FRANK ZAPPA — Weasels Ripped My Flesh (The Mothers Of Invention) (review)

FRANK ZAPPA — Weasels Ripped My Flesh (The Mothers Of Invention) album cover Album · 1970 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
The second archival release immediately following the demise of the original Mothers of Invention puts a mild focus on the band's jazz-influenced side, just as Burnt Weeny Sandwich tended to focus on the classical influences. In that sense, it can kind of be seen as a companion piece to Hot Rats (it even includes a scrap here and there from the Hot Rats sessions) - whereas Hot Rats put forward one particular vision of how a meld between rock and jazz might work, like other early fusion manifestos like In A Silent Way or Bitches' Brew by Miles Davis or Soft Machine's Third or Volume Two, Weasels Ripped My Flesh is a bit more wide-ranging, presenting a variety of experiments in incorporating different types of jazz into different types of rock (plus there are a few non-fusion tracks, mainly concentrated on the second side). There's a bit more free jazz at play than is typical for most fusion groups, for example, as is showcased on the likes of Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask, and Directly From My Heart To You makes a bold attempt to bring jazz improvisation to a blues-rock template.

The scraps of non-fusion tracks are also pretty interesting, being a grab-bag of different styles dabbled in by the Mothers during their lifetime. Dwarf Nebula is another musique concrete experiment and is probably the most dispensable track on the album - it doesn't really go anywhere which wasn't covered to a superior extent by, say, the Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny on We're Only In It For the Money. My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama introduces a bit of crazy soloing into otherwise typical teenage rock and roll.

The best non-fusion song is probably Oh No, which summarises the argument of We're Only In It For the Money in under two minutes; as well as directly challenging the Beatles' famed assertion that All You Need Is Love, the song is a biting critique of the way the hippy movement hijacked the counterculture and replaced valid and urgent political goals with an incoherent pursuit of love, an ideal which sounded pretty but was ultimately toothless and robbed the 1960s youth movement of its ability to effect lasting and positive change. The best fusion track is here probably The Orange County Lumber Truck, which provides a bit more structure than the free jazz workouts elsewhere on the album and, like King Kong from Uncle Meat, points the way to the approach Zappa would take in his jazz-rock works for much of the 1970s.

I don't think Weasels Ripped My Flesh is *quite* as strong as Burnt Weeny Sandwich - two albums in to Zappa's projected 12-album archival series and there's already the sense that the bottom of the barrel is being scraped here and there - but aside from Dwarf Nebula I think the whole album deserved seeing the light of day, and whilst it doesn't quite have the consistency of Uncle Meat or Burnt Weeny it does reach similarly lofty heights.
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