A friend once told me “Every town’s got a Frank Zappa nut.” which is true and probably why I never ventured too far into Zappadom. Most of what I’ve heard or actually own, however, has been received well.
Out of those, I have a fond recollection of Frank’s late 70’s/early 80’s routine, which probably has every town’s Frank Zappa nut in a tizzy.
At the time, it was because this period was Zappa’s most heaviest (Steve Vai is one of the guitarists) and dudes in high school relate to heavy rock more than Ice Cream For Crow.
It’s also his most bawdy, progressive, and jazzy-but we tolerated all of those intricate excursions just to get to “Broken Hearts Are For Assholes” or to hear Zappa solo while sitting on a stool.
Believe me, it sounded like a good idea at the time, but the Zappa Trust’s latest DVD concert release The Torture Never Stops shows the band in precise form while Zappa looks like he’s growing weary of the entire comedy rock shtick.
Filmed on Halloween, 1981 at the Palladium in New York City for a MTV broadcast, Zappa and his band tackle a set heavy on You Are What You Is and other R-rated shenanigans from the aforementioned era.
Also from that era: Zappa in red jumpsuit, Vai in a leopard-skin shirt, band members in various states of funny headdress (it was Halloween, after all), xylophone solos, and lots of overplaying.
Zappa “conducts” the members on occasion, not seeming to notice that nobody in the band is using the maestro for a time signature. Sometimes he’ll pull out his guitar and solo, all of which possess the same tone and some really long phasing that’s present each time his pick hits the string.
The video itself is awash in color saturation with pointless quick editing at some moments, one of them a headache-inducing jump between Zappa singing into a mic while percussionist Ed Mann bashes together a pair of cymbals.
Again, the performances are note-perfect, but from start to finish, Zappa looks disinterested. He only cracks a smile during the encore after a rare mistake occurs when a band member forgets their vocal cue.
The Torture Never Stops is hardly revelatory-something in which the late icon needs in terms of turning on new devotees-but it will most certainly entertain fans of this period of Zappa’s discography and the Zappa nuts who want to steer them to more fulfilling efforts.
This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.