Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Mothers of Invention

  • Absolutely Free [Verve, 1967] B-
  • Weasels Ripped My Flesh [Bizarre/Reprise, 1970] B+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Absolutely Free [Verve, 1967]
This well-paced, well-pastiched "oratorio" might be of compelling interest to the sort of avant-garde composer whose work incorporates pop usages; after all, here we have genuine pop musicians doing the obverse. But as rock and roll it's a moderately amusing novelty record, much too obvious in its satire, with harmonies and time changes that presage Yes and Jethro Tull rather than ELP and the Moody Blues. Best cut: "Call Any Vegetable." B-

Weasels Ripped My Flesh [Bizarre/Reprise, 1970]
Talk about "montage"--the construction here is all juxtaposition, the composition all interruption. Together with some relatively straightforward instrumentals and "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama," the album's two finest strokes--a metal remake of Little Richard's "Directly From My Heart to You" and "Oh No" a devastating reply to "All You Need Is Love"--would make for a highly enjoyable album. But if Brecht considered pure enjoyment counterrevolutionary, Zappa considers it dumb--that's why he breaks in constantly with dialogue and vocal or electronic sounds whose musical interest/value is essentially theoretical. I find most of these engaging enough to think I might want to listen again some day. But all that means is that I enjoy it, quite moderately, in spite of itself. B+