Frank Zappa – Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch (1982)

Possibly due to the presence of ‘Valley Girl’, this album has become an overlooked and underrated Zappa masterpiece that deserves re-evaluation by his fans. Sonically it revisits the wide-screen fidelity of his mid-70’s classics One Size Fits All and Roxy & Elsewhere and has greater thematic unity than the previous You Are What You Is which was a sprawling, disconnected epic by comparison. The first act is a compact and driving set of gleefully cynical songs that portray the manic and deranged states of mind Zappa had observed in contemporary mainstream culture all around him, particularly the wonderfully strange ‘I Come From Nowhere’. The second half of the album is pieced together from live recordings to create a seamless whole that highlight this amazing band’s virtuosic chops. At this stage of his career Zappa was by his own admission ‘severely competent’ as a composer and this is evident in the monster title track which contains a guitar solo that mimics the demented thrashings of a drowning witch expertly. The following ‘Envelopes’ ramps up the abstraction to even greater levels of intensity (paralleled only by ‘Manx Needs Women’ from Zappa in New York). He was effortlessly throwing about immensely instrumentally detailed playthings like these (e.g.’Sinister Footwear’, ‘Alien Orifice’ et al) so frequently that his genius by now had become seemingly without limits. The claustrophobic closer ‘Teen-Age Prostitute’ provides further stimulation ‘for those who have outgrown the ordinary’. Massive!

 

 

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