Review Summary: Frank Zappa takes the listener on a ride through a loosely conjoined collection of musical fever dreams.
Dreams are quite interesting, being that they are a nonsensical way for our minds to keep themselves busy during the hours of sleep that all humans need. These different dreams manifest themselves in different ways, as different experiences throughout the day can affect how scary or bizarre our dreams may be. Other elements, such as sounds around sleepers or different stages of sleep, can also affect what happens in these most strange and vibrant nightly events. Among all the different types of dreams, including lucid dreams and night terrors, fever dreams are the most interesting. It makes sense that, when you are sick and your mind is not on top of the ball, your dreams can tend to wander through vividly surreal landscapes that are ever so slightly linked together and even less linked to reality.
After listening to Frank Zappa's Apostrophe one could come across the thought of this being a musical fever dream and being the best example of that. After all, it's common knowledge that Zappa's experimental and progressive jazz rock has never been known to be normal, fitting in quite nicely with his contemporaries, such as Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. So, this comparison is one that makes quite a bit of sense if you know about Zappa's music. The album we are discussing feels as if it fits the description of fever dream quite well.
Most of this has to do with the album progression and how the lyrics fit into it. Throughout Apostrophe, the story progresses from the Arctic to eventually a discussion between someone with bad foot odor and their dog. Whereas this may sound like the tracks have a story that is incredibly disjointed, the various tales of humor have a certain loose way of transitioning from one bizarre happening to the next. The lyrics themselves resemble the uncomfortable hilarity that can be found in the weirdest parts in someone's imagination. The music progresses in a much more subtle way, where every musical portion sounds like the crazy path it's going along is the natural path.
On top of progressing well, this music is masterfully performed, with songs like the title track and Cosmik Debris being dense, groovy, and complex. Zappa and the many other performers he worked with showed their immense technical prowess, with the grooves being exactly on point and every song managing to be amazingly engaging. The guitar is usually front and center, with reoccurring solos that have pristine accuracy. Zappa's vocals are quite versatile in a way that one may not realize at first, as is the drums, which are fresh and crisp. The bass playing, as one may guess from a jazz rock album, is tight and provide an excellent foundation to build the rest of the song on. The prevalent usage of the keyboard also fits in very well, adding to the musical collage of jazzy and controlled chaos.
Once all of this comes together, it can be quite bizarre, yet it still is built on some amazing jazz that isn't afraid of putting itself out there to the world, letting all who enter its path either find out what Zappa's Apostrophe is all about, or miss out on a masterfully executed jazz rock album that is brimming with life, comedy, and engaging strangeness. If they don't want to give this a chance, it's their loss. They'll be missing out on one damn fine fever dream.