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Frank Zappa - The Mothers Of Invention: We're Only In It For The Money CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.11 | 639 ratings

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4 stars Frank Zappa's anti-Flower Power parody was one of those self-consciously wacky albums that was probably more fun to write and record that it was to play back afterward (at least after the first, hilarious exposure).

It was released in answer to what Zappa saw as the commercial mainstreaming of the counterculture after the Summer of Love (hence the cynical title). But talk about easy targets: picking on the hippies must have been like shooting stoned fish in a pastel-colored barrel. What exactly was the matter, Frank? Were the phony freaks getting more media attention than the genuine ones? It's 1968, there's rioting in the streets from Paris to Chicago, and you're satirizing the Flower Children? What happened to the legitimate outrage evident in the earlier Mother's song 'Trouble Every Day'?

All right, enough carping, easy enough to do with over forty years of hindsight. There is of course a lot more here than mere hippie-bashing. The album was unique in its day, both for its daring nonconformity (a rock 'n' roll record mocking rock 'n' roll's primary audience) and for the groundbreaking cut-and-paste composite production job.

The entire album flows together like an extended theatrical stage show, despite being broken up into discrete songs ranging from a breathless 23-seconds ('Hot Poop') to a brief 3+ minutes ('Idiot Bastard Son'). The exception is the free-form album closer, 'The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny' six minutes of carefully orchestrated noise and tape effects, revealing Zappa's deeply-rooted affection for post-romantic European classical avant- garde and musique concrète (notable the work of Edgar Varèse, a hero of Frank's since childhood).

Underneath all the munchkin vocals, corrupted doo-wop, ersatz psychedelia and silly track titles ('Nasal Retentive Calliope Music') is a not-so-subtle condemnation of the music industry, already marketing rebellion as a freeze-dried commodity in 1968. The album, then as now, plays like a wet slap in the face of cultural complacency and corporate brainwashing.

Coda: it's easy in retrospect to see Zappa's influence on such celebrated outsider music groups like FAUST and (in particular) the RESIDENTS. But Uncle Frank was there first.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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