Most weeks I commute to the office. I spend anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour in the car coming and going. So, it amounts to about two hours total. That’s a lot of radio time. The times of day and days of the week that I travel are not steady, so I haven’t gotten synced into a regular talkshow circuit. I have given up many drives to NPR, and I am sure there will be many more to come. But over the past six months I’ve been branching out a bit, listening to music that I’ve neglected over the years and some language cds to keep my chops in tact while the bloody job leaves me unable to get back to the field. Lately, I’ve been completely hooked on an old favorite, a band of folks who dropped of my musical radar for a couple or three years: The Mothers of Invention. Their monumental double album, Uncle Meat, has been burning up the speakers in my car the past ten days or so, virtually nonstop.
I’ve always loved this album. It’s mostly instrumental, and pretty jazzy (though not as jazzy as Make a Jazz Noise Here, which I once owned and would love to have again). Whereas We’re Only in It for the Money marked what might be called the pop cultural commentarial high point for the Mothers, Uncle Meat demonstrates the utter sonic creativity, the truly limitless capacity of sound that the Mothers were after and, with this album, established. The album also contains extended outtakes from the filming of the Mothers’ movie, also called Uncle Meat. These capture the Dadaist dialogue of the scene that I imagine the Mothers lived in.
There are lots of absurd and astute observations by Frank Zappa, Don Preston, and Phyllis Altenhaus (the female lead in the film), among others. Throughout the patchwork of outtakes from the making of the movie, some guy continually repeats the line, “I’m using the chicken to measure it.” Phyllis repeats the line on numerous occasions, frustrated that she can’t figure out what the guy means; and when she repeats the line over and over, in her thick, peculiarly sexy Brooklyn accent, the line somehow takes on an even more evocative and absurdist tenor, which I find really intriguing. What does this statement mean? I’ve no idea, frankly (!). But I think the picture to the right (lifted off the web from IntangibleArts’s flickr page) might just begin to get at the sense (though perhaps not the reference) of the phrase. What do you think? Either way, I do indeed dig the photo.