MUSIC REVIEW | Frank Zappa – Sheik Yerbouti (1979)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I found the whole process too exhausting and draining for me to have any energy to write about the second half at all.”

Zappa 1
Full disclosure, I do not like the work of Frank Zappa. Fuller disclosure, that opinion is based on very little experience with his music. A few years ago, I decided he was someone I needed to be more aware of, so I asked a Zappa fan to recommend a few albums. What I remember is some pretty amazing musicianship and compositions, with what might be the worst lyric writing I have ever come across. But since that is about as articulate as I can be about my dislike of Zappa, I figured I needed to give him another chance. Which I did, with the terribly pun titled Sheik Yerbouti.


Immediately, I Have Been in You reinforces all of my biggest fears about committing to over an hour of Frank Zappa. The music is really cool, going from funk, to rock and back again seamlessly. What brings it undone is Zappa’s vocal work. I don’t know if the lyrics are terrible, because I could never make it past Zappa’s shit eatingly proud of himself vocal delivery. He just sounds like he thinks he has written the funniest song we ever did hear, and he we should all thank him for it.

I’m on record as not really understanding the appeal of Bob Dylan, but even I felt offended on Dylan’s behalf when I heard the bullshit impression of him on the eclectic and ADD addled Flakes. But then Sheik Yerbouti is redeemed by the shredding guitar rock intro of Broken Hearts Are for Assholes. This song is way ahead of its time, sounding more like mid 80s hair metal than 70s rock. But Zappa just can’t help himself, and after a promising opening, this song also tries too hard to be interesting and just comes off as childish and not nearly as funny as it thinks it is. “Ram it, ram it, ram it, ram it up your poop shoot”, is a lyric a grown ass man wrote and committed to tape.

The shredding intro to Rat Tomago proves one thing about this record, if I could find a karaoke version of it, nothing but instrumentals, it might be one of my favourite and most listened to albums of all time. The musicality and arrangements really are that good. And the vocal free Rat Tomago proves what a speed bump and liability the words and voices are on all of the songs before it.
Zappa 2
I persevered, I powered through, I gritted my teeth and endured all of Sheik Yerbouti. And you’ll just have to take my word for it. Because I found the whole process too exhausting and draining for me to have any energy to write about the second half at all. Because after Rat Tomago, there are 10, yes 10 more songs that tick all the same boxes of Frank Zappa bullshit that I have already dedicated 500 words too. And that’s really more than this record deserves.

Frank Zappa

Other Opinions Are Available. What did these people have to say about Sheik Yerbouti?
Rolling Stone
Sputnik Music
Pure Rock Fury

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