"This release came out in 1984, when not many people were putting out really good material. Here, you have FZ with a full compliment of talent, covering the whole spectrum of what he was doing at the time. A nice touch is the variety of voices used for lead vocals, and they all get showcased in ways that show off their individual styles. Contrary to what others have said, I think the "weak point" is "Sharleena," listen to the "Lost Episodes" version to see what I mean. In all it's a tight, powerful treat for any Zappa fan, casual or rabid."
Ronald Battista | Colorado Springs, CO | 06/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some of the best durn guitar ever played. Some people don't like being hurled from one genre to another; that's unfortunate, because Zappa' eclecticism is on full display. But pay attention to the guitar, beyond the doo wop, 80s parodies, and gutter humor lies true genius and guitar mastery. No one runs a fretboard like Zappa. When Steve Vai plays second guitar in your band, you kinda know who's in charge."
Great Sound, Excellent Songs
Mad Dog | TimbuckThree, Tennessee | 10/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I swear there are times where you feel like your ear is right next to the studio mic on this disc. When Frank sings "The Closer You Are", you feel like droplets of his spittle are hanging on your earlobe. Frank worked hard to get excellent live and studio sound all through his long career and Them Or Us was a generational step up, due in part to equipment upgrades.
Don't get me wrong - this isn't an audiophile disc full of nothing songs. This is great stuff with little filler. The themes are typical Zappa - sex, lost love (or was it lust?), stupid people, more sex and more stupid people. Usually, when a musician remakes their own tune, I wish they hadn't, but the remake of Sharleena is outstanding. This was an incredible live band - I saw two shows on this tour and both times they nailed Sharleena, The Closer You Are, Be In My Video and all the rest.
This disc has great flow and excellent musicianship. To be honest, Frogs With Dirty Little Lips is the one tune I don't care for and although I do like Whippin' Post, they could have left it off without causing me to complain. But it was a great part of the live show."
Good Zappa, though not great...
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 08/12/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a mixed album, like a lot of Zappa's 80's work. It's got some brilliant stuff alongside some highly questionable material. Most of the instrumentals are really good, but a lot of the lyrics are quite dated and borderline stupid.
The opener, The Closer You Are, is a doo wop ballad from the 1950's and is quite beautiful. Zappa loved the doo wop ballads, and here he covers an obscure one, but he does it well. It doesn't sound like it's tongue in cheek either. The next song, In France, has a good vocal by Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, but the lyrics are really juvenile. They almost sound like they were written by Republicans at the time of the Iraq War when French bashing was all in vogue. Ya Honza is a great song, with a killer rhythm guitar part by Zappa and strange, backward vocals that really enhance the song. Sharleena is good, though not great.
Sinister Footwear II is a great title, and it's one of Zappa's best instrumentals. Truck Driver Divorce is a stupid song, well, at least the first half of it. The first part is Zappa trashing (obviously) Truck Driver Divorce and country music in general. Then after singing about "delivering string beans to Utah" (a line Zappa used in No Not Now from the Ship Arriving album, and a better song), the song kicks into a totally unrelated jam (probably recorded at another venue) and is quite good. Personally, I didn't like Zappa trashing country music, as I like old country music very much and it has a lot of depth to it. Maybe I'm just being overly sensitive, but that's how I feel. Zappa actually wrote a good, funny country song called Harder than Your Husband on one of his best albums, You Are What You Is.
Stevie's Spanking is funny, with 2 killer solos by Steve Vai and Frank himself. Marque's Son's Chicken is a great instrumental, along with the title track, which sports a fantastic guitar workout by Frank. The other songs have their moments (Frogs with Dirty Little Lips, a strange ditty written by Frank and his son Ahmet, is one of the better later songs), but overall this is an uneven, inconsistent album where there are some outstanding tracks alternating with Zappa's lowbrow, juvenile humour (which was funny when I was 18, not so much now). If you're a Zappa fan, pick it up, otherwise avoid it."