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Frank Zappa - Joe's Garage, Acts I, II & III CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.77 | 142 ratings

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4 stars I guess I'm going to review this compilation, as such, because it's the only CD version I could seem to find.

I dare say this is the height of Frank Zappa's ridiculousness, which is a very dangerous statement to those who know his lyrical habits even in passing. What we have here is a three LP concept following Joe, an average guy who wants to be a rock star. Over the course of the album, we find Joe seducing a Catholic girl, who ends up becoming a groupie for some other band. Doesn't take long for Joe to find another girlfriend, who gives him some STI. Questioning things, Joe ends up at the Church of Appliantology (yes, a mildly clever satire on Scientology), where he is told to run off to a special nightclub full of machines who will service people, because in truth, Joe is a closeted appliance-fetishist. Apparently. Joe goes a little wild on the robot he hooks up with, and the thing fries, at which point Joe is thrown in jail. Hey, guess what happens to Joe in jail? I mean, these are FRANK ZAPPA songs, you know? Not much of a surprise, in the end. After a bit of awkward prison humor, Joe is released into a world where music is not allowed, sits around daydreaming about guitar solos, and then gives up and works in a muffin factory.

There's the plot. At least, plot seems to be the best word, though this story seems more like a connection of a bunch of naughty jokes.

Of course, these gags, whether humorous or not, depend entirely on the quality of the music. And here, thankfully, is where the album is able to rise above its juvenile drudgery. A very wide range of music is explored in Joe's Garage, from straight up commercial rock tracks to some very progressive (and slightly obtuse) bits. Some of the guitar solos found on this album can be argued to be among Zappa's very best ever. Aside from the guitar, which is almost a given in any of Frank's albums, the musicians all blend pretty well, play what they're supposed to. The only instrument that sticks out is the bass, with terrific flair and a lot of tasty slapping.

The music on Act I is the most commercial and generally least progressive, though that's a silly way of looking at it, all told. Joe's Garage features a (surprise!) garage band sort of feel, with references to some golden oldies, such as the surfer classic Wipe-Out. The next few tracks are standard Zappa bits, with dirty jokes and unique little bits here and there. All have terribly catchy and terribly inappropriate melodies, I must add. And speaking of terribly catchy and terribly inappropriate melodies, the kind of of all awkward Zappa tunes comes up here: Why Does It Hurt When I Pee? I swear, I have never come across a song so catchy, or so unwise to sing out loud in front of people. It truly is a stellar track, devoid of unnecessary parts--just bare bones quality.

Act II begins with A Token of My Extreme, where Joe is visiting the Church of Appliantology. The second act features slightly longer songs, a few more progressive bits, and more jamming. Also, Act II features the most explicit lyrics on the whole shebang, possibly in Zappa history. The strongest track here is Keep It Greasey, a rather unpleasantly-lyricked track with absolutely inhuman bass. Plus, we get a particularly long guitar solo over some strange time signature that I can't count out because I'm not good at math. Act II, I think, on the whole, is the weakest of the three.

The last act is only four songs, but here Frank stretches the songs out, building massive jams for the first three. Packard Goose features a wonderful, twisting guitar solo for a good portion of its length--the song is streamable from this site. Watermelon in Easter Hay is my personal favorite, featuring a lovely clean solo played in 9/4 time or something. I think. Did I mention that I'm not good at math? Anyways, the final song, A Little Green Rosetta, is a rather random concluding band jam with a lot of folks singing the title over and over again. It's fun, and I suppose Frank couldn't have ended the album in any better of a way.

This is, to me, one of Frank Zappa's last great albums. It's got something in it for fans of any era of his. The only real stipulation against it is a weak middle section and too many ridiculous sex jokes. Aside from that, I highly recommend this album. An okay place to start for people interested in Zappa, though I'd say starting with some of his earlier stuff would be wiser.

LiquidEternity | 4/5 |


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