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Naked City - Naked City CD (album) cover

NAKED CITY

Naked City

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.19 | 84 ratings

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Pnoom!
5 stars Rating: A+

With over one hundred releases to his name and more coming every year, John Zorn is by far one of the most prolific composers of last century. As such, it can be incredibly difficult to figure out where exactly to start with his immense discography. Well, search no more. Nearly everything Zorn does is excellent, but his clear magnum opus is Naked City, a CD he composed for the Naked City band but released as a solo CD (the Naked City band would go on to record Torture Garden, Radio, and other albums in the late 80s and early 90s).

Despite being the best place to start with Zorn, it's far from accessible (if you really want to start with accessible Zorn music, look to his Filmworks series). Naked City showcases John Zorn (and the Naked City) playing avant-garde jazz like no other avant-garde jazz you've ever heard. Just nine seconds into the opening "Batman," this should become evident. After an upbeat - even catchy - intro, Zorn comes in on saxophone and, well, you haven't heard the full range of a saxophone until you hear the tortured shrieks Zorn manages to pull from his. Once the saxophone enters, the CD is off and it doesn't let up until it finishes, blazing it's way through everything from free jazz ("Reanimator") to grindcore (the sequence of eight short tracks in the middle of the CD), with a bit of everything else thrown in for good measure (including the awesome "You Will Be Shot," with its lightning fast changes between sections). Not even "The James Bond Theme" is safe from Zorn and co.'s onslaught, as it is turned into an avant-garde monster.

The only potential problems with Naked City are that, given the varied nature of the songs, the album would not flow very well, and considering the number of tracks on Naked City, some might be filler. Thankfully, neither is the case. Every song is incredible, and, what's more, every song builds off the moods and atmospheres of the last, and thus Naked City only gets better as it goes along. It traverses every mood, from pure violence (the eight grindcore tracks I mentionede) to truly sublime beauty ("Saigon Pickup"), and each one feels authentic, making Naked City that much more powerful to listen to.

Keep in mind, though, that the phrase "not for everyone" was practically invented specifically for the music of John Zorn. His music constantly tests, pushes, prods, and breaks down boundaries, and these boundaries tend to be in the outer reaches if accessibility. While Naked City has its share of hooks, those expecting anything even remotely conventional will be sorely disappointed with Naked City. Those who are willing to give it a fair shot without any preconceived notion of it in their head will ultimately be rewarded with one of the most intriguing CDs of the 1980s. It's not jazz, it's not metal, it's not avant-garde, but it is something, and whatever that something is, the world could use more of it.

Pnoom! | 5/5 |

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