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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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3 stars What an album! For the first two-and-a-bit sides Freak Out! treats the listener to some of the most diverse, witty, and bitingly cynical rock music of its era, the sort of thing that might result from a psychedelic band made up of escaped mental patients playing to lyrics written by Bob Dylan on a really bad day - check out Trouble Every Day or Hungry Freaks Daddy for some of the angriest and most direct political writing Zappa would ever indulge in - mixed with sonic experiments like the creepy Who Are the Brain Police? and filled in with some warped deconstructed doo-wop ditties like I Ain't Got No Heart or You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here.

And then, after Trouble Every Day, it gets *really* strange. But it would be a mistake to write off Help I'm a Rock or Return of the Son of Monster Magnet as aimless jams; like school buddy Captain Beefheart's own strangest work, those two tracks yield more secrets the more you listen to them. Take all the vocals in the It Can't Happen Here segment; try to listen to the words and it just doesn't make sense, until you realise that the voices aren't meant to be saying anything that makes sense - they're being used as instrumentation, and the piece is actually an orchestral ditty conveyed entirely through the human voice.

At the time it was released, *nobody* had produced anything so simultaneously eccentric and erudite in a rock context. So why isn't it a five-star classic? Well, frankly it's because Zappa hadn't quite taken all the different ingredients of his sound and turned them into gold yet. The really avant-garde stuff - the parts which aren't occasional eccentric diversions in an otherwise conventional (if sarcastically performed) pop number - are all shoved to the back of the album, and the smarmy pop parodies which dominate the double-disc set don't stand up to repeated listens at all well. Had Zappa showed a bit more discernment in editing, trimmed things back to a single disc, and kept only the cream of the pop parodies - or even better, edited them together into some sort of crazed medley, which would have resulted in something a lot like the first side of Absolutely Free - this would be a classic.

As it is, it's got obvious historical importance, but the lax quality control and excess of material (flaws which would regularly crop up in the vast Zappa discography) mean that whilst it's worth a listen for research, for actual enjoyment or a fulfilling musical experience the followup (Absolutely Free) completely leaves Freak Out! in the dust, succeeding at more or less everything Freak Out! attempts to a vastly greater extent and pulling a few unique stunts of its own on the side.

Warthur | 3/5 |


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