The Mothers "Just Another Band From L.A."

By David Thomas

Scene, 13 April 1972

The Mothers
Bizarre MS2075

I really didn’t want to like the Mothers’ new album, JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM L.A. – Zappa can be such a money-grubbing bastard. He doesn’t think twice about playing down to an audience.

JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM L.A. is a live recording from the end of the tour that produced LIVE AT THE FILLMORE. If you were at the Mothers concert last June, you’ll recognize the first side of the album – a 24 minute epic entitled “Billy the Mountain.” Billy the Mountain is a mountain. He decides to take a vacation, causing “untold destruction” as he heads across America towards New York. Studebacher Hoch (pronounced ‘hawk’), “the fantastic new super-hero of the current economic slump,” is called to save America. That’s it.

“Billy the Mountain” is a good example of playing down to an audience. The twenty-four minutes are saved, however, by good parodies of “Over The Rainbow,” Johnny Carson’s theme song, Jerry Lewis singing “Nice Lady”, and “Suite: Judy Blues Eyes.”

If “Billy the Mountain” was all the album had to offer, I could self-righteously condemn Zappa as being cheesier than the infamous Suzie Creamcheese. The four songs on the second side, however, are tighter and more refreshing than most things Zappa has done since UNCLE MEAT and HOT RATS. What makes for this renewed vitality must be the coalescing of the new Mothers’ style which is an eclectic bastardization of many sounds – rock, cocktail syrup, touches of blues and jazz and, of course, the omnipresent pachuco “Leader of the Pack” rock and roll schlok. All under the strict, inventive and fluid direction of Zappa.

Zappa treats two remakes of Mothers classics – “Call Any Vegetable” and “Dog Breath” – as nostalgia trips. Added to “Call Any Vegetable” is a bit which, in part, goes:

“ ‘Where can I go to get my jeans embroidered?’ 
‘At Jean’s North where nothing fits.’
‘Where can I go to get my exit lights?’
Questions. Questions. Questions . . . flooding into the mind of a concerned young person of today.”

“Eddie, Are You Kidding?” is parody of Ralph Williams — like, “hip” clothes commercials. “Magdalena” is more of the Fugs-like material heavily featured on LIVE AT THE FILLMORE - the formula: crass sentimentalism smothered in undisguised degeneracy, embellished by on-stage fako Juney Poony.

“I want you back in your 5 inch spike heels
you got at Fredrick’s the same time
you and your mommy got that crotchless underwear,
walk, walk, walk, walk on back.”

Unfortunately, you have to listen for Zappa’s guitar. With HOT RATS, Zappa proved himself one of rock’s best guitarists. It’s almost criminal he doesn’t give his live performances more instrumentation. As it is, he allows only short enticing tastes of what he can do.