Irrelevant Troubadour

Frank Zappa, Zoot Allures
February 20, 2011, 5:55 pm
Filed under: music

Bluh bluh TV Tropes Album Exchange Club bluh bluh Zoot Allures by Frank Zappa bluh bluh listen to it.

There are many sides to Zappa. There’s the doo-wop loving soul man, there’s the high-minded classical composer, there’s the irreverent rebel prankster, there’s the wild jazz-rock berserker, there’s even the purveyor of hooky pop songs. Unfortunately, this album is mostly devoted to those sides of Zappa I most dislike: the technical guitar geek and the pointlessly crude, sleazy, and misogynistic novelty singer.

Having said that, I quite like this album—I’d say, in fact, that it’s the best bad album that Zappa ever made. Is it comparable to Freak Out! or Weasels Ripped My Flesh! or Burnt Weeny Sandwich or Roxy & Elsewhere? Nope. But taken on its own merit and disregarding just how much better Zappa could be when he applied himself, this thing’s awfully enjoyable.

Why is this? Well, quite simply, the songs are catchy. The rollicking “Wind Up Workin’ in a Gas Station” and the glam-rock “Disco Boy” are tons o’ fun (even though I rather dislike the chipmunk backing vocals), the moody “The Torture Never Stops” is great if a bit long, and loathe as I am to admit it, I even sometimes get “Ms. Pinky” and “Find Her Finer” stuck in my head, though I have to pretend I don’t know the words.

And that brings us to the lyrics, always the most divisive thing about Zappa’s rock albums. Yes, I know they’re satirical and goofy, but the fact is that to me, they’re just plain not funny. They’re just kinda…gross. And the fact that he kept returning to these kind of lyrics over and over again throughout his career doesn’t help matters. “But Irrelevant Troubadour, what about Zappa’s instrumentals?” no one asked. Well, I usually love ’em, but on this album? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong, “Friendly Little Finger” is great, but “Black Napkins” and the title track to me sound like the dullest sort of guitar wanking.

The general impression I get from this album is that it just plain isn’t one Zappa cared that much about. I’ve read that his rock albums from this time period mostly served to finance his classical compositions, and if so, it would make sense that this album is so half-baked. Now don’t get me wrong, this album is good at what it does—unfortunately, what it does isn’t much.

I must give this album some extra credit though: “Ms. Pinky” is probably the second best pop song about a blow-up doll ever written, after Roxy Music’s “In Every Dream Home a Heartache”.


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