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Pop : The Zappas' Novelty Wears Off Quickly

April 08, 1991|JEAN ROSENBLUTH

If anyone's eager to poke some fun at old rock pretension, there's hardly a bigger target than the heavy-metal excess of the '70s. We're talking the music of such bands as Deep Purple and Brownsville Station, where rock 'n' roll was replaced by rock 'n' bombast.

The trouble with Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa--brothers from the rock family most associated with satire--is that it was hard to tell Saturday night at Bogart's whether they were spoofing that old heavy metal or were trying to build upon it.

The only time their intentions seemed clear--and their performance was focused--was during a clever, definitely satirical encore. The rest of the set's 90 minutes was sheer overkill.

Even that encore--a technically marvelous medley comprising 10-second snippets of one-time hits running the gamut from the Raiders' "Indian Reservation" to Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize" to the Commodores' "Brick House" to Blondie's "Call Me"--carried the joke too far, clocking in at a few minutes shy of a half hour. By that time, even the "Name That Tune" novelty of the number had lost its appeal.

At least the encore displayed a sense of humor, an ingredient vital to any successful parody but largely missing from the rest of the set. Frontman Ahmet, guitarist Dweezil's younger brother, relied on silly faces and sillier mannerisms for levity, rarely speaking to the audience. Dweezil, too, remained oddly silent most of the time.

Of Dweezil's original material, only "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama"--from his like-named last album, not the brand new "Confessions" on father Frank's Barking Pumpkin label--captured the heavy metal thunder of such obvious (some would say insidious) influences as Deep Purple and Van Halen. Zappa's flashy guitar work proved impressive when it finally was given a melody to work with.

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