The Central Scrutinizer Meets Tipper Gore
Michael Neiss | Princeton, NJ United States | 09/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Say what you will about Frank Zappa but the man was never meant to suffer in silence - always putting his torment hilariously out-in-front of the cultural zeitgeist. Case in point - Joe's Garage. About 25 years before former Vice President Al Gore launched his crusade to reduce our carbon footprint to Colonial proportions (and just before Tipper Gore's, Parents Music Resource Center attempted to put their scolding, censorship-dusted fingerprint all over naughty song lyrics) Zappa unloaded a 3-LP broadside against what he perceived to be a growing intolerance of free expression in the arts.
As only he can, Zappa blended his signature love of infantile profanity superimposed against some of the most complex and improvisational rock composition ever recorded. Joe's Garage is for all intents and purposes a government-sponsored propaganda play, produced as a tone-deaf high school documentary - crudely inveighing against the "sleazery" of youth gone wrong through music. The protagonist, "Joe" is a feckless garage musician who unwittingly gets drawn into a life as a rock roadie (for the band "Toad-O") to save his girlfriend, "Mary from Canoga Park" who is now a wanton comfort girl for all the "boys on the bus."
The story is puerile, the lyrics coarse but the overwhelming absurdity of the plot-line - told through Zappa's omniscient narration in the guise of "The Central Scrutinizer" is beyond brilliant. Wet T-Shirt contests go awry - prophylactically enhanced home appliances talk - STD's abound - as Joe and Mary fall irreversibly in the X-rated trance of Rock `n Roll. As extreme and profane as the story-line is, as is the case with most great satire, it is always difficult to know where extreme ends and truth begins. Joe's Garage is no exception.
Even if the lyrics offend - there is always the music. Zappa was a perfectionist and Garage does not disappoint. While the score is challenging, if you stay with FZ through all three parts - the reward is some of the finest solo guitar work produced before or since. Watermelon in Easter Hay is stunning and worth the considerable cost all by itself. They don't (and can't) make them like this anymore. Five stars for an artist that never took the easy way out.
A huge attempt
RockinRobin411 | 09/10/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A rock opera is something that Frank Zappa would be a perfect artist for. His albums are usually strung together in some way, he loves putting in all these characters, and a lot of his songs are about stories. This album works very well. It includes Frank Zappa's goofiness, and his musical talent. The story is basically the story of all of the things that happen if you choose a career in music... at least in some sort of future.
Just about each track begins with an introduction from the Central Scrutinizer, who is basically just the narrator, performed by Frank Zappa, whispering through a plastic megaphone. Frank Zappa also portrays a few other characters, the first one that comes to mind is Joe's best friend who betrays him. Ike Willis portrays the star of the album, Joe. Joe starts out as a young teenager in a garage band. The story is a very weird and sometimes confusing story that doesn't end the way that anyone who buys this album would consider a happy ending, but the ending is barely even an ending.
The music of the album shows both major sides to Frank Zappa, the more simple rock and roll parody and comedy side, the weird melodies that you would never expect any human being to be able to sing and get every single syllable, and the instrumental guitar solos.
In general, this is a great album for fans of Frank Zappa."