the rest do the song totally straight otherwise (which does a number on my automatic expectations of the song turning into smut). The closing "Whipping Post" is done totally straight (though it has the same generic 80's synths that occupy much of the rest of the album), and it sounds freaking AWESOME in every way that matters. Never dismiss the idea of Zappa playing straight blues-rock! And speaking of blues-rock, don't forget the mid-tempo amusement of "In France," where the vocalist makes allusions to all sorts of bad experiences Frank's band had there, wrapping it up with the clear moral, "Never try to get your peter sucked in France." Thanks for the tip.

Moving on, "Ya Hozna" is a hypnotic processed guitar-jam filled with fake backwards vocals from various Zappa family members (Frank's revenge on people looking for Satanic messages encoded in rock music, I guess). "Sharleena" is an okay re-recording of the Chunga's Revenge number (that has an out-of-place Dweezil Zappa solo in the middle, but the absurdity makes it work), and then we come to a couple of nine-minute guitar wanks. They're good wanks, though, and while "Sinister Footwear II" is all instrumental (with Zappa credited with "guitar solo" and Vai credited with "written guitar lines"), "Truck Driver Divorce" starts off as a "normal" track (with lyrics mocking truck drivers, and a call back to "No Not Now" on Ship Arriving) before morphing into a jam for the second half. "Stevie's Spanking" is about Steve Vai's experience (I don't know if it's real or fake) with a groupie, but more importantly it features some great riffing and a pair of great solos (first from Vai, second from Dweezil) that show that, even with the sterile production that accompanied Zappa's early 80's albums, he could still put out great hard rock (of sorts).

There's not a real need to namecheck all of the rest (I'd say the cute "Frogs with Dirty Little Lips," with cool imitations of frog croakings, is the best of the rest), but suffice it to say that pretty much everything else is on more or less the same level of good as the aforementioned tracks. No, not many of the album's tracks stand out as Zappa classics, but most of them clearly qualify as "good," and that means a lot. The album may not have a lot of depth, and it may not have the best sound overall, but it's a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it to anybody who likes Zappa's "normal" albums in general.

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Send comments to tarkus1980 (BETA) | Report this review (#395796) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, February 07, 2011

Review by Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars 'Them Or Us ' - Frank Zappa (3/10)

My respect and acknowledgement of his vast talent aside, Frank Zappa and his music have never been my thing. Often, I find the music too silly and obnoxious, or otherwise too emotionally shallow to sustain much interest for me. Although I have had a few fun experiences with Zappa's music, it is an album like 'Them Or Us' that really affirms why I could never consider myself a fan of his music. Released in the middle of the 80's when popular music was agreed to have hit rock bottom, Zappa's own quality seems to have really taken a dive with 'Them Or Us'. While there is certainly much creativity at work throughout the album, the end result is unfortunately a piece of work that is dreadfully inconsistent, and sometimes downright unpleasant to listen to.

Much of 'Them Or Us' is a satire on different old styles like doo-wop, focusing heavily on a host of different voices. While the instrumental work here is generally well-arranged and complex within the constraints of the somewhat silly compositions, it is the vocal work on the album that really turns me off. While there are is some good singing in the soul style on tracks such as 'Whippin' Pole', alot of the vocal work falls on Zappa himself, who- while being an undeniably good guitarist- leaves far too much to be desired on the singing end. Coupled with boring, poorly executed lyrical topics like truck drivers and the clothing worn by frogs, Zappa's shallow vocal technique has little to work with from the get-go.

The album is inconsistent to the point of dread; this also brings up the point that there is in fact good music to be heard on 'Them Or Us'. Frequently, the music and songs will alternate between asinine musical comic rock, derivative blues and doo-wop (done fairly poorly) and every once in a while; a very cool complex instrumental section to dive into. It is the few moments of enjoyment here that saves 'Them Or Us' from being a completely unpleasant piece of work in my eyes.

While the doo-wop and blues satires have their place, they certainly cannot warrant the length of an album which exceeds an hour. Perhaps with some fat trimmed off of this partial failure, 'Them Or Us' would have been far more bearable, and even quite enjoyable to listen to, as long as the bad jokes were kept few and far between.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#411143) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, March 04, 2011

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
3 stars This album, which I think tries to capture the magic of "Sheik Yerbouti", seems to be a mostly pop-ish (for Frank Zappa) album, with a few shining moments, some of Zappa's worst music of the eighties, but mostly average songs.

First, the good stuff: at the top are the instrumentals and guitar solo pieces. Sinister Footwear II, Marqueson's Chicken and Them Are Us all fall into this category. Also up there is a very hot rendition of the Allman Brothers' Whippin' Post.

The next step down are In France featuring Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, Stevie's Spanking (although there are better live versions of this one), Be In My Video a dig at MTV, and which also had a video made to go along with it, and Frogs With Dirty Little Lips witha writing credit from a young Ahmet.

Then there's The Closer You Are, an unimpressive doo-wop song, and an unnecessary remake of Sharleena.

All the way at the bottom are Ya Hozna a repetitive backing track, with backwards vocals from Sofa and Moon Unit (possibly outtakes from Valley Girl), Truck Driver Divorce, with a badly sung melody, but a pretty good guitar solo, Baby, Take You Teeth Out, which just isn't as funny as Frank probably thought it was, and Planet Of My Dreams, which is almost unlistenable.

For a mixed bag like this, three stars, I guess.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#446777) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, May 12, 2011

Latest members reviews

4 stars While not as consistant as his opus Joe's Garage this album will still always have a place in my heart, known as one of the albums to feature the legendary Steve Vai i found it funny that there are some songs on this that Frank doesnt even appear in and who cudda guessed that Dweezil Zappa could ... (read more)

Report this review (#289292) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Monday, July 05, 2010 | Review Permanlink

2 stars When you have a dog wearing sunglasses and a dress on your album cover, it makes for a good way to tell the potential listener about the randomness of the collection of songs within. It begins with a doo-wop song in "The Closer You Are", then onto the blues-based "In France", a couple of instrum ... (read more)

Report this review (#213427) | Posted by Stooge | Saturday, May 02, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album is Zappa's last studio rock album. Its sad because the only reason why he stopped doing rock was because he was getting sick. Not only could he not play the guitar with as much vigor at this point, mental blocks from 2000+ mg's of caffiene and lack of sleep every day, and overall acc ... (read more)

Report this review (#85392) | Posted by BaboonSweat | Tuesday, August 01, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is good, but not essential Zappa. The Closer You Are: This song, I find quite boring to be perfectly honest. I can't picture many progfans liking this too too much. In France: Some may find it funny, but I didn't find the humour in this that funny, and the song itself was not that ... (read more)

Report this review (#58477) | Posted by | Monday, November 28, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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