Absolutely Free

Frank Zappa And the Mothers Of Invention (1967)

The band’s previous record dabbled in obfuscation, but this release increases the weirdness exponentially by devoting itself completely to atonal arrangements, obtuse irony, classical structure and motifs, nihilistic avant-garde production, and a very bitter, original message. It did all this while still remaining in the realm of pop rock. Quite an innovative record, though not very easy to get into. But it’s worth it for the sporadic moments of pure genius that are unlike anything before or since. This is also one of rock music’s ultimate countercultural documents. As liberal as free speech rights have gotten, it’s doubtful that something like “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It” could have been released in the PMRC-dominated modern era (mostly for the badass, still-uncomfortable accusations Frank makes toward government officials). As for the concept, well, Zappa bristles equally at the evil of authority and the ignorance of those who would oppose it. Though he had a lot of hippy-dippy listeners, their uniformity and laziness disgusted him. Thus, he must have alienated all but his true, ardent fans with this record. Despite this album’s vicious takedowns of governmental figures, the middle class gets skewered too: one side of the LP is about vegetables, and the other is about the American public. Zappa makes the comparison seem disturbingly apt.

Key track: “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It”

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