Title - 'You Are What You Is' (Ume)
Artist - Frank Zappa
First released in 1981, You Are What You Is is an album containing Zappa's takes on the smell of teen spirit, shall we say! Not only that but organized religion, Saturday Night Live's Coneheads, and even racial issues! Indeed, this melting pot of what was on his mind back in '81 has high points (to my mind, at least) that include the mock country of 'Harder Than Your Husband,' the powerhaus 'Theme From 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear,' and the frenetic vocal-drenched title track itself.
I have loved this album since I first purchased it as a two-disc vinyl! Played it to death, and back and fell in love with all that Zappa put on those four sides. I think I played it for a year solid, before it occured to me there was other music being created I could also listen to!
Indeed, Zappa comes close to another full concept album built around a singular content theme with You Are What You Is, but it's probably more effective to think of this double album as one with two, somewhat related, and previusly-noted above themes.
There is the overt theme of race, anchored by the title song. But interwoven throughout this is the secondary theme dealing with religion, a favorite target of Zappa's for lampooning, particularly televangelism. Because often at the center of our racial and ethnic identities is a religious style that enables this identity to exist.
And yet, Zappa broadens this concept to include other cultural hegemonies around which we build our identities, whether it be the drug culture or the empty commercialism that is constantly telling us we must have things that we don't need.
Also, this may well be Zappa's most power-chord driven album, as far as rhythms go. This was the first album which he produced in his own studio (the U.M.R.K.) and turn-on-a-dime rhythm changes and song transitions abound. Which makes this one of many albums from Zappa which can't be fully experienced without gapless playback! Cool beans, dude!