Zorn is definately a post-modernist. And as a post-modernist, he has a need to include nearly EVERYTHING on this CD...surf music, 60's film themes, Ornette Coleman covers, country and western (he likes both kinds of music!), cartoon music, film noir music, post-punk...you name it, Zorn includes it. While to me, this post-modern mishmash doesn't work on his string quartets and other "classical" pieces, seeming more pretentious than interesting, here it is absolutely hilarious...there's an almost playful quality to the referencing, much like an episode of the Simpsons. And like the show, he is fast. You miss much on the first listen...even on the fourth or fifth listen.
Most of this disc is a sonic whirl through the musical styles of the past 40 years...held together by the vision of an incredibly unique New York Improviser. This group is joined on several tracks by vocalist Yamataka Eye as they explore, pretty much everything, musically. The accomplishments on this record are stunning. Tackling material by Morriconi, Henry Mancini, Ornette Coleman, Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry ("The James Bond Theme") and a series of Zorn originals, the band moves genres effortlessly.
The opener on the album sets the stage for the rest of the record-- "Batman" begins with a crazed guitar figure, then moves underneath a wailing sax to a driving rhythm and backbeat, maintains this sort of pseudo-swing feel but structures itself such that it occasionally collapses into hard core noise. There are also some really serious beautiful moments as well. Zorn's cover of Chinatown starts as an almost ambient piece and then goes into the familiar Jerry Goldsmith theme with absolute seriousness and soulfulness. And even the James Bond Theme, which is campy to the max, is also quite brilliantly played and ultimately treated as a serious vehicle for improvisation. "The Sicilian Clan" is delightful. Even though there is noise (the entire middle of the album-- all hardcore songs under a minute featuring Eye), sometimes all in the same song ("Snagglepuss"), it adds to the dreadfulness of being alone in a dark alley. Someone once said-- "if you don't like Naked City, wait ten seconds, it'll sound completely different", and its really quite accurate. This music requires a certain level of fearlessness (and probably a healthy dose of bravado) combined with virtuoso performers who are willing (and capable) of expressing themselves in any form. But really, in order to pull this off, both the composer and the musicians have to know when to let loose and have fun-- when serious is too serious, and John Zorn does know this.
Probably one of the most important things to remember about this disc is that it really bears repeated listens-- there's a lot here, I've played it often over the years, and I'm still finding new and exciting moments in it. There are people who didn't "get it" at first, and eventually, it sunk in and made sense. Give it a try or two or three, skip anything that really bothers you and come back to it later, this is not easy music, but it is brilliant and highly rewarding. If you are a fan of unique, creative, improvised, or just downright interesting music, you owe it to yourself to check out this recording.
If you truly want to have your musical ideals challenged and your ear expanded, I wholeheartedly recommend this album. It takes you farther than you thought possible.
1.Batman 2. The Sicillian Clan 3. You Will Be Shot 4. Latin Quarter 5. A Shot In The Ejaculation 6. Reanimator 7. Snagglepuss 8. I Want To Live 9. Lonely Woman 10. Igneous 11. Blood Duster 12. Hamerhead 13. Demon Sanctuary 14. Obeah Man 15. Ujaku 16. Fuck The Facts 17. Speedball 18. Chinatown 19. Punk China Doll 20. N.Y. Flat Top Box 21. Saigon Pickup 22. The James Bond Theme 23. Den Of Sins 24. Contempt 25. Graveyard Shift 26. Inside Straight Dark