Say what you will about Frank Zappa but the man was never meant to suffer in silence - always putting his torment hilariously out-in-front of the cultural zeitgeist. Case in point - Joe's Garage. About 25 years before former Vice President Al Gore launched his crusade to reduce our carbon footprint to Colonial proportions (and just before Tipper Gore's, Parents Music Resource Center attempted to put their scolding, censorship-dusted fingerprint all over naughty song lyrics) Zappa unloaded a 3-LP broadside against what he perceived to be a growing intolerance of free expression in the arts.
As only he can, Zappa blended his signature love of infantile profanity superimposed against some of the most complex and improvisational rock composition ever recorded. Joe's Garage is for all intents and purposes a government-sponsored propaganda play, produced as a tone-deaf high school documentary - crudely inveighing against the "sleazery" of youth gone wrong through music. The protagonist, "Joe" is a feckless garage musician who unwittingly gets drawn into a life as a rock roadie (for the band "Toad-O") to save his girlfriend, "Mary from Canoga Park" who is now a wanton comfort girl for all the "boys on the bus."
The story is puerile, the lyrics coarse but the overwhelming absurdity of the plot-line - told through Zappa's omniscient narration in the guise of "The Central Scrutinizer" is beyond brilliant. Wet T-Shirt contests go awry - prophylactically enhanced home appliances talk - STD's abound - as Joe and Mary fall irreversibly in the X-rated trance of Rock `n Roll. As extreme and profane as the story-line is, as is the case with most great satire, it is always difficult to know where extreme ends and truth begins. Joe's Garage is no exception.
Even if the lyrics offend - there is always the music. Zappa was a perfectionist and Garage does not disappoint. While the score is challenging, if you stay with FZ through all three parts - the reward is some of the finest solo guitar work produced before or since. Watermelon in Easter Hay is stunning and worth the considerable cost all by itself. They don't (and can't) make them like this anymore. Five stars for an artist that never took the easy way out.
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