Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers of Prevention

By Susan Borey

Audio, May 1986

Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers of Prevention
Barking Pumpkin ST-74203
, digital, $8.98.
Sound: B+ Performance: B+

Words and music as honest and insightful as Frank Zappa's are rare, and when he isn't being gratuitously disgusting and adolescent, he can be pretty funny too.

To be found on this album are four different species of composition. "We're Turning Again" and "Yo Cats" combine intelligently arranged (if insubstantial) music with humorous, perceptive observations about out-of-date hippies and sold-out, money-grubbing session players, respectively.

"Alien Orifice" and "What's New in Baltimore" are avant-garde, jazzy instrumentals with subtly and attractively contoured melodies. Zappa beautifully doubles and triples these melodies with instruments that combine to produce exciting and sometimes startling textures; for example, he pairs a soaring, legato lead guitar with the rapidly beating bell-tone of a xylophone.

"Porn Wars" is a musique-concrète sound collage. Synthesized 20th-century dissonance provides the ominous setting for a damning collection of tape snippets of the Congressional hearings on "porn rock." The snippets are sped up, slowed down, distorted, multiplied, processed and looped.

"Little Beige Sambo" and "Aerobics in Bondage" are samples of Zappa's "serious" atonal music. The first consists of rapid, swirling, scalar runs in lovely clear tones, and the second proceeds in angular fits and starts. Here, as everywhere on the album, superb digital recording renders crisp and clear a wide range of synthesized, electric, and acoustic sounds.