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Naked City


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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Although officially released in 1990 as a John Zorn solo album, "Naked City" was in fact the debut of a whole new band of the same name. Although it turned out to be a short-lived formation (it lasted only a couple of years), it existed long enough to obtain a legendary status among avant-garde fanatics. With his Naked City project - which also featured Wayne Horvitz, Bill Frisell, Fred Frith, Joey Baron, and occasionally Yamatsuka Eye - John Zorn produced a challenging mix of jazz and hardcore/metal. Zorn had already experimented with this combination on the cover album "Spy Vs. Spy" - on which Ornette Coleman tunes in the melody section were set against hardcore 'grooves' in the rhythm section - but with Naked City he ventured even further into rock territory. Add to this Zorn's love for film and cartoon music, superb musicianship, and a good dose of humour, and you'll get an idea of what "Naked City" sounds like.

The album contains both original compositions and cover songs (seven in total). The latter, however, are arranged in such a way that they fit into the style of the album perfectly and they don't disturb the flow. The most notable covers are "The James Bond Theme" and "Lonely Woman" - a famous film tune and an early free jazz classic (Ornette Coleman). One of the best originals on the album is the unpredictable "You Will Be Shot", but even more unpredictable - and also the most impressive - are the eight tracks that make up the center of the album. These agressive bursts of energy, all of which clock in at less than fourty-four seconds, pretty much summarize the musical language of the band. Moreover, the fragmentary character of these pieces is distinctive for John Zorn's musical vision at the time. (According to the American musicologist Richard Taruskin, Zorn once wrote that "'I've got an incredibly short attention span', and that his music is meant for listeners who, like him, grew up with television." *)

In my opinion, "Naked City" is a postmodern masterpiece and an artistic statement in the line of such landmark works as Ornette Coleman's "The Shape Of Jazz To Come", Frank Zappa's "Freak Out!" and Captain Beefheart's "Trout Mask Replica". Apart from that it could be a nice introduction into Zorn's gigantic discography. People who like wild, experimental music will certainly enjoy it, and especially fans of Mr. Bungle or Fantômas will be delighted.

* Richard Taruskin, The Oxford History Of Western Music, Volume 5: The Late Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 504.

Report this review (#71354)
Posted Tuesday, March 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
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!

Report this review (#75570)
Posted Thursday, April 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I believe that this is the most famous recording of John Zorn, partly because it uses a very large scale of musical influences bringing something for almost everybody, and similarly demonstrating new musical styles to people, who wouldn't maybe hear them otherwise. But the biggest reason should be the overall quality of the release, which is certainly high. "Naked City" is a quite rough listening experience, and the number of different musical styles paints a picture of a violent and chaotic city. "Batman" works as a dynamic opener, which is followed by the mellow and beautiful "The Sicilian Clan". A short promenade to the next ghetto is "You Will Be Shot", which gives some hints of the forthcoming grind metal attacks. After "Latin Quarter" and the Henry Mancini sounding tune the violence rate grows again. Then time for some Ornette Coleman cover and eight short Napalm Death tunes which durations range from 11 to 42 seconds. I recall that these tracks caused serious interest among the grindheads to who I played this album. Next stops are Chinatown and Thai area, which are followed by a performance of the classic James Bond Theme. Four more tracks hammer this production of Pandora's Box to the listeners head, either as an abomination or as an interesting cultural artifact. I respect this record much, but during my tamed adulthood I find seldom strength to listen this kind of music long. Instead of metal heads this should interest also fans of serious jazz listeners, as John has gathered up quite cool band, having Bill Frisell on guitar and Fred Frith playing the bass. I wouldn't suggest buying this blindly for an expensive price, but anybody interested of chaotic contemporary art music should give this a listen when possible.
Report this review (#92436)
Posted Thursday, September 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Describing this album is almost impossible. You really need to hear it to see just how intense and unpredictable the songs on this record are. Guitarist Bill Frisell, keyboardist Wayne Horvitz, bassist Fred Frith, drummer Joey Baron, and guest vocalist Yamatsuka Eye under the leadership of the legendary saxophonist John Zorn create a pleasant jazz record full of sudden bursts of grindcore. So as you can imagine the end result isn't exactly a pleasant jazz album. There are also a couple of other genres of music that suddenly pop-up during the songs which vary in length a lot. "Hammerhead" being the shortest with just eight seconds and "Sigon Pickup" the longest running just under five minuets. Zorn's affection for film music is also shown on this record. Odd and freaky versions of movie themes from "A Shot in the Dark," "I Want to Live," "Chinatown," and "James Bond" are all interesting and actually very amusing.

Many listeners might get scared off by my mentioning of grindcore in this review. Personally I dislike it but on this record it works incredibly well. The first time I heard this record I was surprised (And this is an understatement!). After a at least 25 listens I know what to expect, but somehow still get surprised every ten seconds of listening, The best thing is that you get the feeling that the band didn't take this record too seriously and had a lot of fun recording it so in the end Naked City turns out to be a very enjoyable record even though it is quite a demanding listen. I'm not exactly sure if this can be classified as rock but I'm giving this album five stars nonetheless because I believe it is a masterpiece of music in general. And in my opinion genres are unimportant, if music is good it's good.

Report this review (#122177)
Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#135163)
Posted Tuesday, August 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#135799)
Posted Saturday, September 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#161368)
Posted Saturday, February 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is really quite an eclectic album. I hear more of the RIO crash and bang sensibilities here than in the other Zorn albums I've heard. In this way, sometimes it reminds of HENRY COW, but I am also at times reminded of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, and/or free form jazz. This album certainly wouldn't be at the top of my Zorn list for newcomers, unless you are looking for the more bizzarre approach to your music. And whereas your friends may be turned on by The Circle Maker, this album is more likely to end the party than to get it started. Nevertheless, it's brillant for those of us who get into the more in-your-face avant garde.
Report this review (#171572)
Posted Monday, May 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The musicians involved almost make an avant super group creating one of the most interesting and challenging bands you'll hear,combining two of the extreme forms of music - grindcore & jazz. There's various other styles of music in amongst this album but one of the most distinct sounds is John Zorn's whaling saxophone, creating a perfect replacement for a vocalist.He approaches the sax in such an aggressive manner you almost forgot its a popular jazz/lounge instrument.I've always felt about the whole album,despite the excellent musicianship,they don't take there selfs to seriously,so neither should you whilst listening.
Report this review (#176569)
Posted Saturday, July 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Absolutely perfect mix of avant-jazz/metal/noise and old film soundracks. Perfect musicians, even short form of miniatures doesn't break common feeling.

26 pieces, each of original idea and own melody, sound. Starting from easy acceptable melodic retro-jazz movie melodies,Zorn bring you step by step for more complex structures and rhythms. Till one moment you will realize, that you are in the room full of avant-jazz scratches and metal noise.

But happily all this process happens without pain, and you just feel, that it's strange music is attractive enough.

I think, it's one of most attractive Zorn album, real gem for avant-jazz oriented music fans. For all others - good start for introduction to John Zorn music.

Please note, some music from "Naked City"album was released at "Tortured Garden" album ( or v.v.).

Report this review (#236159)
Posted Monday, August 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars I have been a huge fan of Mike Patton ever since I picked up a copy of the Tomahawk debut album back in 2002. After listening through most of Patton's collaborations I stumbled on a wonderful release called Six Litanies For Heliogabalus which consisted of some gorgeous compositions penned and conducted by John Zorn. The album also featured some off the wall drumming work by Joey Baron who, together with Zorn have previously worked in a band called Naked City.

Needless to say I read up on Naked City and after finding out that this project also included the legendary Henry Cow guitarist Fred Frith I stopped everything I was doing at the time and just rushed to the nearest record store! Naturally I'm exaggerating, after all, we all know that an average record store doesn't include the works of John Zorn in their inventory.

This album is roughly split up between two different concepts/themes. The first theme consists of avant-garde covers of work by great composers like Ennio Morricone, Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith and a few others. The second theme entails short compositions that at first felt like improvisational pieces but that was an incorrect assumption on my behalf and after exploring more of John Zorn's music I recognized certain patterns that existed within these tracks.

Since I am a fan of Ennio Morricone's music I was very skeptical of hearing Zorn's take on the theme of The Sicilian Clan but after hearing this track I definitely have to hand it to John Zorn for breathing new air into such a perfect piece of work to begin with. His saxophone solo here is just beyond words and gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it!

This is an essential album for fans of avant-garde music but I have a difficulty of calling it a masterpiece of progressive rock music since this material might be considered too extreme for the average prog listener. Approach with caution, but by all means do approach!

***** star songs: The Sicilian Clan (Ennio Morricone) (3:33) Reanimator (1:43) Demon Sanctuary (0:42) Obeah Man (0:20) Saigon Pickup (4:50)

**** star songs: Batman (2:04) You Will Be Shot (1:31) Latin Quarter (4:12) A Shot In The Dark (Henry Mancini) (3:13) I Want To Live (Johnny Mandel) (2:12) Lonely Woman (Ornette Coleman) (2:45) Igneous Ejaculation (0:24) Blood Duster (0:17) Hammerhead (0:11) Ujaku (0:31) Fuck The Facts (0:14) Speedball (0:44) Chinatown (Jerry Goldsmith) (4:28) Punk China Doll (3:06) N.Y. Flat Top Box (0:46) The James Bond Theme (John Barry) (3:06) Den Of Sins (1:14) Contempt (Georges Delerue) (2:54) Graveyard Shift (3:32) Inside Straight (4:17)

*** star songs: Snagglepuss (2:20)

Report this review (#264974)
Posted Monday, February 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars You will not find to describe this album. hearing is believing. the music is unpredictable and sometimes scary. John Zorn-led, there is jazz that breaks down into hell detached. so true progressive jazz, then? The album contains the shortest of the history of prog to 11 seconds. Although there is no more than 5 minutes, it is so full of unexpected twists and turns he does not relax into the flow anyway. It is a demanding listen, of course. While it does not feel real and overwhelming and it is certainly an advantage. if you see jazz going into uncharted waters worth a listen, you will find this disc will be all that you want to hear.
Report this review (#292369)
Posted Wednesday, July 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars There are so many things I dislike about this album i'm not sure where to start. I know this one is rated highly among Avant-garde fans and i'm a fan of the genre but this is one album I just don't appreciate very much. It all boils down to my specific tastes in music. There's lots to like here as well, I really enjoy the sax especially when he's playing in a dissonant manner or just screaming away.There are parts of many tracks here that are fantastic to say the least. And that's one big issue with me, the way they tape and paste these different sections of a song together so we get lots of patch-work. All these different styles and genres in one 2 minute blast is not what I enjoy, in fact i'm not much into variety period when it comes to one recording. I don't want to hear Country (ever), Jazz, Lounge, Film Music, Noise, and on and on all on one album let along one song (haha). Okay i'm exaggerating but you get the picture. I'm not into "noisy" music either. And the vocals sound like they were sampled from the cartoon character The Tasmanian Devil.They are so lame it's not even humerous.

So this album comes off as one of those novelty albums I normally detest,and yet there is so much here that I enjoy that it make it unfortunate. Another negative is that there's 36 short tracks here. 36 ! Another negative for me is the guitar and bass both of which sound like they came out of some fifties spy movie much of the time. I don't care how good these guys play that sound and style makes me cringe.

I miss Zappa when I hear something like this. Someone who could actually play challenging, funny and adventerous music that i'm proud to share with friends. Still there's more than enough good music here to give it 3 stars and besides I don't want to upset their fans anymore than I already have.

Report this review (#300163)
Posted Wednesday, September 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Systematic chaos...

Although officially considered to be a John Zorn solo album, this 'Naked City' quintet went on to form the group of the same name.

The Good: This release pretty much defines the avant-jazz sub genre, combining numerous styles, random interludes and furious shredding breakdowns. There are some really great tracks to be discovered here, from the insane Snagglepuss, to the calmer, more atmospheric pieces such as the Ennio Morricone cover, The Sicilian Clan. The virtuoso musicianship throughout is undeniable.

The Bad: Call me a philistine, but whilst the the spasmic frenzies are fun at first, the unpleasantly grating saxophone can become a little tiresome after a while.

The Verdict: Definitely worth checking out, if only for the experience.

Report this review (#438933)
Posted Monday, April 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars When I listen to this album, it brings to my mind the film "Pulp Fiction". There are stretches of extreme coolness in the sound, broken up by passages of vulgar brutality and violence. For the most part, the music works. If you are into this sort of thing.

There is quite a bit of rockabilly, lounge jazz, and other more normal forms of pop music. But even when playing it somewhat straight, John Zorn and his cohorts have a tendency to veer off into experimental and off beat riffs and explorations. And interspersed with these are ventures into blasts of noise and uncontrolled chaos.

The chaos I enjoy, for the most part. I just get put off when vocalist Yamatsuka Eye starts screaming his lungs out.

Otherwise, it's a trip. But a dangerous one.

Report this review (#598494)
Posted Thursday, December 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Mr. Zorn doesn't bother with transitions. While he and his musicians create every sudden textural shift themselves, without technological assistance, his guides are the splice, the jump cut, the video edit - not to mention the jack-in-the-box and its more sinister relatives in funhouses and horror movies. In his music, coherence is barely more than propinquity; one sound or style simply doesn't predict the next" - New York Times

My definition of a perfect album (together with The Grand Guignol, by Naked City. I already wrote about it here too). A technical paradise for avant-garde lovers. Naked City is my favorite project by the demented John Zorn. Well, I really love demented people. Actually, Naked City brings me lot of my beloved stuff altogether: Free Jazz, Post/Hard Bop, Classical, Rockabilly/Country, Grindcore, Fusion, Grindcore, Hammond focking Organ, noise, Avant-Prog and more. But the most important thing is the fast-change, the shapeshifter tendencies of the Naked City music, highly inspired by Carl Stalling, the composer for Warner Brothers cartoons. You know, there's a lot of shifts in tempo, theme, style and signature. It makes the album an interesting bag of surprises, with 26 tracks. One hour of pure madness. If you are a musician, believe me, you will not regret. The shortest songs are the heaviest ones, where Zorn screams with his sax and goddamn, he did the impossible with that instrument. The whole band is awesome, but Zorn as the head of this ecletic (maybe ecletic enough, sounding offensive to regular listeners) hell, is my favorite here, of course. My favorites are the most ecletic, experimental and texture-changing tracks, in my opinion: Snagglepuss, You Will be Shot, A Shot In The Dark (an incredible version for the soundtrack from the 1964 film) and N.Y. Flat Top Box. Some expert versions taken from big names like Ornette Coleman* and Johnny Mandel transformed into totally new tunes. The theme for Chinatown, James Bond, and The Sicilian Clan too.

Naked City's debut includes Maruo Suehiro illustrations. Suehiro is one of the most celebrated "ero-guro" mangakas: an underground sick humouristic, experimental and dark movement from the japanese comics area. The guro term came from the janpanese pronounce for grotesque. I was a great fan of this kind of material. And Zorn too. You will notice this. Just take a look at the Naked City themes and concept: shiit, blood, s/m... Without any lyrics, John Zorn makes me think about the darkest side of the humanity into short hardcore jazzy tracks. The album art and the name of the songs reflects the horror and bizarre reality -or surrealism, musical or conceptual, like Reanimator- into his music. To fully understand the Naked City theory, search for the notes of their album Grand Guignol, dedicated to the theater wich carried the same name.

Five Stars!

*John Zorn already covered Ornette Coleman in a hardcore way with the album Spy vs Spy.

Report this review (#1082017)
Posted Tuesday, November 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is essentially what happens when a jazz band decides to play avant-garde rock and roll, with basically straight- ahead rockabilly numbers made weird with odd little solos and outbursts here and there. The overall sonic effect isn't too dissimilar from the wilder moments of Mr. Bungle - indeed, John Zorn and Trey Spruance would end up working together from time to time in future - though with a slightly more consistent "anchor" in early garage rock.

It's all very impressive, but I'd add a couple of caveats. The first is that if you are interested in this album because of thw participants' jazz work, you should keep in mind that this doesn't sound even slightly like jazz. The second is that I sneakily kind of think the garage rock side of the band is just fine and all that weird soloing just makes the album odd for odd's sake. This is a sentiment which, if course, is entirely antithetical to the experiment here, but I just feel like the experiment just isn't quite my cup of tea.

Report this review (#1642288)
Posted Monday, November 14, 2016 | Review Permalink

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