Have I Offended Someone?

Frank Zappa

Rykodisc Records, 1997


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Whether the term was deserved or not, Frank Zappa was often classified as a comedic musician due to the biting, often offensive, satire that permeated much of his work. His songs have even been played on that bastion of musical humor, the Dr. Demento radio program, cementing his place in history with the fans of the good doctor.

Yet when put together as their own package, Have I Offended Someone?, the songs that made Zappa infamous sometimes come off as mean-spirited, shocking just for the sake of shock and - worst of all - losing any humor that was meant to be delivered with the tracks. While some of the versions on this disc may be new to long-time Zappa fans due to some audio clean-up or new editing, the disc ends up sounding like an off-color joke told at a party at exactly the wrong time.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Some of the inclusions on this disc are no surprise - "Jewish Princess," "He's So Gay," "Dinah-Moe Humm," "Disco Boy" and "Titties And Beer" top that list. Sometimes, it's the exclusions that surprise me - where is "Shove It Right In"? "Ms. Pinky"? "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes"? I mean, any of those songs could have easily bumped "Valley Girl," easily the tamest of the bunch here.

Other songs, taken out of their original album environments, just don't have the same punch they once did. "Catholic Girls," for example, isn't quite as scathing as it sounded on Joe's Garage (and I freely admit I've never warmed up to this song, which has nothing to do with the fact I'm a recovering Catholic myself). Likewise, "Goblin Girl" and "In France" just seem like harmless little asides, not nearly as offensive as some of Zappa's other works.

In fact, Zappa was sometimes at his best when he was offending someone, such as the money-grabbing televangelists - who, for some reason, get a total pass on Have I Offended Someone? I mean, a weak cut like "Sex" (from The Man From Utopia) makes the grade, but Jimmy Swaggart is left alone? For shame.

The end result of Have I Offended Someone? is nothing more than a collection of off-color jokes that, when put together, lose a lot of their individual power. While I've been a critic of the level of Zappa's humor at times, I will admit that Zappa's satiric wit was often at its best when it hit the listener at the least expected time. ("Bobby Brown Goes Down" is a prime example of that, though Sheik Yerbouti has many moments that would have fit on this disc.) Putting them all together in one disc seems almost anticlimatic, and is a letdown in the field of posthumous Zappa releases.

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: C

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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 Records, and is used for informational purposes only.