Frank Zappa Gets The Mothership

By Bruce Malamut

Crawdaddy, February 1977

Frank Zappa
Warner Bros. (BS 2970)

The primary philosophical conceit of Frank Zipper’s outrageous musical preparations is and always has been that he goals on stoned white punk “youth culture” as bitterly as he does on their elders – America itself. And you. He puts you down like a furry Don Rickles. Once you learn to love it and, in that, transcend it, he changes direction and leaves you in his ugly dust once again.

 And this new one? I think we left him in the dirt this time ’round. Nary a mother in sight for the 16-year-olds in this new band. Zardoz has undone himself. Zappa’s heavy metal kidz – same move Van Vliet last employed (and to little avail – Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans and Moonbeams) just don’t have the weasels. The joke is on Zeppo – he’s now turned into what he used to goof on. You could have seen it coming what with the old manipulator producing Grand Funk. In person he is a real guitar hero these days. Long on the psychedelic axe solos and short on the humor. And bye-bye to those trademark lightningobolt time changes. “Black Napkins” and “Friendly Little Finger” are prime examples of the new Cremora.

All this considered, it still is educational to see Zappa address himself to real metal. “Wind up Workin’ In a Gas Station” could be the Move – had they deigned to stick with us through ’77 – all gonzo feedback and density (with only jagged time changes on the album). On “Wonderful Wino“ the Zap makes ref to “Florsheim Shoes” and you jes’ know brown shoes are still uglier than sin. But such reapplication of Kiwi polish is nothing if not sophomoric this far into the century.

“The torture never stops” is Zappa up to his old devilish tricks. He is credited on the sleeve as “director of recreational activities” and the vocal track lives up to its creator’s ghoulish rep. But it’s like my good ol’ grandma China said when she heard Alice Cooper: “ganucht ist ganucht!”(enuf is enuf). The only track she really liked a lot was the Hendrixy instrumental title dreamscape: “Those triple-tracked guitar overtones are truly (what we used to call) Zoot Allures.” She’s always sayin’ this crazy stuff but I trust her opinions. What she really objected to was how puerile it was that Franco always seems to pick up on the latest trend and milk it for all its worth. “Overkill is not the byword of irony,” she had intoned.