Buried deep in this brand new album by Dweezil Zappa is a song called Just The Way She Is, it’s the record’s penultimate track in fact. And it has hints of Joe Walsh about it, the way it moves from lovely and laconic pop ballad to fiery guitar workout and back…it’s a wee gem. But it’s not always a smooth road getting there…
Via Zammata’ has some incredible moments, some great playing, some smart songwriting. And a lot of nonsense. So far, so Zappa you might be thinking. And certainly Dweezil is still wrestling with the spirit of Frank – such a huge force. Their collaboration Dragon Master here sounds like heavy metal devouring itself. And there are moments where you wonder where Dweezil Zappa stops and “Weird Al” Yankovic starts.
But there is some of that trademark Zappa humour (Billionaire’s Son) put winningly. The really great moments here, such as the elegiac Truth are almost staggeringly brilliant. But there’s some garbage to navigate past. Again – that’s (arguably) the (wilful) Zappa way.
Dweezil’s guitar playing, so sharply honed from his decade or more of fronting the Zappa Plays Zappa shows and albums, is at an all-time high. Devastatingly expressive and beautiful during Truth’s solo and the brief burst near the end of Just The Way She Is. But it’s hard work sitting through all of this album.
It’s his best album – certainly his best in a couple of decades. But pick the wrong track to start with, or come in at the wrong time, and you might never make it all the way through. A shame because it’s almost as if he wrestles with Frank’s vision and spirit and energy across most of the first half of the album and finally become his own player and performer for the album’s (better) second half.