AOTY 2023
The Mothers of Invention - Freak Out!
Dec 23, 2020
Starting your way into the long and chaotic discography of Frank Zappa with any level of expectations would be ill-advised to say the least. Ever an experimental perfectionist who held a tight creative grip over everything he touched, Zappa has this aura like he had no clue what his next move was given that he would leisurely stroll from hard rock to jazz, jazz to comedy, comedy to classical, and everywhere in between. Given his "Project/Object" methodology of conceptual continuity it seems far more likely that Zappa was just always a hundred steps in front of everyone else. Either way you shake it, never start a Zappa album thinking you know where it's going to head.

The Mothers of Invention's debut album Freak Out! is a prime example of why that is the case. If you listened to just the first twelve tracks in a kind of casual way, glossing over the satirical approach Zappa took to the pop and doo-wop performances, you would completely miss everything going on within Help, I'm A Rock, It Can't Happen Here and of course The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet. This twenty minute segment of the album, largely contained to the final track, is avant-garde oddities abound, and that isn't just when compared to the music of 1966 or what is heard throughout the rest of the album. This spree of psychedelic voice clips, confusing dialogue about our friend Suzy Creamcheese, and out-there sounds that are sometimes musical and sometimes what sounds like spoons being clicked together is about as experimental as it gets, and it is often confusing but more often is engaging.

By the end you may be left mystified, but that shouldn't detract from the success of the first leg of Freak Out!. Zappa proves to be an enthralling rock and pop songwriter early on, utilizing some of the same psychedelic pop signatures a group like The Zombies used on later releases, playing slick rock-heavy guitar riffs, integrating rhythm and blues on songs like Any Way the Wind Blows and finding a way to get kazoo noise into the album in the first two minutes. Zappa throughout his life was constantly consuming music, and Freak Out! suggests how close he had his ear to the pulse of modern music of the time. He could not only easily replicate the sounds in a satirical tone, he could make it sound enjoyable and still find ways to add in the layers that he personally would find most entertaining to hear.

The Mothers of Invention was the early stomping ground for Zappa to take off in whatever creative directions his brain could take him, and largely the producers and members of the group were merely along for the ride. Zappa was given a great deal of freedom for not only a debut record, but a debut record in the middle of the 1960's with little established for the group prior. That freedom paid off for all involved, obviously so for Zappa, and Freak Out! is a great place to start even if you can't quite suggest it gives you a great deal of expectations for the future. You'll just have to see where Zappa goes next and enjoy where he is at any given time.

Favorite track: Help, I'm A Rock

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More Reviews by MasterCrackfox
The Mothers of Invention - Uncle Meat
Dec 28, 2020
The Mothers of Invention - Absolutely Free
Dec 23, 2020
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