March 24, 2011

My lengthy review of FZ & The Mothers’ “Playground Psychotics” on

Filed under: Uncategorized — boomaga @ 3:36 pm

Forgive me if I’m unfairly painting with broad strokes here :  your Zappa fanatic is, to a man, each and every one, without exception, an insufferable bore.

Given his musical enlightenment, you would expect to see a golden glow around his head and blinding bursts of kundalini energy shooting out of this top of his skull.  But there he is, sitting in the shadows of a curtain-drawn room on a sunny day, attracting dust motes with his clammy kind of nervous, value-judgment-y sweat and I am positive he’s never, not even once in his life, checked into a Holiday Inn and had a Fear and Loathing moment…  and boy oh boy, does he HATE Flo & Eddie.
This little grey guy doesn’t consider anything before ’80s Zappa worthwhile and dismisses early Mothers humor as annoying, but when it comes to the 80’s albums with their negativity and the weird forcedly-provocative themes, they just get a pass.   I can hardly believe such a gross album as “Thing Fish” has so many champions, when “Playground Psychotics” is left defenseless.
Frank got dark – after being the center of a whole galaxy of freaks and weirdos in Laurel Canyon where he held court in the huge cabin, he withdrew.   He just didn’t like (most) people much, and mostly kept to the fam and the Synclavier.  But I think Frank had at least some fun touring back around the turn of the 70s, and enjoyed the company of the musicians in his band and the funny sounds they would make, and that is all over “Playground Psychotics.”
Don’t get this one if:   if you have no facility for theatre-of-the-mind and couldn’t give a sh*t less why Jeff quit the band; you’ve never seen “200 Motels” and “The Story of 200 Motels” and don’t care to; if you’ve never imagined what it’d be like to be a long haired rock musician on tour in Nixon’s America, cracking each other up, getting drunk in the lounge, making fun of the opening band, pouring beer over each other and fighting …
Howard and Mark and Frank and Jeff and Ainsley and Don and George and Dick and… they were having a great time and it’s a joy to hear it.  And it is the majority of the album, but hey, let’s say you’re not into that, well, guess what –  there are STILL plenty of musical reasons to get this album.
You’ve got your Billy the Mountain, a great rendition featuring a Rhodes solo popularly attributed to George Duke (I think it’s that Bob Harris guy – it’s not as jazzy or adept as George would’ve done it); a rare Concentration Moon followed by Mom & Dad; a great Status Back Baby; A good Sharleena and Wino and Cruisin’;  and then … there’s that John and Yoko mess that’s on there that… well, I’ve always been a fan of everyone involved and it’s historic I guess but it’s just… pretty awful.   By which I mean Yoko – she’s awful.   The song is nothing special, John is fine, Yoko is awful.  You ever see what she did to the Stones “Rock and Roll Circus” ?  She took that and poo’d right on it.  She’s awful, isn’t she ?   God, Yoko.
Now Flo & Eddie era Mothers is just one phase of many, and the “Psychotics” is a Flo & Eddie era Mothers album to get AFTER you get “200 Motels” and “Just Another Band from LA” and “Swiss Cheese-Fire!” and “Filmore East” …   But it’s fun to listen to, it’s less musique-concrete / assemblage of non-sequiteurs and more of a chronological day-in-the-life, tapes made on a plane, in a cab, in a hotel room.  PLUS it’s not too “in-joke-y,” you can actually GET what they’re saying.  I’m telling you, that Howard is a funny motherf*cker when he’s stewed.  It’s fun, and THAT’S what’s missing from the 80’s stuff, and if you’re a big “Thing Fish” fan but don’t like “Playground Psychotics,” then you’re a person whose soul is dead and has no joy inside and I want you out of my house by next week.


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