Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Frank Zappa 14: Just Another Band From L.A.

Frank kept the latest version of the Mothers busy on the road, performing against mounting odds and rigorously rehearsing new material with which he could astound audiences. Just Another Band From L.A. was recorded a whole two months after (and across the continent from) the Fillmore album, capturing a (mostly) new set of music.

The centerpiece is “Billy The Mountain”, a side-long operetta designed to showcase for Flo & Eddie’s capacity for inside jokes designed to please Frank, but what’s staggering is the band’s ability to stay so tight despite the seemingly improvised structure. The jokes that succeed best are the musical ones, from the repeated quote from the Johnny Carson theme to “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”. As ever, Flo & Eddie are fine when they’re harmonizing straight, but have two incredibly obnoxious voices at other times (particularly when they’re trying to out-snark each other). There are even some nice melodies framing the piece, which would have been nice to enjoy unadorned. Unfortunately, this would not be the last time Frank would attempt a lengthy narrative piece.

Side two is a little more structured, bookended by two older Mothers tunes (“Call Any Vegetable” and “Dog Breath”) that were good choices to be tackled by the new lineup (and something of a thumbed nose to the discarded Mothers who’d originally recorded them). “Eddie, Are You Kidding?” would seem to be a parody of a local guy hawking suits off the rack, while “Magdalena” is a more blatant in its content, that of a man attempting to rape his presumably hot teenage daughter. (Pretty hilarious, right?)

When the music is allowed to breathe—and Frank stopping his “directing” long enough to rip a wah-wah solo—it’s fairly impressive. But overall, Just Another Band From L.A. is another assault, a dare to those not “with it enough to get it” and another cheap thrill for those who wished the Fillmore album wasn’t so short. In the real world, a variety of mishaps caused Frank to disband this version of the Mothers as well, effectively putting Flo & Eddie out of work. Proving that with most things in life, we must take the good with the bad.

Las Mothers Just Another Band From L.A. (1972)—2

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