The Jack and Jim Show (Eugene Chadbourne and Jimmy Carl Black) Willie the Pimp


Frank Zappa: You Are What You Is (1981)

You Are What You Is, much like Sheik Yerbouti, two years prior, compiled a veritable smorgasbord of Frank Zappa’s rock-and-pop-oriented material onto four, bulging sides of vinyl, indiscriminately jamming together unrelated styles with barely any help from his uniformly satirical themes to ease the transitions.

But whereas Sheik’s songs generally aimed their insolent humor and pointed satire at relatively broad and vague targets, You Are What You Is more often engaged in ruthless stereotype assassinations, which no amount of immature comedy could make excuses for.

Among Frank’s targets were helpless teenagers (“Teen-age Wind”) and entirely deserving yuppies (“I’m a Beautiful Guy”); the vain (“Beauty Knows No Pain”) and entitled (“Society Pages”); the clergy (“The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing,” “Heavenly Bank Account”) and the military (“Drafted Again”).

But Zappa and his band of horny men (a.k.a. touring musicians) arguably crossed the line into needlessly mean-spirited attacks on suicides (“Suicide Chump”) and women, of the groupie persuasion or otherwise (see the ultra-misogynist “Goblin Girl,” “Jumbo Go Away”) .

Maybe this focus on mostly defenseless victims, as compared to the deeper social commentary Frank engaged in during the ‘60s and ‘70s, was a reflection of Reagan’s dawning, 1980s America, and Frank’s increasing disgust with it all, but that doesn’t make them any easier to accept.

At this point, I should probably clarify that I do love this album, and I stand by Zappa’s legacy as an “equal opportunity offender.”

I am a child of Truly Tasteless Jokes and the pre-political correctness era, so the fan in me can still appreciate You Are What You Is without modern hang-ups, and it’s just the critic in me who feels the need to reassess it through a modern perspective.

Or something…

More Frank Zappa: Freak Out!, We’re Only in it for the Money, Cruising with Ruben and the Jets, Hot Rats, Chunga’s Revenge, Just Another Band from L.A., Over-nite Sensation, Apostrophe (’), One Size Fits All, Bongo Fury, Studio Tan, Orchestral Favorites, Joe’s Garage Act I, Joe’s Garage Act II & IIIShip Arriving too Late to Save a Drowning Witch, London Symphony Orchestra Vol. I.