Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Mothers of Invention "Uncle Meat"

"Uncle Meat" lacks the satiric aspirations of "Freak Out" and the follow-up Mothers of Invention lps, enabling it to focus solely on the quality of the music and associated sounds and expanding on the route suggested by "Lumpy Gravy".

There is a much greater emphasis on rhythmic playing especially by percussion instruments such as marimba, vibraphone and xylophone as well as timpani, wood blocks, bells and chimes. It is a bit like music hour at school only with Frank Zappa's melodies over the top. Zappa certainly likes a fast tune, even when the accompaniment proceeds at a slower pace. A lot of the playing on this lp was evidently too slow for him as often the tape is sped up to produce flurries of notes and comic vocals.

In terms of production, this is a step up on "Freak Out". Despite featuring many overdubs, the instrumentation is nicely separated and distinct. The melodies are more fully exposed. Extensive use is made of tape manipulation and sharp editing producing an effect like a looney tunes cartoon soundtrack. The music is shifting, almost constantly changing. There are references to film scores, surf music, ethnological sounds, bird songs, fifties rock 'n' roll, hard bop, love songs of the 1920s and 30s. It is a broad palette.

Almost all of the pieces of music are relatively short with the exception of side four which comprises 6 different interpretations of a single song, "King Kong", edited together to form one piece. This brevity, and the number of changes within each song, keep the listener engaged, as does the fact that the whole album is edited together without gaps between each of the tracks. The edits are deliberately sudden, making juxtaposition a part of the creation. Overall, the album is a good example of how entertaining Zappa's music can be.

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