Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Joy of Loaf

San Francisco Chronicle, July 14, 1993

If you get Frank Zappa, you get loaf. No, your new smash-flop FZ album doesn't come with a gooey loaf center, except in the abstract sense.

Frank had an unerring sense of the absurd details that make life worth enduring. What other "rock star" would use Confinement Loaf as a garnish to his music? Only Frank, and we who love his music, would understand the relevance of loaf.

Zappa's music is multi-layered. It fully has the onion-skin art thing going on with it, and repeated listenings invariably yield fresh delights and insights. Sometimes, when I make promos for the show, I sample portions of his tunes. Often I'm taken by how complete the individual bits are – they're perfect compositions unto themselves, even though they weren't necessarily intended to be consumed as bite-sized lumps.

I'm thinking, for example, of that dazzling figure Frank deploys in "Honey, Don't You Want A Man Like Me?" after the line, "...the band was tight" at :28 to :32 . And what the hell is that thing at 1:03 to 1:05 in "Inca Roads?" Whatever it is, it's so very, very wrong, and simply wonderful.

And what about that "Go Hawaiian" lick (1:13 to 1:15 in "Drowning Witch," and other songs)? That thing, which I well remember from the original Donny and Marie Hawaiian Punch ads, was destined to become a Zappa hook, for way obvious reasons. Not only is it musically delightful, but the whole concept of "going Hawaiian" is so amazingly cheesy, well, it had to become a Frank fixture. Again, Frank finds the nuggets o' wonder in the mundane, and extrapolates them for his use.

But the wonderment can be even more subtle. As just one example, at 4:19 in "Andy," at the very end of one of the last drum-breakey parts, before it goes into the final tirade, there's what sounds like someone rapping a pang cymbal with their knuckle, and it's just the perfect touch. Who else would bother with such a thing?

On the Sept. 14 Zappa's Grubby Chamber, I'll play my favorite clever weirdnesses embedded in Frank's music – the odd corners and extra-special genius touches, which, along with the brilliant music and funny biznis, so distinguish FZ from the usual morass of meaninglessness that dominates popular culture.

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