Review Summary: Um? What just hit me?
“Hey dude, you see that movie Funny Games?” says my friend Steve, “The horror flick? I loved it!” I reply, “Well you remember that crazy song from the beginning? Well I got an album from those guys, and I just so happened to have burned you a copy”And so from that fateful day in Steve's living room came my exposure to Naked City. Naked City is a truly experimental band, and this is THE most experimental, technical, and crazy album I have ever heard. Now take into account that I enjoy Pig Destroyer, Dillinger Escape Plan and all forms of insane metal and you understand that I'm not joking.
Naked City are called Avant-Garde , which is defined, "advance guard" or “Vanguard” The adjective form is used in English, to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics.” This is not a great description of Naked City, yes they are extremely experimental, but their true sound is a combination of free-form jazz, and grind core, yes grind core. This may sound like a horrible train wreck concoction of two genres that couldn't be more far apart, yet the musicians of Naked City some how pull it off into one distinct, and interesting album.
Only three of the 42(!) tracks are over a minute in length, and of those three none go beyond a minute twenty seconds. Each song is a short pulverizing blast and because of the short length no song gets repetitive (naturally), also the fact that the band experiment so much creates a list of standout tracks, like “Thrash Jazz Assassin” “Bonehead,” and “N.Y. Flat Top Box” to name a few. Almost 100 percent of Torture Garden is experimentation, and as such hardly any songs sound too similar. Yes a lot of songs stay with the grind-jazz approach, but Naked City throw so much different moods, tempos, and styles into their sound that everything feels new. To name a few different styles used; country rock, Motown, and gospel like organs on “Dead Spot.”
The songwriting also gets a good mention not because of how well the music is written, but how they successfully fused jazz and grind core. Every instrument shines, whether it be bass or Saxophone no instrument is over shadowed or under played. This is also due to the production which is good at bringing out every instrument in all its crazed experimental glory. All of the songs are very technical and even use some instruments in unique ways, in “Bonehead” a Saxophone is used to simulate a high pitched scream as the vocalist growls below it. Overall the instrumentation is topnotch and is a shining point of the album.
While Torture Garden is both refreshing and fun to listen to there are a few problems. For one you blaze through this album in just under 26 minutes! And while this isn't a fault to the music I was left wanting more. Also the vocals may turn off people as they are as experimental as the rest of the album. For the most part the vocalist isn't saying anything, but howls, and barks like a rabid dog, and while this is an impressive display they are really only a novelty and could have been improved with, you know, lyrics. Other than these small problems, Torture Garden is a great listen and I recommend it to anyone who wants something truly different, and straight-jacket-wearing, small animal-torturing insane.