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Frank Zappa - The Mothers Of Invention: Freak Out! CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.93 | 639 ratings

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4 stars Freak Out! is the debut of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, and it is one of the most revolutionary albums ever released. It combines doo-wop, R&B, psychedelia, and Beatles pop into one dense whole. I've heard some critics say this is one of Frank's most accessible records, which kind of throws me because when I first bought it (one of the first Zappa albums I owned because of such reviews) I was nearly turned off Frank because it wouldn't click, which is funny cause it's really not a complex album barring the final track. Perhaps the reason it didn't is because someone who listened to it when it first came out because the sounds it draws from would have been filling the airwaves. After all, the sound and lyrics are typically a satire of the popular music of the time, and I only know the big names beyond the one-hit wonders, so perhaps it hasn't aged well. Nevertheless, many listens and examinations later, I've finally put most of the pieces together, but there are still a few that don't quite fit.

Although the trademark Mothers sound is a little hard to get into, the lyrics are terrific from the start. Hungry Freaks, Daddy is sort of a call to arms for the freaks by attacking the conformity of society. Motherly Love is an ode to groupies, and I Ain't Got No Heart is an upfront view on sexual relationships that doesn't bother with all that I Wanna Hold Your Hand nonsense and goes for the gut (or something a little further south...). Who Are the Brain Police?is an interesting little number. According to a snippet I read on Zappa's wiki when I was trying to get this album said that the point of the song is to ask us if we'd stop enjoying music if the packaging suddenly disappeared. It purposefully makes unpleasant sounds to shake you out of an expectation of hooks and melody, blatantly asking us whether we want style or substance (most would say substance, but pop charts would say otherwise).

Any Way the Wind Blows is about Frank's divorce, which perhaps explains his ambivalence towards serious relationships on Motherly Love and I Ain't Got No Heart. Trouble Every Day was written in response to the Watts riots, and it touches upon the media's glamorization of violence years, possibly decades before anyone else talked about it. But really, the biggest and most important number here is the closer The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet. It is the one that points the way to the future sound mashups that the Mothers would use. Whereas the rest of the album is really R&B, pop, and doo-wop as processed through the unique sound of the Mothers, but this is where it all came together into one collage. However, it is incredibly uneven and too dense for its own good, as if it is complex just for the sake of showing people that the Mothers were something different (I'm pretty sure that's exactly why the song is the way it is).

All in all, this is more of a lyrical triumph than a cohesive debut. Frank's guitar skills are on display, but not in the manner that really exposed his potential. He's yet to combine all his diverse musical influences into one sound and make it sound good. However, I forgive it on the grounds that A)it's a debut album and B)it is so vastly different from anything else people had heard at the time.

Grade: B

1800iareyay | 4/5 |


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