Every Tuesday for the next couple of months I'm going to try to post a Zoogz Rift album. That's the plan, at least. Even if I post every album of his that I have, it'll still only be scratching the surface - the man released 39 albums! (That's of original material - he's released a number of comps as well.) Since Zoogz is retired due to health issues, now seems like as good a time as any for a career retrospective.
If you know anything about Zoog Rift, it's that a lot of people don't like him. He's known for his loud, obnoxious, immature sense of humor (e.g. his band was named The Amazing Shitheads) and for his constant paranoid ranting...and that's what his fans say. But his fans also point out that his wildly original music owes nothing to any typical genre cliches, and he has refused to cater to the public almost to the point of commercially shooting himself in the foot.
Rift is usually compared to the likes of Zappa and Beefheart, and he does share their love of complex compositions that, unlike many too-precious proggies, still rock out with a vengeance. His instrumental lineup, often including the likes of trombones and vibraphones, can be reminiscent of Beefheart. But while Zappa sneered, Rift howls in pain. And if Beefheart came out of the blues, Rift sounds like he was caught up in the punk scene exploding around him at the time. He's from L.A., in case you didn't guess.
Yes, there are going to be tracks on these albums that you're not going to like. When someone won't stop screaming about the "idiots" of the world without getting specific, it can become it's own kind of idiocy. But don't let that stop you. For one thing, there are lots of instrumentals that demonstrate the tightly-rehearsed near-virtuosity of Rift and his bandmates, especially the also-infamous bassist/guitarist John Trubee, and the late drummer/vibeist Richie Haas. And these albums boast some great songwriting - funny, rockin', rollin', even cathartic. There are musical places that you've never been to before.
Idiots On The Miniature Golf Course
This is a good album to start with - for one thing, it is one of his first albums, from 1979 (has not aged at all). He actually sings a fair amount, and quite nicely at that, instead of just hollerin'. And except for a little bit about urination, it's not really obnoxious or offensive, despite titles like "You Can Go Fuck Yourself" (it's an instrumental). It is pretty frantic tho, from the demented childrens circus music of "I Did So," to the mutant funk of "The Night They All Came Out," to rockers that aren't too far removed from, say, Devo or Oingo Boingo, but played with such effortless twists and turns that whiplash could result. Start-to-finish enjoyable, consistent like Ex-Lax (ah, see, now Zoogz's got me getting scatological!)
So don't be scared! Come on in, the water's fine!