Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Could it be? A Frank Zappa album that doesn't suck?

Thinking of the "Uncle Meat" soundtrack. I know that Zappa has a different reputation over in Europe but over here in the U.S. he's been relentlessly marketed by record clubs, you know, where you pay one dollar and get twelve CDs with a seventy five dollar shipping fee, or something similar. The records (CDs) they offer are usually "Strictly Commercial", which is a best of, and "We're only in it for the money", which is their satire on hippy counterculture. Because of this, and because of the large number of youth in the U.S. who have either signed up with or scammed these record clubs at some point in their school years, Frank Zappa has become something that middle schoolers listen to but that high schoolers dismiss as being too juvenile. I agree with a lot of that. "Titties & Beer" and "The Illinois Enema Bandit" on Zappa's L├Ąther album don't do much to establish him as a serious figure, and even the "serious music" that he reported he made songs like that to finance generally sucks, at least in my considered opinion. So we're left with "Don't eat the yellow snow" and other things in a similar vein. This reputation is compounded by the fact that Zappa released a hell of a lot of albums and many of the later ones seem to suck as well. Or at least that's what I remember. He released a hell of a lot of albums, and once you get the idea in your head that most of the are like the ones you've already heard you're inclined to say 'Fuck It' and not spend money listening to what you assume is going to be shit. The live recording at the Filmore East, which has the memorable and Seattle linked story of the mudshark....where an unnamed band *cough* (Led Zeppelin) *cough* engaged in bestiality with a female groupie and a small long fish, is probably the most entertaining of the immature stuff that I ended up hearing.

But this "Uncle Meat" soundtrack, referenced in Julian Cope's book on Krautrock as an influence on Faust, is actually experimental and musical in a way that's worth listening to. Who'd have thought. Maybe some of his earlier work doesn't suck either. You never know.

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