Just Another Band From L.A.

By Bob Palmer

Rolling Stone, June 8, 1972

Just Another Band From L.A.
The Mothers
Bizarre 2075

Maybe you like Frank Zappa’s vocally-oriented new Mothers. Maybe you thought all those instrumentals in 7/4 time with sneezing saxophones and slinky wah-wah guitar solos were too far out, or dull, or something. Maybe you liked the mock-oratorio style of 200 Motels and Live at the Fillmore. If that’s the case, you might as well stop reading this and go out and buy Just Another Band From L.A. because it’s just another Frank Zappa album with plenty more of the same.

If, on the other hand, you got off to Ian Underwood whipping it out, “King Kong” in its many versions with and without Jean-Luc Ponty, and “My Guitar Wants to Kill your Mama,” you’re likely to find the new Mothers’ album disappointing in extremis. It is probably pretty funny if you live in California, and it’s entertaining the first time through even if you don’t.

The singing – mostly by ex-Turtles Kaylan, Voiman, and Pons – is a super-professional, maybe even virtuosic in light of the tricky dissonances and close harmonies Zappa writes so well. But the album is damn near all vocals, recitations, and one-liners, and like any spoken word record that strives for humor and surprise, it gets pretty boring once you’ve heard it and know what to expect. The music is strictly background – a synthesizer fill from Don Preston here, a single wheeze from Ian Underwood’s sax there – and Zappa’s two brief guitar solos are too typical to save the album.

It’s easy enough to dig where Zappa is coming from, knowing his mania for Fifties vocal groups and his pen-chant for charts whose climaxes are carefully arranged in advance. Visualizing Billy the Mountain trudging across the continent for his New York vacation must have had the Mothers in stitches through at least the first coupie of rehearsals, and everybody gets off to teenage lust like Eddie in “Eddie, Are You Kidding?” don’t they?

Well, maybe some people get off to Ian Underwood’s whimsical saxophone playing, of which there is none, or to Don Preston’s keyboard wizardry – none of that, either. What’s left is a kind of Firesign Theater stage show without the density or the serious intent of that other unit from LA. That which entertains a live audience will not necessarily entertain a record listener in the sanctity of his ciwn rec room. Frank, are you kidding? How about giving us some music along, with the lads next time around.