Album in Depth: Freak Out! By Mothers of Invention

Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. For those who viewed the past reviews, you will see that I’m a sucker for concept albums.

So, why do not start with the first? Well, it’s kind of a gray area in that department. The thing is that there was a time when no one knew what a concept album would look like. Probably, if you look for the first concept album of all times, you will get an album of Lee Wiley, a jazz singer, who made an album with eight songs composed by show tune composers. I couldn’t put my hands on that one, but from the look of it, two questions are raised:

  1. Is it really good? From the background, it’s probably not so much of a competition to the half century forward music of the twentieth century; and
  2. Is it really a concept album? It doesn’t look so ground breaking, since the concept of the album was not stated through music, but through information about the music: the composers. It would be like making a concept album only with band who released records in ’68. It will be a concept, but if you really want to, the songs can go as random as they can get.

With those two questions in mind, I started trying to look for a good concept album, and started research by talking to many people of the university with similar tastes to mine, and they referred to the “first concept album of all time”: 1966 “Freak Out!” by Mothers of Invention, more known as Frank Zappa and the Mothers. So, I started to search for this album in all the ways I could.

For those who do not know, I’m an avid album collector. I have the entire discography of many of my favorite bands in LP format, such as Jethro Tull, Beatles, Pink Floyd and AC/DC, several other bands that I have almost every album, such as Queen (missing Queen II), Van Halen (I can’t find Diver Down anywhere!) and Dire Straits (meh, the missing ones are Making Movies and On Every Street), and some bands that I have only one album at all (Deep Purple’s Machine Head, U2’s Joshua Tree, Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime etc). And any effort for the expansion of this list I think is kind of reasonable. They are masterpieces and they deserve a place in my walls and in my chest (the really good one I frame, the okay ones I chest). So, I started to look in every way for this “Freak Out!” album.

And I finally found it! HAHAHAHA! I FUCKING FOUND IT! IT’S MINE! MINE! MINE FOR THE TAKING! IT’S MINE, BOYS, MINE ME THAT GOLD!

I mean… well, now I could finally listen to it. A little background is, of course, needed.

The year is 1966. A ridiculous amount of nuclear materials is found in Brazil. John Lennon makes the “We’re more famous than Jesus” statement, the Beatles make their last concert and the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” gets to the top of the US charts. Walt Disney died of lung cancer, “A Man for All Seasons” get the academy award for best picture, Adam West’s “Batman” goes to the big screen and Jack Bauer was conceived (Kiefer Sutherland, not the character… ah, you got it).

Two years after, in the mythical year of 1964, there was this band called “The Soul Giants”, constituted by Jimmy Carl Black on the drums, Roy Estrada on the bass, Davy Coronado on the sax, Ray Hunt on the guitar and Ray Collins on the vocals. However, with a fight between Collins and Hunt, the later dismissed the band, making the rush for a guitarist never more urgent. Frank Zappa came to the rescue, immediately becoming the leader of the group, and the most well known name of the band to this date. In the moment he entered, they felt that the name had too much of Hunt’s energy, so they decided changing it to simply “The Mothers”, as in “The Motherfuckers”. Enough of that, once when playing, they were heard by producer Tom Wilson, which granted them a place in the Verve label, although they weren’t exactly what the label was looking for. Go figure. So, they made their debut album, which is the one in review, the double-album “Freak Out!”. It is the first double album debut ever in the history of music, but it’s not the first concept album, by far. It’s not even the first rock concept album.

Well, now let’s take a look at the album in itself. The album cover is a psychedelic negative photo of the band, with the name of the band and album written on top of the picture. On the back cover, there is a letter from Suzy Creamcheese. Well, this is actually promising in my vision, because the album itself is trying to sell his concept, whichever that is. So, let’s try to find a clue in what is in the letter, shall we?

These Mothers is crazy. You can tell by their clothes. One guy wears beads and they all smell bad. We were gonna get them for a dance after the basketball game but my best pal warned me you can never tell how many will show up… sometimes the guy in the fur coat doesn’t show up and sometimes he does show up only he brings a big bunch of crazy people with him and they dance all over the place. None of the kids at my school like these Mothers… especially since my teacher told us what the words to their songs meant.

Sincerely forever,
Suzy Creamcheese

Salt Lake City, Utah.”

Well, let’s see. It’s a letter from a girl named Suzy Creamcheese, criticizing the band. Kind of common these days where it’s a cheap gimmick to say that the band is horrible, that all listeners are assholes, that the drummer doesn’t play shit and the vocalist sings badly. I really hate this gimmick, because it’s disrespect to the fan. Would you like if a painter kept standing in his gallery saying to all trespassers: “THIS PAINTINGS ARE SHIT!”? Or if you were watching basketball and some guy scores a 3 pointer in mid field and starts saying that he is horrible? Even if you have low self esteem, the people who enjoy you may not. If they thought their band is horrible, they should’ve not released anything. If they do, they think they have material.

But I digress. Let’s see. This… Suzy girl looks oddly enough to be non-temporal. At one time, she looks like a kindergarten student. At one time, she looks like a college grad. Maybe that’s the concept: non-temporal beings. Call Cthulhu and Dr. Manhattan! It’s hunting season! The album got 130th on the Billboard pop album chart. It wasn’t quite a good commercial release, but it grew with the cult underground following. So let’s get this over with: Freak Out! in depth, track by track.

1st track: “Hungry Freaks, Daddy”: Oh… my… god… Bland psychedelic critic music of the Sixties! The singing is uninspired, but the guitar is actually kind of decent, I guess. There is this instrument which makes me remember of a Pinky and the Brain episode where Pinky made music out of a comb and a tissue. It really is annoying, and it will play all over the album. Anyone with half a head will hear all the influences of Pink Floyd’s “Pipers at the Gates of Dawn” throughout this song, although I prefer Pink Floyd. The song critics the school mechanics of the youth in the United States, I believe. It’s not very clear, but I’ll bear with it. Maybe it ties in with the Suzy girl.

2nd track: “I Ain’t Got No Heart”: It kind of remind of Beatles’ starts, but with a blues twist. It’s hard to explain, but the vocals… are just crap. They can’t sing. As the title suggests, it’s a love song, but it’s like “the man” is trying to get “the woman” to just fucking leave. Well… let’s try to… well… is she the Suzan girl? Let’s pretend, for now, it is. And the song ends with yelling and screaming. Wow, Pink Floyd must have heard this LOTS of times.

3rd track: “Go Cry on Someone Else’s Shoulder”: …what the hell? Doo Wop? I can’t stop laughing. I wasn’t expecting Doo Wop at all! What the hell! It’s like “Whose Line is it Anyway?”! Doo Wop from nowhere! It’s not an exceptional piece, from the artistic point of view to the… doo wop point of view. This song is about someone who doesn’t love another person anymore. The melody is not exceptional, it sounds just like all the doo wops in existence. Where does it fit in with the rest? I’m getting pretty tired of this. Let’s just say that… is the girl singing in a journey, remembering the guy who ditched her. The monologue part is really awkward.

4th track: “Who Are the Brain Police”: Brain Police? What the… when the… who the… I’m completely lost. Let me see… It’s Pink Floyd, most Pow R. Toc H. but again, Pink Floyd came later. Random screaming, meaningless poetry… it kind of reminds me of the much later Radiohead, although Frank Zappa is actually listenable. This music is insane. And it doesn’t mean anything with anything!

5th track: “Motherly Love”: First of all, I sensed sort of a pattern on this song and another in this album that is a similarity with a future Queen song. There is “Mother Love” in the posthumous Fred Mercury’s album. Aside from the names, they’re completely different. This song reminds me A LOT of “We’re Your Friends” from Disney’s Jungle Book. Go figure. It’s another of those songs that compare mother love with girlfriend love that I always thought sick. I kind of gave up on the concept of the album, as nothing means anything. It’s a good song, all in all. I just made the connection with the name of the band, and after a “get it now?” sang by Frank Zappa in the middle of the song, it’s a quite humorous piece of melody. And that’s it. Near the end, they explicitly expose the metaphor meaning, but it gets kind of creepy by the 2:45 the song takes to end.

6th track: “How Could I Been Such a Fool”: Rockabilly? Doo Wop and Rockabilly in the same album? What the hell is the concept of this monstrosity? It’s not really a rockabilly as a mixture with a rockabilly song and a fifties ballad. The song mix up the various reactions to a break up, more focused in the person who got broken up. Maybe the concept is Break Up songs.

Oh my god. Side 1 of Disc 1 ended. Side 2 of Disc 1.

7th track: “Wowie Zowie”: This song was a favorite among kids, but it’s a fucking disturbed kind of love song. It’s heavily based on xylophone melody, but it’s disturbed as hell. The eponymous girl is kind of a non-temporal being, as she’s treated as an adult and as a kid at the same time. It reminds me of Gaye’s “My Boy Lollipop”.

8th track: “You Didn’t Try to Call Me”: Well… Beatles. What more I can say? This album may be influential to a butt load of bands, but this song is just plain old 65 Beatles. And it’s quite enjoyable, all in all, maybe because it is pure Beatles. It’s about a guy who treats his girl like dirt, cheating her constantly, but thinking always about his girlfriend, I guess. How does it tie with the rest of the “concept” album? The kind of rap part is boring as hell. And he sounds like a loser. A big loser.

9th track: “Any Way The Wind Blows”: Again, Queen, this time Bohemian Rhapsody. Maybe it was intentional by Queen, maybe it wasn’t, but it gets to my head. As the song, it’s the SAME EXACT SONG BEFORE! Sounds like Beatles, with minor differences. As the verses, reminds me of the opening of Ben 10. Why do I know the opening of Ben 10? Again, a kind of good music, probably because it sounds so much like a Beatles song.

10th track: “I’m not Satisfied”: Depressing song with kind of a Beatles tune. The vocals get back to being uninspired, with these really creepy “Yeahs”. It’s generic and bland in all its 2:38 minutes.

11th: “You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here”: I think the concept is imitate the Beatles, since it sound so much like them. This one is a blatant copy, although with some extra bops. It has that comb fart instrument. Is has quite a humorous feeling and he sings “lameness”. The song is about a guy who doesn’t understand why he’s in the place he is in the place he is. Pretty simple, huh?

Argh… End of Disc 1. Side 1 of Disc 2, let’s go!

12th track: “Trouble Every Day”: The disc changes, but Beatles is still on. It has a Bluesy way to go, with a distracting harmonica in the back. It was originally about the Watts Riot, a 6-day riot in Los Angeles in 1965 that broke records of police brutality, but with unchanged lyrics and different title, the song loses the connection. And the connection with the rest of the album and a concept between all? Not here, sorry. It’s a pretty standard protest song. A bad standard protest song with weak rhymes. It speeds up by the ending, making it kind of hard rock, but not enough for a good track.

13th track: “Help I’m a Rock”: This song has three parts: “Okay to Tap Dance”, “In Memoriam Edgar Varèse” and “It Can’t Happen Here”. In the CD, the third part of the suite is separated as a different track, but in the LP, it’s just one track. Since I have the elapsed time of “It Can’t Happen Here”, this time around I will talk only about the two first parts of the suite. It starts with gibberish and bad singing, as that can’t be missing anywhere in this album. It’s impossible to determine if the title’s Rock means Rock and Roll or just Rock, as the song doesn’t have significant and understandable lyrics other than “Help I’m a Rock”. And no tap dancing either. Its total SHIT! And ends with a Pink Floydian scream. I made a little research on who is Edgar Varèse, and he’s a French composer. If he composed this, he sucks as the album so far. We hear a female panting (or a falsetto panting, I can’t catch really what it is). Suddenly, the song cuts out and the verse: “It Can’t Happen Here” are sung, saving everyone from damnation. Well, not too much, as the song that start is still pure gibberish. Where is the commitment of this album? It sounds like 4 guys with money and a studio are just fucking around. The song suddenly lounges itself, out of nowhere, with kind of a piano solo that could fit in the “12 Monkeys” soundtrack. It goes back to gibberish and the worst singing I have EVER HEARD! Maybe it’s better than the emo bands that I got back here, but Jesus, it is a really close competition. This could be the WORSE piece of music in the album, and that’s saying a lot! And the fucking worse part is that the song makes a reference to Suzy Creamcheese. For the first time on the album, in the fucking worse song, you can barely make a connection with a FUCKING CONCEPT ALBUM AS IT WAS ANNOUNCED IT WAS! The singer that “plays” Suzy sings badly, even for fucking back music! I FUCKING HATE THIS SONG! IT’S FUCKING BULL SHIT. PSYCHEDELIC ROCK MY ASS, THIS IS A WASTE OF GOOD VINYL!

Disc 2 Side 1 ended. Starting Disc 2 Side 2.

14th track: “The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet”: I mean, why not introduce a character that wasn’t welcome or planned to be on the very last song? Yes, the Disc 2 Side 2 of this album is just one track. Let’s hope for the best. It starts with Suzy talking with her conscience. It’s just psychedelic trash. An off key piano and the distant sound of Theremin, proving that they went the extra mile to displease the most people possible. Gibberish, a drum that looks like it hasn’t any connection with the song. It’s better that the previous, but not by a whole lot. I still go by what I said before: this album must have been the whole inspiration of Pink Floyd first’s albums, but they improved the genre by a giant step! Why not a lot of random noises and some strange language and some girl panting? It resembles, again, Pow R. Toc H. but Pink Floyd is way better. It could also be a mind grain. It speeds up as it sounds a lot like the soundtrack of the infamous boat scene of “Willy and the Chocolate Factory”, as the mantra “America is Wonderful” is repeated a god lot of time. It’s like the intersection of Echoes that everyone not stoned as hell skips, but worst. I think Christopher Lambert is singing. I really do. It really sounds like he, in Scottish character, just sang a verse. Maybe Frank Zappa is the last Highlander. TAP DANCING? Is this one track late? If bad music could be sold, this would be it. The song ends with the Chipmunks version of this asshole excuse of a song. Even the woman panting is Chipmunked. It is horrible. What the hell was passing in Frank Zappa head when he thought this was a good idea? I’m not joking when I say this album ends with Chipmunks saying Creamcheese, over and over and over and OVER! It’s a disappointing ending to a disappointing album.

How does it all hold up? IT DOESN’T! It’s not a good album in any sort of way. The cult following of this album can only be composed by those guys who have already boiled down all the Dark Side of the Moon they could get their hands off and tired of the hallucination that caused, bought this melodic mess. I really don’t like debut albums because it’s usually a band refining their skills, with just one or two redeeming tracks, but this black rounded shit in a cardboard sleeve is the sole reason Frank Zappa could be bankrupt. Just the fact that I paid 5 bucks to a homeless guy to get this album off the blanket it was been sold on gets me mad, that I could have bought fucking Rolling Stones or The Ventures and got my ears into this instead really fucks my senses. The next time I see the 4 stoner guys I know who suggested me this album, I will kick their asses.

And as a concept album, it IS NOT! I got around figuring out what the hell could the concept be, and the concept is “the farce of rock music in America”. And in a statement by Zappa himself, “All the songs on it were about something,”. What the hell is that supposed to mean? If they don’t connect to a theme or each other, it’s not a fucking concept album. If so, all the fucking albums in the whole world are concept albums, and that’s not how it works. It’s just fake propaganda to make assholes like me buy a homeless guy a fucking hot dog. The next time I see that homeless man, I will kick his nuts too! And steal his albums!

The songs are dull, the psychedelic part is boring and uninspired, the only good parts are the Beatles plagiarism, the ground breaking techniques they use are used poorly and they tricked me into buying an album that has doo wop and rockabilly as a fucking concept.

Overall Score: 2. And I’m being generous.

I will try covering up other albums as I buy them, and making reviews of albums that I already own. Of course, suggestions are well received.

This is JotaKa, signing of.

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