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Frank Zappa - Apostrophe (') CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.03 | 676 ratings

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5 stars The family-friend Zappa: 10/10

I first listened to Serj Takian's cover of Don't Eat the Yellow Snow and upon researching, discovered this "Frank Zappa" was its original composer. So I listened to the original version and found it absolutely great (who doesn't? I think Yellow Snowis one of Zappa's classics), along Nanuuk Rubs It. I listened to the suite but wasn't really fond of St. Alphonzo's act.

And as time progresses, I discovered Apostrophe (') Zappa's most commercially successful work - homes the awesome Yellow Snow suite, and after an underwhelming experience with HOT RATS - which everyone claimed to be a sparkling brilliant Zappa masterpiece; although it was very good, it was repetitive and not nearly as innovative as expected... I guess the hype killed it - I decided to give Zappa another shot because he HAD to be good.

He had to be good, right?

Well, is he good? Is he avant-garde-ish? Is he progressive?

Oh boy.

If you're unfamiliar with ZAPPA or the avant-garde "genre" as a whole, know that there's no such thing as "labeling". In fact, avant-garde is many times used as an interchangeable term with "labelless" mostly because there are so many musical genres in different songs you can't simply just call it A or B. Normally, there's a horseload of experimental and uncommon elements to compose the songs, but ZAPPA here prefers to stay out of the experimentality and stick to labelless tracks. However, if you're desperate for something to grab and know what you're giving here, I would suppose that the common ground among all songs is a jazz influence. But that's it: influence.

ZAPPA put the first side of the album surrounding the slightly conceptual Nanuuk/St. Alphonzo Parish act, while the second are a bunch of unrelated songs. To prove the point of ZAPPA's genre mixture, the first two tracks about Nanuuk are jazzy and chilly, while the next two are energetic xylophone 'n' keyboard frenzied pancake breakfast parish storytelling.

Speaking of storytelling, one of ZAPPA's strongest point besides his musical creativity is his captivating lyrics and narrative. Often using comedic ways, his lyrics seldom doesn't please the listener. You can laugh with some lyrics, while others, such as Nanuuk Rubs it, you get immersed. You can get offended too; Zappa loves to piss people off with a burning passion. Worth mentioning too is the musician's versatile and unmistakable, delicious voice.

Another unique point about ZAPPA's storytelling is something his fans have always thrived upon while newcomers were clueless about: a thing cited - ironically - in Stink-Foot by our most beloved slippers-muncher poodle pal Fido, is the conceptual continuity. ZAPPA is one hell of a funny guy, and he likes to "connect" his albums and songs into some sort of Grand Scheme of things. A better "explanation" is found at Lumpy Gravy Pt. 2, where he talks about "THE BIG NOTE" in an allusion to the Big Bang and some other stuff. However, you shouldn't see this conceptual continuity as anything but... running gags.

1. "Here Fido" can be heard on Nanuuk Rubs It's "Circular Motion" solo, in reference to Fido from Stink-Foot;

2. "The Grand Wazoo", a fellatio joke ("The price of meat has just gone up/An' yer ol' lady has just gone down . . . ") and the reference to the song Camarillo Brillo from OVER-NITE SENSATION "(Now is that a real poncho or is that a Sears poncho?)";

3. "Arf! Arf! Arf" as spoken by Fido, and the piece "THE POODLE BY-EE-ITES/THE POODLE CHEWS IT", both in Stink-Foot;

Among others, I'm too lazy to search for.

Zappa is known to be demanding of his musicians, expecting virtuosity and superb quality on each track. I believe this has been reached on this album, each musician truly seems to give his best. I can claim the keyboards, which are SO VARIED, the distorted and virtuoso guitar, and the appallingly nimble drums as the album's highlights. And for those fond of technical prowess, this album has lots of it. In fact, Zappa manages to make odd time signatures - such as Don't Eat the Yellow Snow's 7/4 or St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast's 9/8 - sound as natural as 4/4.

After paying attention to Stink-Foot I found an interpretation for the "crux of the biscuit is the Apostrophe (')", that being nothing more than one of Zappa's numerous ironic moments. Possibly, he was criticized for his constant contractions (upon reading the lyrics you'll notice how frequent they are) and trying to ironize his critics he created this musical section. Or perhaps, instead, he was just stating his adoration for the apostrophe. Nonetheless, the usage of the apostrophe - thanks to this very song - became another item of his conceptual continuity, assuming it had become a gag (as Fido toyed with contractions right after his owner's unnerved reaction). In fact, for some reason, Zappa felt compelled to highlight this section among all others to the point of naming his album " ' ". Another point for Zappa: making a joke out of a grammatical and morphological gimmick.

Regarding creativity, Zappa is a fountain beyond endless. Even though the first songs are loosely connected they are still unique on their own manners, each with characteristics and compositions singular to themselves. Not to mention each individual song concept: an Eskimo being told not to eat whatever the hell is a yellow snow; a fur trapper using a lead filled snowshoe, an Eskimo legend which orders you to trudge across the tundra mile after mile to a Parish, a mystery man doing offers way too great to believe.

This is even more flabbergasting when you put in perspective this is ZAPPA's fifteenth album, and even after twelve years of career, he has the mind to create such things. Besides, the whole idea of making your entire discography interconnected through jokes is genial, to say the least.

In the end, APOSTROPHE (') is a delicious, gay (on the lighthearted sense) and unpredictable masterpiece of this immemorial master that is Frank Zappa. For those new to avant-garde, look no further - there's no introduction like the best introduction.

Luqueasaur | 5/5 |


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