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Naked City - Naked City CD (album) cover


Naked City



4.07 | 120 ratings

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4 stars Here is an album crammed with inventive and highly entertaining music with a high degree of spontaneity, yet also a very strong sense of structure, dramatic journey and precision in execution.

The bread and butter of Classic Prog, in other words - and a very difficult combination to achieve.

This is not your father's Prog or even close to Classic Prog - but Progressive it indeed is... after a fashion.

The very opening track, entitled "Batman" strikes you immediately as not being the Batman theme tune at all, rather a cross between Peter Gunn and the bridge section from Saxon's "Princess of the Night" (a riff also used in Metallica's "Seek and Destroy") - or wherever Saxon borrowed it from.

In the first minute, there are subtle interplays and not so subtle interplays between the musicians conjouring up comic-book images. After the first minute, these become more pronounced, and the Peter Gunn theme is all but left behind for 30 seconds as the band go into controlled meltdown.

The final 30 seconds are a recapitulation and codetta of the meltdown madness - and all this in 2 minutes flat (the final 4 seconds are silent run-out).

"The Sicilian Clan" is oddly set up by a Bontempi style organ, with a series of manic modulations that belie the apparently simple Burt Bacharach style of the piece. The improv in this piece is mildly satisfying, but not daring - an oasis of calm after the opening "Batman". The improv becomes far more daring later in the album - you really need to stick with this one.

"You Will Be Shot" twists manically into sudden blurs of sound from an underpinning main riff that stops rather as if it had just noticed something - occasionally dropping into something resembling the "Bontempi" section in the previous track.

But there is cunning in the construction - in a minute and a half, there is the main riff idea, the first "blur" idea - a segment that is essentially repeated, then the "Bontempi" section, followed by a second "blur" idea. This entire structure is essentially repeated, and "main", "blur", "main" used to end the piece.

In other words, a series of very short rapid-fire "hits" merged into a surprisingly traditional and tight structure.

You get the idea. Or rather, an idea.

We can see that a track-by-track would take all day, as there is simply so much packed into each second - blink and you'd miss it. Every detail is clearly intended to be there, which is great news, as that makes this an album to revisit - when you feel up to it.

To qualify the latter, it's the sheer intensity and ferocity of pace at which everything happens that makes listening to "Naked City" a real rush and a drain on one's psychological resources to simply keep up.

Each track explores different areas of "The Naked City", exposing something almost tangible at each step. There are so many points of note that a list would be pointless, but almost every style of music is covered from laid back jazz to tightly controlled noise (plenty of the latter) - and all done cleanly and expertly.

This handily qualifies this album as Prog - but rather a kind of essence of Prog.

It is an album that has plenty to appeal to just about everyone - and plenty to annoy just about everyone too. It's hardly easy-listening, yet there are moments of an almost lounge-jazz flavour that are very accessible indeed, and moments of modern jazz that are quite mind-scrambling - somewhat familiar in places, but that does seem to be the intention, as this album is something akin to a musical tapestry - albeit with touches of Jackson Pollack.

There's something for Prog Metal fans here too - at least those with more "exotic" tastes: If you enjoyed Fantomas "Suspended Animation", then there's much in here that will appeal - the root idea is the same, even if some of the more dominant musical styles are different. The major difference in concept is that this is a regional psychological tour rather than a more personal and time-based one. It should still be listened to in sequence rather than dipping in at random though!

The sequence of 8 sub 1 minute tracks seem to draw much of their inspiration from early Napalm Death (not kidding!), and the cartoon-like qualities will feel familiar.

I find the descent into noise a bit too frequent for my taste, but otherwise, a solid album that I would not consider a masterpiece of Prog Rock, but it's unique, exceptionally well crafted and a highly recommended purchase - but not for the faint of heart!

Certif1ed | 4/5 |


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