Popular Records: Pass Aspirin, Please

By Pete Johnson

Los Angeles Times, Calendar, Sunday, August 7, 1966

The Mothers of Invention, a talented but warped quintet, have fathered an album poetically titled ‘Freak Out’ (Verve V-5005-2) which could be the greatest stimulus to the aspirin industry since the income tax.

The two record set, which is selling for the price of one LP as an attraction to teenagers, contains some potent satire but the group often meanders into excesses of abstraction, blunting their numbers to pointlessness.

‘Freaking out!’ is defined, loosely, as a free expression inspired by casting off outmoded and restrictive standards of thinking, dress and etiquette.

Sources of inspiration for the vocalists, listed at length inside the album jacket, include Salvador Dali, Brian Epstein, Jules Feiffer, James Joyce, Sacco and Vanzetti, J. Arthur Rank, Elvis Presley and sundry other miscellaneous wellsprings.

Among the 14 recorded selections are ‘Hungry Freaks, Daddy’, ‘Wowie Zowie’, ‘You Probably Wondering Why I’m Here’, ‘Help, I’m a Rock’, ‘The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet’, a 12 minute 17 second ‘unfinished ballet in two tableaux.’

All the songs are derivative of rock ‘n’ roll and one, ‘Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder’, is a perfect satire of the archetypal woebegone teen – age rhythm and blues ballad. The gibbering falsetto and bass accompaniments set an ideal background for in-ane lyrics about a boy giving his love his high school ring at the root beer stand, having his car reupholstered and his khakis pressed but still being deserted by the girl.

A free-form nightmare built from mechanical imagery, ‘Who Are the Brain Police?’ has the strangest instumental break ever recorded – unidentifiable noises superimposed on top of each other including voices babbling indistinguihably, a bass electric guitar being tortured to death and what sounds like a factory steam whistle chorus.

There are a few tunes which sound as if they might be semi-serious rock ‘n’ roll, ‘I Ain’t Got No Heart’ and ‘How Could I Be Such A Fool?’, for instance, but most of the tunes are very experimental and are hard on the eardrums and the patience.

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