Wednesday, December 5, 2012

#137: The Mothers of Invention - Freak Out (1966)

The Mothers are a band from California in which Frank Zappa débuted. The band's sound can be classified as progressive rock or experimental rock. In 1970, Zappa formed a different line up, this time with former members of the Turtles. In 1971, a fan shot a flare during a concert and destroyed the band's equipment, burning the casino to the ground. The song "Smoke on the Water" was written about this event. A few weeks later using rented equipment, The Mothers played again but Zappa was injured on stage when a fan pushed him into the orchestral pit below. Unable to tour for a year and a half, Zappa focused on writing and after the hiatus he created a final line up for '73 - '75. This is the second rock double album, after Dylan's Blonde on Blonde.

Who Are the Brain Police?
So far this track has the best vocals on the album. To put it gently, the vocals are a bit rough throughout and I can understand how this type of music has a market - I'm just not part of that target. At many times the vocals feel flat, or off. I can appreciate that they're doing something very different and unique, in fact I applaud it. However, just because something pushes musical boundaries doesn't make it good. To make a very generic point about these reviews: Who the fuck am I? I have no right to judge these musicians who have a billion times more success than I ever will. This is just one simple man's opinion that doesn't matter. That being said, I still don't dig it.

Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder
This track has an old school 50's vibe to it, the harmonies and bass create a very "Earth Angel"-ish type feel. In contrast to the vocals on the previous tracks I love these, they have soul, they have emotion, I can't say enough for them. It's not necessarily better than any 50's tracks, but it's very true, very genuine to it. They add their own particular spin to it and it works. I really enjoyed it.

How Could I Be Such a Fool?
I probably sound like a man who's impossible to please. After the first two tracks the album really changed, I thought the vocals were much better and musically it was a stronger record. Musically the Mothers are very different from their predecessors and I'm sure it set them apart. You can hear hints of other popular bands of the time such as the Byrds. I particularly love the horns on this track, the whole this is good - it's just not quite doing it for me.

All in all, there were other songs I didn't care for (vocally) than the first few (see: Wowie Zowie). I wouldn't be surprised if this album was a big predecessor to punk music. It's not a bad album and I wished I liked it, but I just didn't. There were some flashes of brilliance but just not enough of it. That being said, I'd like to hear more Zappa. There's plenty of talent underneath it all, tons of musical ingenuity. While I may not have enjoyed this particular instance of his music, I'm sure he grew from it and there's plenty of really amazing stuff down the line.

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