Over-Nite Sensation

By Arthur Schmidt

Rolling Stone, December 20, 1973

Over-Nite Sensation
The Mothers of Invention
DiscReet MS 2149

A year has passed since Just Another Band From L.A., and I awaited this one under the impression that Zappa's output, though becoming predictable, was being perfected. But this LP is shorn of those references which would have made Band incomprehensible to those not having logged time in the city of L.A. Also missing (and missed) are former Turtles Kaylan and Volman, whose Flo and Eddie albums in turn need Zappa.

The formula is wearing thin – or perhaps this Brucean music of disgust suffers in the current buyers' market for outrage. Only one song, "Montana," approaches parody, and that of an indefinite genre. Nothing here is as ear-licking good as Band's send-ups of the Rascals and CSN&Y. One of Zappa's most persistent themes and/or subjects, silly hippies, though it provides the best cut ("Camarillo Brillo") seems, well, dated.

Except that this is close to a good record, one would be tempted to compare Zappa to Henry Miller, with whom the former shares a vision of sex as rancid, dumb and funny: Like Miller getting older, he is less shocking, tapeworming himself, and overwriting.

Even if the lyrics are jokes, this is machismo rock in the Miller style. The composite love-object wears a "rancid poncho," has bug-ridden hair, "bovine perspiration on her upper lip area" and "cheap aroma." "Dinah Moe Humm" is a song about a man trying to win $40 from a girl who bets he can't get her to come. Insistent, almost depressingly professional backing accompanies recitation of doggerel-porn: "I pulled on her hair/ Got her legs in the air/ And asked if she had/ Any cooties in there."

Well, if that doesn't shock you, there is a nice Zappa touch, the characteristic hilarious detail. After winning (but of course), having got the girl off by making it with her sister, he suggests a "discipline" with "a pair of zircon-encrusted tweezers," sterilized with her lighter.

The LP's opener is by far its highlight. If not Zappa at the top of his form, he is at least within it, rhyming "poncho" with "We did it till we were unconcho/ And it was useless anymore." "Camarillo Brillo" is (rare, on a good tune, and the arrangement shows Zappa's splendidly organized band to advantage; Zappa's guitar, Ruth Underwood (marimba), George Duke (piano) and Sal Marquez (trumpet) deserve a better album.

"I'm The Slime" lashes out – hold on to your social consciences – at television.

"Montana" concerns a dental-floss rancher – and could have been a great Mothers' ditty.

"Fifty-Fifty" gives the game away. "I'm just crazy enough to sing to you," sings Ricky Lancelotti in a fine vocal, as the band tries working itself into a frenzy that might belie the lyrics. A jazz interlude, accomplished and pleasant in a soundtrack sort of way, degenerates into what must now be for Zappa a rote exercise in feedback. Lancelotti continues: "I figure the odds be fifty-fifty/ I just might have something to say."

That, unlike the bet with Dinah, Zappa doesn't take.