Frank Zappa on CD (and LP), Part I-III Page 3

Side 2 is devoted to a "Republican Medley" which takes on a Democrat or two as well. "Dickie's Such An Asshole," a 1973 tune resurrected from Watergate days, laments the missing Watergate Tapes (remember that 18-Minute Gap? Ah, the easy villains of yesteryear...) and the gummint's creeping invasions of privacy that continue to this day. "When the Lie's So Big" can even pass as poetry ("They got lies so big they don't make a noise") if you don't listen too hard, and equates, by implication, Republicans with Nazis---hardly a novel conceit. "Rhymin' Man" is a delicious lambasting, Johnny Cash style, of Jesse Jackson's preference for impassioned agit-prop doggerel over positions reasoned from principle. "Promiscuous" takes on, Rap-wise, Surgeon-General Koop for his recommendations against anal sex and fellatio. Come on, Frank---how about commending the guy for his willingness to seriously, publicly discuss AIDS issues at all? And "The Untouchables," sprinkled liberally with the theme from the TV series, has Ike Willis tight-lippedly telling all our beloved Irangate principals and other assorted political crooks that "you're meat, you're dead, you're history, baloney without the mayo." But FZ's most important statement is his exhortation, at the end of the previous side, to "Get your buns out there and register to vote" at the League of Women Voters registration booths set up in the lobby.

But how did this album begin? By attacking Elvisolatry, which has grown to epidemic proportions of late (a midwestern radio station recently announced its new "All Elvis, All The Time!" format). "Elvis Has Just Left the Building" is savage, tasteless, thoroughly nasty, and absolutely enjoyable: "So what if he looks like a warthog in heat? He knows we all love him---we'll just watch him eat." I bet Albert Goldman plays this one all the time. Just a note about tastelessness: any satire or parody worth the name must, by definition, exceed the boundaries of "good taste." Its function is to disturb, hopefully in ways that inspire the hearer to alter the status quo.

"Planet of the Baritone Women" and "Any Kind of Pain" attack two poles of women's current status. Part 1 of this "American Womanhood" update, 20 years later, is, unfortunately, virtually incoherent in its spluttering apoplexy over what FZ, rightly or not, considers the irony of women finally entering the business world only to adopt the worst attributes of men. Part 2 musically replicates a late-'70s Motown love anthem as it lyrically demolishes contemporary female sex-objects who continue to live vicariously through men, Vogue, and Cosmo. The first line is the wisest: "You are the girl somebody invented in a grim little office on Madison Ave." Born to shop, indeed; Zappa seldom evinces sympathy for the victims. While he displays ample, if clinical, sociological comprehension, he prefers to address the victims of social injustice directly, demanding that they change their lives. He drives a hard compassion.

The most fun of all is the nine-minute "Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk," another potshot at everybody's easiest of targets, Jim and Tammy Bakker. Complete with musical quotations from The Twilight Zone, "Rock of Ages," and "The Old Rugged Cross," and set to a basic melody reminiscent of a children's Sunday-School song, it starts out like this: "There's an ugly little weasel 'bout three-foot nine, face puffed up from cryin' 'n lyin' 'cause her sweet little hubby's suckin' prong part time (in the name of The Lord)." Then it gets nasty.

The 12-man band is flawless, and all this vitriol is recorded with the best digital sound yet from Zappa, warm and clear and direct, impeccably mixed. So far, Broadway is on LP only; a much-expanded 2-CD version will be available sometime later this year.

What a glut! I think I better stop now. Next time: The Old Masters.