Record Of The Day #2 – Joe’s Garage by Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa restores faith in myself as a songwriter. Much like the writing on Joe’s Garage, the ideas for songs and albums that I formulate are not only ridiculous and sometimes nonsensical, but also comedic, diversely influenced, and progressively-minded.

It is important to note that I am a fairly new fan of Zappa’s work. In fact, Joe’s Garage is only the second Zappa album that I have listened to extensively (the first one being The Mothers Of Invention’s Freak Out!). Because of this, I will stray away from over-arching descriptions of Frank as an artist and focus on Joe’s Garage as an album specifically.

Joe’s Garage is a concept album telling the story of a young guitarist named Joe who forms a garage band (“Joe’s Garage”), loses his girlfriend to a traveling rock group (“Crew Slut”), joins a cult which engages in sexual activities involving household appliances (“A Token Of My Extreme”), is imprisoned for playing rock music (“Dong Work For Yuda”), is released and discovers that music has become illegal (“Outside Now”).

Act 1 of Joe’s Garage (songs 1 – 9) conveys a tight and well planned narrative in which every song furthers Joe’s story and explores interesting musical and lyrical concepts. However, during Act 2 (songs 10 – 15), Zappa’s previously effective consistency starts to fade a little. By Act 3 (songs 16 – 19), much of the story has given way to Frank’s beautifully eccentric guitar playing.

It’s no secret that I am typically not a fan of double albums. I find that most records exceeding a length of about 45 minutes tend to be so drowned in filler that even the best moments can’t be enjoyed. However, despite Joe’s Garage three disks boasting a running time of 1 hour, 55 minutes, and 14 seconds, I found that the record has maintained my interest through a number of listens. While Zappa does have occasional moments of distraction in the second act, it’s hard for me to truly find fault in a record that can keep my interest for almost 2 hours.

The first time I heart “Catholic Girls,” I knew that I would love Joe’s Garage. It features an oddly catchy yet annoying funk-pop melodic line leading into a crooner-style chorus. “Keep It Greasey” is a powerful funk-rock track showcasing the underrated bass guitar talents of Arthur Barrow and the always excellent Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. “Watermelon In Easter Hay,” an 8-minute guitar solo, was considered by Frank to be one of his greatest songs and in his will, stated that only his son, Dweezil Zappa, is allowed to perform the track.

While Freak Out! may have cause Frank Zappa to grab my attention, Joe’s Garage is causing him to keep my attention. I find it inspiring that Frank truly did exactly what he wanted with this album. The results are astounding.

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