Now that all my workouts for the day are in the can (minus one core workout that I’ll do later on), there’s nothing left to do on this rainy Sunday afternoon but sit back in my EZ-Boy, be lazy, and plow through a few more chapters of my ‘Zappa: A Biography‘ (Barry Miles) book. This afternoon’s listen then is carrying on with the recent Frank Zappa exploration I’ve been making lately, with ‘Joe’s Garage (Acts I & II)‘.
This is likely the most Frank Zappa I have ever heard in my life; especially in one go. And as I’ve said before, I don’t necessarily dig all of it but, hey, at least I can say that I know about it than I did before.
And the fact that Kelly still hasn’t divorced me yet is a good thing as well.
Anyway, two months after the release of ‘Act I‘ , “Uncle Frank” completed ‘Joe’s Garage‘ with this two-LP set, meaning that, counting the two contractual albums ‘Sleep Dirt‘ and ‘Orchestral Favorites‘, he released seven LPs’ worth of new material in 1979. Maybe that’s why this album – to me anyway – seems so thin and thrown together, musically and dramatically, especially on its second and third sides. I liked ‘Act I‘ well enough, but this is definitely more on the miss’ side of the spectrum. I mean, ‘Sy Borg‘?
The album relies heavily on what Zappa termed “xenochrony” – previously recorded guitar solos transferred onto new, rhythmically different backing tracks to produce random musical coincidences. Such an approach is guaranteed to produce some slow moments as well, but critics latched onto the work more for its conceptual substance. So they claim anyway.
This album continues with the “The Central Scrutinizer” satirizing social control mechanisms, consumerism, corporate abuses, gender politics, religion, and the rock & roll lifestyle; all these forces which conspire against the title protagonist, an average young man who simply wants to play guitar and enjoy himself.
Even though Zappa himself reputedly hated punk rock and even says so on the album, his ideas seemed to support punk’s do-it-yourself challenge to the record industry and to social norms in general. Since this is 1979-era Zappa, there are liberal applications of his trademark scatological humor (the title ‘Keep It Greasey‘ on this album is self-explanatory). Still, in spite of its flaws, there’s enough substance here it to make it a somewhat listenable experience albeit not as good as ‘Act I‘, nor does it rank with his earliest Mothers of Invention masterpieces I’ve listened to already.
It’s certainly not more of that ‘200 Motels‘ bullshit, that’s for sure.