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Naked City - Naked City CD (album) cover


Naked City



4.08 | 131 ratings

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5 stars The forefathers of modern Avant-prog?

Though not quite a supergroup, this quintet does carry some big names, mainly the bandleader, avant-garde alto saxophonist/altissimo extraordinaire John Zorn, as well as renowned jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and Henry Cow guitarist/band leader Fred Frith assuming bass duties. They're joined by Joey Baron on drums and Wayne Horvitz on keyboards, both very apt at their respective instruments. On a few tracks they are joined by vocalist Yamatsuka Eye of The Boredoms fame.

Naked City were pioneers in genre combining and hopping, playing many different styles and genres of music within a very short timespan. Zorn described it as music for those with a short attention span, and compared it to the sound of someone cycling through radio stations looking for something to listen to.

Their fusion of several genres within a very short period of time has a large influence on the modern scene with recent bands such as the revered Mr. Bungle (who helped relay Naked City's influence to the newer generation somewhat), Estradasphere, Secret Chiefs 3, and more.

Now, the breakdown. Yes, I, the reviewer, will attempt a track by track breakdown of this album, though not rate any of the songs because this is a very prominent example of the sum being greater than its parts.

Batman- a quite ridiculous and rather cheesy leadoff (most likely on purpose), it is also a surf rock rendition of a quite well known song, and they put an interesting spin on it, with John Zorn's signature altissimo (also known as "squeak") notes abounding. The organ is also very prominent here, though everyone gets their turn in the spotlight

The Sicilian Clan- originally an Ennio Morricone composition, a rather relaxed, laid back piece. Not very avant but nice and jazzy nonetheless.

You Will Be Shot- our first of many tastes of genre hopping and general spazzing out, it goes back and forth between an oddly metered, heavily chorused guitar part and John Zorn going berserk on saxophone to a blast beat, and a few other genres as well.

Latin Quarter- A more normal song compared to the last one, maintains a jazzy feel throughout but turns on a dime into different types and styles of jazz and constantly changing tempo.

A Shot in the Dark- random noises? Finally develops into a song, mostly staying within the bounds of surf rock but venturing elsewhere.

Reanimator- spazz..core.something? Ungodly noise ensues, something Zorn excels at. The first track to feature vocals though if you're not paying attention, you might miss them. Turns into a much more laid back track with a looming guitar progression and rather quiet improvisation in the background.

Snagglepuss- I know I said each track shouldn't be rated individually, but this may be the best on the album, as it barely stays in any given style for longer than 3 seconds, a great example of what Zorn was conveying when he described the album as"changing through radio stations." Too many parts within a 2 minute span to mention.

I Want to Live- a return to normalcy, featuring Zorn taking the melody of the song originally by Johnny Mandel

Lonely Woman- another cover, this one by Ornette Coleman, has sort of a funky feel to it.and of course Zorn has fun with his beloved altissimo, but uses it only when necessary and doesn't go overboard. Tasteful squeaking?

Igneous Ejaculation through Speedball- insane grindcore songs, very difficult to differentiate from each other, featuring Yamatsuka Eye on vocals. Some have contrast, some are just extremely short noise bursts

Chinatown- a slow, more emotional piece originally by Jerry Goldsmith for the noiresque film of the same name, it carries the noir feel throughout with slow, bendy and bluesy sax. Nothing too abrasive here

Punk China Doll- NOISE! This actually develops into a metallic/punkish style song with a more intelligible, coherent feel, though it still is quite noisy and hard to follow in nature. Frisell delivers a very strange solo, followed by Zorn doing the same, and then, cuts off into a mellower spacey section that sounds absolutely nothing like the first part.

NY Flat Top Box- and Yep, grindcore, blues, jazz, and now country...and then back to those again for half second bursts. I liken it to almost subliminal musical messages of chaos within an otherwise upbeat song.

Saigon Pickup- The longest song on this album at *gasp* a bit above 4 minutes, this too follows in the Stalling-esque mannerism of breakneck changes at the drop of a hat, only to go back to the main theme of normalcy, though this one isn't as severe as some of the previous ones.nearly flawless transitions between surf rock, reggae, grind, and jazz are frequent throughout, as well as the usual crazy random noises these guys have a tendency to throw in.

The James Bond Theme- another cheesy, well known cover! The fake gunshot sound effects really make the song, though the playing throughout is strong

Den of Sins- back to the grindcore they go, followed by some strange soloing and then a rather funky section, then back and forth between all the previously mentioned styles.

Contempt- Not sure how to describe this one, it has a sort of jazzy mood to it. Zorn's squeaks have sort of an agonized "crying out to the sky" feel that I could imagine this being in a movie for.and it was composed as a film score, by French composer Georges Delerue.

Graveyard Shift- blastbeats and noise into..power chords!! Definitely has an old school semi NWOBHM feel at the beginning, but same story over and over again, nothing on this album is permanent as it goes all over the place

Inside Straight- Another one of my favorites, it's rather catchy and more "song" oriented compared to the other more random tracks on the album, though it does have its moments. Overall a great closer for the album.

So, be it for ts impact on the future of a rapidly growing subsection of Avant-prog or the fact that it's just a great ride, 5 stars.

heyitsthatguy | 5/5 |


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