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Frank Zappa - You Are What You Is CD (album) cover

YOU ARE WHAT YOU IS

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.66 | 291 ratings

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olzen
4 stars Arguably Frank Zappa's best satiric album since "We're Only in It for the Money". While "Sheik Yerbouti" offered plenty of Zappa's crass social satire, "You Are What You Is" seems a lot more refined, both musically and lyrically. Interestingly, Zappa also enlisted a couple of notable guest stars: Mothers alumnis Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood, Jimmy Carl Black (the Indian of the group) and slide-guitarist Denny Walley.

Through its 67-minute runtime, "You Are What You Is" manages to make fun of such subjects as cocaine-sniffing teenagers, dumb "Saturday Night Live"-sketches, posers, televangelists, religious fanatics, people wishing to commit suicide, obese groupies and military draft. Furthermore, the album is an impressive display of conceptual continuity; the songs all flow seamlessly into another, essentially forming one continous piece of music about everything Zappa thought was wrong with the United States of America in 1980. A lot of the material is still surprisingly relevant. Listen to the vitriolic "Dumb All Over" for an example.

The music is quite diverse, ranging from the 80's doo-wop of "Doreen" to the guitar acrobatics of "Theme from the 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear", but the music always manages to stay on the fine line between eclectic and commercial. "You Are What You Is" might be one of Zappa's most accessible albums, but at the same time, it offers enough complexity to not disappoint fans of Zappa's more avantgardistic output. The production is also incredibly dense and the mix is often jam-packed with vocal parts.

The mix might be the only shortcoming of this album, as it marks Zappa's first major work with digital technology. As a result, the sound on "You Are What You Is" is noticeably flat and compressed to make everything stand out as much as possible. In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor gripe, but nevertheless a frustrating one, since everything else gels on this album.

Despite the issues with the sound, "You Are What You Is" is highly recommendable, both to Zappa-fans and to other prog fans. While he did continue to break new musical ground till his death, Zappa would never make anything as funny as this album again. If I could give this album 4.5 stars, I would, but the album lands on a very solid rating of four stars. Now leave my nose alone, please.

olzen | 4/5 |

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