Frank Zappa Ellen Sander - Essay

Ellen Sander

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Ruben & The Jets is] an album of The Mothers as mad historians, caricaturing a caricature and making it work. They exult the sexual symbolism of early rock by calling the shots. "Cheap Thrills in the back of my car" wouldn't have gotten by the censors in the old days, but it sounds disconcertingly familiar now. The Mothers camp it up with reconstructed oldies spoofing the elusiveness and the immediacy that brought teeny-boppers out in droves to the Murray the K. rock 'n' roll tours and the American Bandstand.

The Mothers of Invention reign as the prime purveyors of irreverent insight into American culture, and this time around, they are entrenching themselves. And as severe a reflection of the absurdity of itself as it is, Ruben & The Jets is a collection of good tunes…. It tells it like it always was, much to everyone's embarrassment, except theirs, and makes it fun to listen to at the same time. It's patently obscene without containing one dirty word. Now you've got to admit, that's class.

Ellen Sander, "Nostalgia: Oldies but Goodies and a Last Ditch Attempt," in Saturday Review (copyright © 1969 by Saturday Review; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. LII, No. 13, March 29, 1969, p. 51.