Frank Zappa

Does Humor Belong In Music? [Video/DVD]

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You can tell that this performance -- recorded live at The Pier in NYC back in 1984 -- was originally released on videotape back in the '80s the second you see the computer-generated titles floating over the first few moments. (The fashion sense of the band and roadies wandering about the stage is also a pretty big tip-off.) It's worth noting that the video isn't the same thing as the album of the same name; even though there are several shared tracks, there are also substantial differences, one being that extended tracks like "Let's Move to Cleveland" are omitted in favor of snappier numbers like "Bobby Brown," "He's So Gay," and "Be in My Video"." One real advantage of seeing the video is seeing the interplay between the band, both musically and physically, and catching the occasional rude gesture Zappa makes to emphasize his points. There's a lack of any kind of stage show other than the antics of the band -- as the cheesy titles underscore at the beginning, there's no fog and no "laser weapons" -- the band carries the whole show with their energy and, yes, their sense of humor. Much like the patchwork nature of many of Zappa's albums, the video cuts back and forth between the concert itself and other sources, including multiple interviews (in which Zappa meditates on politics, and cigarettes as "food," among other things). As usual, the line between Zappa's parody of the closed-minded and outright mocking is blurred, so those who are uncomfortable with Zappa's usual lyrical content will be just as uncomfortable here, especially while watching the distressing mistreatment of a Raggedy Ann doll in "Honey Don't You Want a Man Like Me?." Does humor belong in music? The usual naysayers may be skeptical, but if you're the type of person who already gets Zappa, the answer's yes.

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