Album no. 135/1001
This is the second album we’ve heard from The Mothers of Invention – but their third overall – and it’s another journey into the exciting and often unsettling mind of Frank Zappa.
This album satirises the hippie counterculture of the sixties, as well as both sides of politics. Not content to just be experimental musicians, the Mothers also took aim at the Fab Four – accusing them of only being in the music biz for the money, and became a bit of a symbol of the corporatisation of youth culture.
Have you listened to this album before?
CL: No. But much to my surprise I really enjoyed their first one. I so hope this is good.
NK: I have not. I expect chaos.
CL: ‘Let’s Make The Water Turn Black’. And ‘What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body’. ‘Mother People’ reminds of something that would be in The Mighty Boosh – which can only be a good thing. Actually, I really liked ‘Who Needs The Peace Corps’ and ‘Concentration Moon’ as well.
“American way, prisoner lock, smash every creep in the face with a rock. Cop, killer, creep, pow pow pow.”
NK: Yeeeeeesh. Hard call. I think it’s ‘Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance’. That’s probably my favourite, all one minute and thirty three seconds of it. There are a lot of short songs on this album, and even the ones that are a bit longer are often fractured with snatches of conversations or weirdos whispering. The Mothers give you just enough time to get into something, then they change it completely.
CL: Fractured is definitely the right word. Everything here only lasts for about 30 seconds before changing into something either whispered, shouted, or distorted.
When would be the best time to listen to this?
CL: Look, it definitely takes a bit of concentration. I wouldn’t advise listening to this in a dark room when you’re alone – the whispering might put you off.
NK: I don’t know if I recommend doing drugs first or not. Drugs might help, but then again you might have a mental breakdown. This is pretty difficult to listen to in multiple places. It’s even less straightforward than the White Album was. At least that had recognisable songs. This certainly isn’t background music. Maybe put it on when you want a challenge.
Why has this album been included on the list?
CL: In terms of constructing an album, it’s really well done. Lots of snippets stitched together, which we’ve sort of seen previously with albums like The United States of America, but I think this takes it to another level where individual songs are really composed of multiple snippets.
NK: It’s pretty different! Even compared to the first Mothers of Invention album. There’s a lot more little scraps of people speaking and whispering (“Hi boys and girls, I’m Jimmy Carl Black, I’m the Indian of the group”), more sound effects and weirdness, and less straight up songs. There are still hints of pop catchy-ness; At the end of ‘Let’s Make The Water Turn Black’ there are maybe fifteen seconds of a surf-rock song that comes out of nowhere and disappears just as quickly. But those are fewer and further between.
CL: I think it’s a pretty political album. Not only is old mate Zappa ripping into the hippie sub-culture, he’s also having a go at the US establishment. Which, really, is pretty prescient right now. Maybe that’s why I liked this.
NK: The lyrics are also pretty out of step with what was going on at the time. Zappa already seems to think that the youth culture has been hijacked by capitalism and is being sold off, hence the album’s title. This is a hard album to describe. It’s pretty weird, but I think it’s still pretty good!
Will you be listening again?
CL: I think yes. It’ll probably hit me after a few more listens. At the minute, there are a couple of good tracks, but I wouldn’t say I loved the whole thing.
NK: If I can find the time I will definitely listen to this again.
Listen to We’re Only In It For The Money on Spotify or buy it in iTunes.