Frank Zappa "Hot Rats"

By Ed Nimmervoll

Revolution, June/July 1970

Frank Zappa HOT RATS

Frank Zappa is the Mother of Invention.

The Mothers grew stale on Frank, not their fault or Frank’s, but they were becoming too much of an establishment to have the impact Frank wanted. There’d be too many people knowing, or thinking they were knowing, what the Mothers were all about. Uncle Meat and Burnt Weenie Sandwich express Frank’s frustration at having been rendered directionless.

He broke up the Mothers.

Hot Rats is his only work since that break-up, Frank saying “OK read some meaning into this – music.” So he and ex-Mother Ian Underwood gather around them a few musicians and that’s what they play – just music.

There are no Mother’s trappings. No dialogues. No electronic distortions. No belches.

Frank chooses or creates themes around which the various line-ups improvise, Frank on guitar. There is the unmistakable touch of Zappa in the tracks, touches he’s introduced in the variations on Uncle Meat and Lumpy Gravy.

This shows Frank as a brilliant guitarist (“I had it all the time”) as he thunders and slides in and around the basic structures. He’s not a blues impovisationalist, more in a jazz mould, using wah wah like nobody else has used it, playing just everything.

One session has a vocal by Captain Beefheart, sung in his roughest of rasping styles flanking the long middle instrumental workings.

Unlike the music Frank composed for the Mothers Hot Rats is easy to get into. The first, “Peaches En Regalia” instantly demand your attention for its freshness. Then there’s “Willie The Pimp”, Beefheart, the lyrics and violin as feature. From there on it’s much the same, repetitive themes, even repetitive from track to track, around which Zappa builds layers of texture.

Probably the beauty of the album is the formlessness it takes on after having to pour hours into Mothers albums and their tight restless structures. Or maybe its beauty is just the briskness of the music.