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Naked City - Naked City CD (album) cover


Naked City



4.14 | 132 ratings

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5 stars

Naked City was released in 1989, by a band of the same name led by John Zorn. Naked City could be considered a supergroup because of the star-power of the not only Zorn as a virtuoso saxaphonist, but with Bill Frisell on guitar,Yamatsuka Eye contributing vocals (who does work with Japanese Avant-Garde pioneers the Boredoms), and Fred Frith (of Henry Cow fame, among other things) on bass. One thing I must comment on before we begin is how good Frith's basswork was, which took me by surprise, and was one of the highlights of the musicianship (which is something when playing with Zorn). The group's first and best known work is their self-titled Naked City, a 50 minute, schizophrenic romp through some of the most intense, and enjoyable, music I've heard in a while. The band seems to prefer jazz (no surprise as this gives Zorn an outlet to express his chops on sax), surf-rock, and metal which meld together very nicely.

Each track is as long as it can be handled by people. In this case, that seems extremely short as no track exceeds 5 minutes, with some clocking in at around 10 seconds. The tone, tempo, and genre can change at any second, which can make this album the musical equivalent of walking through a field of land-mines. You're sweating, on edge, and don't have a clue what the hell is going to happen with each step you take. Each track on the album unfolds differently. It starts off with "Batman", where surf- rock dominates, then leading into a graceful, smooth nod to Ennio Morricone's "The Sicilian Clan". This is another aspect of the band, which involves giving a tip of the hat to songs from movies, the most well known one being a cover of The James Bond Theme, done on a track of the same name. It is done very tongue-in-cheek everything sounding a bit too much. The gunshot in it also sounds amazingly cheesy and is the topper for the song. Oh man, that got really off track. So, yes, back to "The Sicilian Clan". Nice easy relaxing song, which sort of could provide a false sense of how the album sounds (if one had never heard of naked city, nor seen the cover with the dead guy laying out in the street). Naked City really then kicks into gear with tracks 3-7, which are, in my opinion, the highlight of the album. This stuff is great, with lots of squeaking sax, genre-bending goodness in songs such as "Latin Quarter" and "Snagglepuss". Also of note are the middle tracks of the album, usually less than a minute each, which are very abrasive, and could scare the living daylights out of you if one popped up while you were shuffling through your library of music. It ends almost as strong as it begins, with tracks such as "Saigon Pickup" and "Graveyard Shift". The middle tracks give the illusion that the album is in two parts, with the middle tracks providing an intermission.

Why did I mention when it was released earlier. On top of the fact that throwing out that little tidbit of knowledge makes me seem more credible and full of more knowledge, it also gives the time frame in which, old Avant was dying out a bit, and Frank Zappa was in the autumn of his years. The community needed a new style to emulate and Naked City was perfect. It is the template for modern Avant, with distinct influences seen in bands such as Mr. Bungle, and Secret Chiefs 3. This album is the dawn of the modern Avant era, and is one of the best of it too. As influential and as big of a landmark as "Freak Out!", "We're Only In It For The Money", "Hot Rats", and "Trout Mask Replica".

Naked City is truly, not to be missed.

cookieacquired | 5/5 |


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