Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mothers of Invention – We’re Only In It For The Money

This has always been my favorite Mothers and Zappa album – most likely because it was the first I heard and, while it has plenty of weirdness, there are some great, catchy songs, as well. The record has lots of abstract noise, dialogue, late 60’s studio tricks, starts’n’stops and plenty of commentary on the times – making fun of the hippies, the phony hippies, the politicians and the square establishment. Apparently, Zappa was not enamored by the hippie scene but he truly hated the vehemence and violence which was heaped upon the freaks – here, one second he will be deriding them and the next railing against the police, military and even the parents’ reactions to the kids.

Musically, this is a wild mix of acid rock, pop, surf, doo-wop, classical and experimental – which was not unusual for Zappa! Unlike some of his work, here he concentrates mostly on short, melodic songs. Yes, they may jump around and they certainly have odd bits, but most are songs that you can sing along with. There is a piss-take on “Hey Joe” called “Hey Punk” (referring to the hippies, not to later punk rockers) that devolves into a noise-fest with two separate dialogues just barely audible of band members talking about how exciting it is to record and what they will do with their new-found fame! This has definitely been remixed/remastered and it is quite different from the vinyl version and lyrics that were “cleaned up” on the original release are quite apparent here – “fucks” and “don’t come in me” and etc. The mix seems most changed in “Let’s Make the Water Turn Black” – and now that I listen again, most of what was side two on the album - not particularly better or worse, just not the same.

“It’s His Voice on the Radio”, “Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance”, “What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body” and “Mother People” are all highly melodic, although, as I’ve mentioned, the song will suddenly veer off on a noise tangent before returning to the melody – nicely disconcerting! It all ends with another batch of noise, “The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny”.

The CD that I have includes Lumpy Gravy, produced simultaneously with We’re Only In It For the Money, and consisting of two musical suites (each comprising one side of the vinyl album) that contained orchestral performances (written and conducted by Zappa), snippets of surf music and spoken dialogue. No actual “songs” – although there are bits that taken from WOIIFTM songs – so this is certainly more challenging and, to my eyes, a bit less listenable. It’s Zappa – if you know his work, you probably know what to expect from a conceptual, orchestral piece from him.

I’ve since heard/read that there are better sounding reissues of these records but this is a fun romp through Zappa’s demented little mind!