Picks and Pans Review: Tinseltown Rebellion

updated 07/13/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/13/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Frank Zappa

Zappa's credo over the years has been "No Commercial Potential," but if that once stood for sharp satire and musical experimentation, it now seems like just the shlocky truth. Keeping his tongue forever in cheek doesn't make his lyrics any less sexist, his guitar solos less formulaic, his compositions less trite. On these two discs of mostly live performances there are only a few nice things: two minutes of moonbeam-dripping doo-wop (Love of My Life) featuring Bob Harris' ionospheric falsetto, a few decent guitar solos and a clever melody, Fine Girl. Zappa, though, keeps making it harder to remember he was once interesting, let alone important. Brown Shoes Don't Make It, for example, may have been a gas when Zappa and the Mothers did it in 1967, but 14 years have only emphasized its speciousness. Musically, it's a shish kebab of precious constructions right out of an intermediate-level exercise book. An icon of smug hipness in his trademark two-piece mustache, Zappa has become an unchanging cartoon, rock's Alfred E. Neuman.

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