Playground Psychotics

Frank Zappa

Rykodisc, 1992

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I have no proof to back me up, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I tend to think that Frank Zappa began to get nostalgic about his career during the final years of his life.

After all, what other purpose would there be to releasing Playground Psychotics, a compilation of general goofing off and occasional music featuring the third incarnation of the Mothers Of Invention - i.e., the "Flo & Eddie" years - some 20 years after they disbanded? A closet-cleaner by anyone's standards, this set is designed pure and simple for diehard Zappa fans only, especially those whose favorite point in the band's history included "Flo & Eddie" and my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 200 Motels.

The tape recordings Zappa made of non sequitur band conversations was, I suppose, meant to be a peek into the humdrum life of a touring rock band, and how life on the road could not only be weird, but dull as hell. In that last regard, Zappa succeeds, as the conversations drone on and on, making the listener wish they all would just shut up. There is very little humor heard in the conversations, most of which seem to be jokes that only the band members would get. Sitting through these conversations reminded me of the added-on film excerpts on the Uncle Meat soundtrack - namely, they were pointless, meandering and mind-numbingly boring.

"Boy," I thought, "this disc couldn't possibly get worse." I was wrong.

Also included for the listener's benefit (?) are tracks that Zappa recorded with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. If they were merely pointless like "Scumbag" was, it wouldn't have been so bad. But the aptly titled "A Small Eternity With Yoko Ono" made me want to claw my eardrums out. I have a short list of people who should, under federal law, never be allowed to sing again. Yoko Ono is damn near the top of that list.

In all of the pointless conversation, Playground Psychotics's music does tend to get lost. And while I can't say we needed a second version of "Billy The Mountain" littering our speakers (at 30 minutes, for God's sake), there are some performances that do try to pull this disc out of the cesspool. Live versions of "Mom & Dad," "Wonderful Wino" and "Concentration Moon" do add some well-needed color to the walls, but not nearly enough to save this set.

Had Zappa made one disc pure conversations and one disc performances, at least you'd be able to isolate the moments that make Playground Psychotics worth your time. Instead, this one rates as one of the poorest in Zappa's vast discography, and is recommended for only the true diehard fans.

2005 Christopher Thelen and "The Daily Vault." All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of the Zappa Family Trust / record label, and is used for informational purposes only.

Rating: D+

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© 2005 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rykodisc, and is used for informational purposes only.