Mothers Of Invention: Absolutely Free

By Steven Lowe

High Fidelity, September 1967

MOTHERS OF INVENTION: Absolutely Free. Mothers of Invention, vocals and rhythm accompaniment. Plastic People; The Duke of Prunes; Brown Shoes Don't Make It; ten more. Verve (D) 5013 or 6-5013, $4.79; (T) WX 5013, $5.95.

Late of Los Angeles, recently of Greenwich Village, the Mothers of Invention is the West Coast's answer to New York's prototypical underground rock group, the Fugs. For the uninitiated, the music heard here will be little more than a flight into a cacophony of distasteful and untidy musicianship – raucous, angry, and barren of redeeming musical (and social) values. So be it.

Well, they are raucous and the material is frantic and disjointey. Yet this is all part of their message and to say that it's just a lot of noise is to miss the point. The medium is the message and if you don't like the one, you won't dig the other.

The message is of the love/hate type, which is hardly new, but the Mothers have given it a radical face-lift. It is a direct attack on a society that is felt to be sick beyond salvation – at least through accepted Establishment channels. The attack is made, of course, from the vantage point of a drug-based society-within-a-society. It is not, however, launched from any sort of let-everybody-do-his-own-thing-and-dropout non-view that characterizes the self-indulgent (and ultimately, self-destructive) acid head. We find the to-be-expected anti-liquor campaigning, the parodie digs at the "plastic people" (an extension of Malvina Reynolds' Little Boxes), and a heraldic battle cry for free love, especially with minors. (Statutory rape is a favorite fantasy of the underground.)

Listening through the initial blast of brazen sounds, one is aware of musical talent. Not only do the Mothers play with security and imagination, but someone in the group has obviously studied enough to borrow outright from Stravinsky (The Soldier's Tale and The Firebird) and from Schoenbergian Sprechstimme.

The album is not the product of a teeny-bopper mentality; it's created by and for the older set of hippies, whose school days spanned the post-McCarthy, pre-civil-rights era – the do-nothing years – and who are only now making up for lost time. Not surprisingly (as in the Fugs, who also belong to an older generation) we find in the Mothers nostalgie references to those long-gone high school days.

This is not great music, and much of the text (a lot of it is spoken) is fairly crass and redundant, but somehow there is something fiendishly endearing about the direct and spontaneous outrages that are hurled about willy-nilly, especially after the slickly efficient studio products offered by the safer rock groups that rule the airwaves. S.L.

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