Although it is certainly not being hyped as such in this day and age, Joe's Garage is nothing less than a rock opera. It has distinct scenes, a large cast of characters and, best of all, a storyline that is actually easy to follow….
Zappa narrates his satire in the guise of the Central Scrutinizer…. It's all very tongue-in-cheek, but—lest anyone miss the point—Zappa spells it out in his liner notes: "If the plot seems preposterous, just be glad you don't live in one of the countries where, at this very moment, music is either severely restricted, or, as it is in Iran, totally illegal."
The overall concept is, in the main, well executed, but there are some flaws. The Scrutinizer's monologues become extremely boring after two or three plays…. Finally, the man has once again succumbed to today's loose moral climate … and injected the story with plenty of gratuitous sexual situations and dialogue. Granted, it's Zappa's perogative and a certain segment of his audience expects it from him, but I can't help recalling his earlier albums, which were witty and sarcastic without resorting to cheap sensationalism.
Still, the title song lyrics are some of his finest ever, and most of the music is strong and exciting.
Cole Springer, "Records: 'Joe's Garage Act I'," in Trouser Press (copyright © 1979 by Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press, Inc.), Vol. 6, No. 11, December, 1979, p. 37.