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Frank Zappa - The Mothers Of Invention: Over-Nite Sensation CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.02 | 605 ratings

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4 stars Another year, another radical change of direction, but this time Frank's new direction would largely define his musical approach for well over a decade. And you know what, it's a change I'm glad he made. Oh, the argument could be made that going from a "serious" discipline such as jazz fusion to making relatively normal (at least, by Zappa standards; this album and others that would follow are miles away from normal by most other artists' standards) music was a step down, even a "sell out" by Frank. Thing is, though, my overall view of Zappa is that he was a commentator/satirist first and a composer second, and in my mind it's much easier to be an effective satirist of pop culture when you're actually making something vaguely resembling "pop" music, as opposed to when you're doing ultra-serious jazz fusion or ultra-stupid "comedy" music.

Zappa's new approach, from an overall theoretical perspective, is really freaking awesome. He takes "regular" rock (and related kinds) music, (seemingly) haphazardly smooshes in a solid dose of funk and whatever other genre strikes his fancy at the moment, writes ridiculously over-the-top entertaining (if not always memorable) melodies, uses all sorts of his old jazz fusion buddies to diversify the instrumentation beyond the standard guitar (which tends to go into some awesome solos at times), bass and drums setup, and sings lyrics that range from totally ridiculous to sharp satirical stabs at seemingly anything. The one major drawback to the new approach is that his lyrics would also, from this point forward, very often focus on the obsession that rock music has with sex, and his method of satirizing this would be to sing about sex in the crudest, bluntest ways imaginable. Strangely, I'm not as bothered when he engages in this kind of sexist pig shtick as I was when, say, he would let Flo and Eddie go off into their more intolerable rants; maybe it's because this kind of humor seems less like immature frat-boy humor and more like over- over-over-the-top attempts to rattle sensibilities on the part of somebody who knew just how to make people feel uncomfortable.

So anyway, there are but seven tracks on here, and only a slight letdown in the last two tracks (which are pretty lengthy) prevents this album from having a shot at a ***** rating "Dinah Mo Hum" is an incredibly offensive tale about a guy's attempts to bring a girl to climax, and how he succeeds only after he starts screwing her semi-retarded sister, but while it's tough for me to take an incredible amount of offense at something that's so blatantly tongue-in-cheek lyrically (the clearest indicator is that goofy synth line that pops up every so often after he says the name of the track), I'm very bothered at how uninteresting the piece is from a musical standpoint. I mean, it starts out alright, but once we get to the part in the lyrics concerning the screwings of the sisters, all that's left is a stripped-down generic porno background (which I think is the point, but that doesn't mean I have to like it), and this goes on seemingly forever and a half. Blech. The closing "Montana" is amusing lyrically ("moving to Montana soon, gonna be a dental floss tycoon"), but while it does have some pretty solid guitar passages, there really isn't that much of a melody to fall back on otherwise, which is a problem given that it's almost seven minutes long. Then again, I've gotta give Frank credit for being able to make the singing of, "YIPPIE AYE O KYE YAY!" in the background repetitively in the last minute or so sound so hilariously anthemic, so the song's not a total loss by any means.

The first five tracks are a total hoot, though. The opening "Camarillo Brillo" is a surprisingly straight-up country-western/Mexican number, but the lyrics are so ridiculously bizarre that nobody will make the mistake of thinking Frank's gone normal on us. "She had a snake for a pet, and an amulet, and she was breeding a DWARF, but she wasn't done yet" is a standout snippet, and the spoken monologue at the end, "Is that a real poncho ... I mean is that a Mexican poncho or is that a Sears poncho? Hmmm ... no foolin' ..." is tweaked in just that way that makes me like Zappa so much. "I'm the Slime" is even better, featuring Zappa singing/speaking lyrics about the corrupting influence of television, doing so in Frank's newfound (courtesy of the whacky fan who'd attacked him on stage) creepily lower-pitched voice. It's not just the lyrics that work here, though; the opening main theme is terrifically funky (and is proceeded by a nice aggressive guitar flourish), the female vocals that sing the "chorus" are fabulous, and the song structure is something that I find really neat. Instead of featuring an alternation of verses and chorus, with an instrumental break in the middle, like most rock songs have, the song is broken down simply into "Instrumental Intro"/"Verses"/"Chorus"/"Instrumental Outro." It may not seem like much to you, but for some reason it strikes me as rather amusing.

Next up is "Dirty Love," another piece of funky bliss, this time about sex with a poodle (!!!) and with Frank, from time to time, doing a great imitation of Barry White. Sheesh, what a great goofy song for such a gross topic. And then we have "50/50," with a great over-the-top screaming guest vocal delivery from Ricky Lancelotti, which well complements the over-the- top keyboard, violin and guitar solos. It's not really a "song" so much as it is an enormous instrumental wank-off, yes, but it's one heck of an entertaining instrumental wank-off. And finally, we have "Zomby Woof," which is a bit of a comedown (these incessant rhythm-shifts and weird vocals get a little old after a while), but it's a neat little "spook rock" pastiche, and it rounds out the album well.

Overall, then, this is a nice introduction to "mid-period" Zappa, and actually a good candidate for a first album to buy of his. Get it, especially if you can find it as part of the Apostrophe/Overnite Sensation two-fer disc.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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