Sunday, November 25, 2007
Naked City - Naked City (tracks 10-17)
Naked City - "Tracks 10-17" (from Naked City)
I was 16 or 17 when I bought the first Naked City album. Maybe I'd read about John Zorn in that jazz coffee table book I had, or knew that he was friends with Sonic Youth or something. I don't know. I'd heard a little bit of Ornette Coleman, not to mention Zorn's tribute disc to Coleman, and figured I was ready for this.
And there's no reason I shouldn't have been. Most of this album isn't that far out there. Lots of surf and rockabilly, and a lot of... trad. jazz. There's a cover of the James Bond theme and a song called "Batman," which sounds inspired by the show's original theme (punctuated by those "BAM!" and "POW!" horn blasts, naturally). So this is really a pretty fun and eclectic album. Nothing to be scared of, right?
But that's only the half of it. Naked City liked to mix their free jazz with hardcore punk, so about half the songs on Naked City feature Zorn's free improvisation over Yamatsuka Eye screaming at the top of his lungs. This was, and still is, hilarious, terrifying, or both. But something about it really creeped me out. Maybe it had to do with the song titles: "Demon Sanctuary," "Den of Sins," "Igneous Ejaculation." I was still terribly conflicted over listening to "secular" music while all my friends rocked out to Third Day and Newsboys, so this was beyond... I don't know, simply debating whether or not to listen to Pearl Jam or Green Day or anything approaching "normal" bands. I didn't believe that music could channel demons like any of the old videos we watched in junior high youth group at my old church instructed. Not really. But if any could, it would sound like this.
The music didn't bother me as much as the artwork in the sleeve. I should have taken a hint given that the cover shows... a vintage photograph of a man shot in the face. Maybe I just didn't look closely enough, or seeing it in black and white somehow lessened its impact. Anyway, that didn't stop me from picking it up at the store, nor did the painting on the back cover of a mummified man with crabs coming out of his mouth. More "hideous" artwork inside -- an evil-looking skull and a girl with a snake twisting in and out of her every cephalic orifice -- was too much for my pre-Internet, yet-to-be-desensitized innocent mind. The music made the pictures seem all the more evil. The pictures reinforced the heathen, hell-spawned vibe of the songs on the CD. I'd heard and enjoyed lots of "unChristian" music before this, even some with swearing, though I kept this a secret from my friends (who'd surely pray for me if they knew) and family (who really couldn't give a shit, in hindsight). But I'd never stumbled upon anything as sinful as this.
I don't know if I even made it all the way through the album before stopping it, removing the disc... and snapping it in two. I tossed the pieces into the plastic shopping bag that I'd taken it into my room in, along with the liner notes and jewel case, and took them down to the garage. There, I smashed them into tiny pieces with a hammer on the garage floor and tore the booklet into shreds before throwing it in all in the trash. I've never told anyone about this until now. I know that I could have sold it back to a used store for a few dollars, but something was telling me to destroy it. No one else could ever see or hear this ever again. If I helped contribute to anyone else's exposure to this album, even if only by putting one more copy of it back into the world, it would inevitably find its way into someone else's vulnerable imagination, and I would surely be judged.
Obviously, I don't feel this way anymore. But there's no story to tell there, no moment where I suddenly looked into the mirror and came around from my childish ways. If there was, it could have come a lot sooner than it did. But it did come, didn't it? I'm admitting it, right?
By writing this entry, am I just patting myself on the back for "getting over" issues I had when I was a kid, as if it was truly a struggle that I should be commended for? Am I just desperately trying to pull meaningful events out of my uneventful, meaningless adolescence? I deserve a vicious ribbing for this psychotic episode and even allowing myself to be taken in by the thought process that spawned it, but my lack of enthusiasm in commenting on other people's blogs has pretty much ensured that no one is going to reciprocate replies to me here.
Somewhat well-known painter and manga artist Suehiro Maruo contributed the artwork to the album. Very little of his material is really worksafe, and there's no reason for me to be looking at pictures of mutilated children while I'm at home, so needless to say I won't be investigating his work any further at this time. The track I uploaded is actually the entire middle third of the album. Enjoy it in one convenient file!