Freak Out! – The Mothers of Invention (1966)

Album no. 69/1001

The Mothers of Invention were Frank Zappa’s original outfit – and they can genre bend and mash-up with the best of them.

Supposedly this is one of the first ‘concept albums’, with the concept being a satirical look at American pop culture. It was also only the second rock double album ever released – after Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde – so it goes for one solid hour (and 55 seconds).  

Have you listened to this album before?

CL: No. Frank Zappa is one of those artists you always hear people talk about, but I’d never actually ventured further to listen. Is this like, early hard rock? I really don’t know.

NK:  I think so? I have a very patchy knowledge of Frank Zappa. There’s a compilation called Cheap Thrills that my dad has, and I’ve heard Weasels Ripped My Flesh because my dad has those. But I definitely know a couple of songs on this. Not sure.

CL: Weasels. Flesh. Both terrible words. A nasty combination there.

Standout track

CL: THIS IS NOT WHAT I WAS EXPECTING AT ALL. I don’t really know how to describe it, but I know that I like it.

NK: ‘Any Way The Wind Blows’ is great! But lots of other songs are good too. That song isn’t actually that weird, but quite a few of the others are.

CL: ‘Hungry Freaks Daddy’ is great and so is ‘Motherly Love’. There are heaps of good ones! Oh, except for the 12 minute song at the end. That is awful. Just a bunch of hooting and howling and squealing. It sort of freaked me out – which, now that I think about it, was probably the point. So congratulations guys, you win.

NK: The best thing I read about this album is that the guy who signed them to a record label did it having only heard ‘Trouble Every Day’ and thinking they were a white blues band. There must have been some fun conversations when he heard the whole album.

When would be the best time to listen to this?

CL: You know, this music reminds me a lot of the Grease soundtrack, but if it was set in an alternative reality. Where all the main characters are weirdos. Like Grease: The Alternative Story. It could be Grease 3! And I mean, if Grease 1 and 2 are anything to go by, it could only get better.

NK: There are so many different genres here it’s difficult to say. There’s something for everybody! I started listening to it at work but absolutely could not concentrate. It’s a pretty distracting album, I’ll say that. Not something that will fade quietly into the background.

CL: There’s definitely something for everybody.

Why has this album been included on the list?

CL: Well it’s certainly influential. I can hear a lot of modern music in here – Ariel Pink is definitely a fan. His 2011 track ‘Round and Round’ would feel right at home on this record.

NK: A lot of the songs are pretty strange. I reckon this is probably the most varied album we’ve had so far. Would you agree with that? There’s doo-wop (‘Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder’), electric blues (‘Trouble Every Day’), straight up pop (‘Any Way The Wind Blows’) and whatever ‘Help I’m A Rock’ is. It’s all over the shop. Also some of the lyrics are downright bizarre.

CL: I think it’s probably the first instance of a mash-up.  

Will you be listening again?  

CL: Yes. I already have – it’s a grower I think. You won’t “get it” on the first listen. I think a lot of the songs are earworms.

NK: Yeah, as weird as it is it’s also really fun. The only thing holding it back from getting top marks is the three tracks at the end. I’m sure there are folks out there who would pick ‘it can’t happen here as their favourite track’, but I wasn’t quite as into it.

Rating

CL: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

NK: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

Listen to Freak Out! on Spotify or buy it in iTunes.

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