Weird Little Boy is an album of noise music by a one-off group of the same name featuring John Zorn, Trey Spruance, William Winant, Mike Patton and Chris Cochrane. It was recorded on November 26th in 1995 and released in 1998 on Avant, a Tokyo-based label founded by John Zorn.
On this eponymous album, the band creates soundscapes as the accompaniment to licentious, cutting-edge stories written by gay S/M writer Dennis Cooper and Casey McKinney, which are featured in a booklet that comes with the album. Weird Little Boy has since been disavowed by many of the musicians involved in it as a poor piece of work. Trey Spruance has been particularly voluble, calling the album ‘worthless schlock’ and ‘pure musical vacuity’.
Due to its rarity, the album is generally sold at a very high price. A variety of musical genres are explored on this experimental album, including ‘50s pop, surf rock, metal, and noise. Harsh electronics dynamically play with fierce percussion alongside manipulated surf guitar. It’s reminiscent of both Zorn’s work with Naked City and his ambient work such as on the album Kristallnacht (1993).
It was recorded at Creative Audio Recording in New York City and mastered at Foothill Digital in New Rochelle, New York.
Two Weeks on a Morphine Drip / New Dirt and New Flies / Lorne Greene
A drumbeat that sounds very much like that on Phil Spector’s famous composition ‘Be My Baby’, performed by The Ronettes, gets the album off to a start before it’s abruptly cut off and a selection of weird electronic noises and Zorn’s sax squeaks take Weird Little Boy into noise territory. A variety of hissing electronics spliced with random, jamming guitar and the sound of feedback and white noise, as well as Patton’s layered babbling, choking and vomiting noises add up to an eerily chaotic sound environment.
If the Gun Has a Mind / Redeye / Worms and Shit
This second track is more ambient, featuring vibrating guitars, spooky metal chimes, and ominous cymbal work.
This is a shorter and more traditionally structured track; it’s louder and more percussive.
Weird Little Boy
The title track starts out in a groove while Patton’s whistling creates a whimsical soundscape. The famed vocalist’s heavy breathing ends this one in a disturbing fashion.
Lungfull of Water
This doom-metal-style track features a guitar solo and Zorn’s virtuosic sax work, all animalistic wailing over steady, rumbling percussion, creating a forbidding noisescape. It’s a slow boil that rises to a crescendo, with Patton’s vocals bombastic as ever but remaining within the context of the groove.
The soundscape created here reflects the title, ‘séance’, with its ominous chimes and spare, eerie strings. The horror-film-soundtrack vibe is complemented by rolling cymbal work which is then joined by Zorn playing a lyrical, passionate alto.
When Blood Fills a Cylinder
This is one of the most experimental tracks on the album. Electronic noises sound like blood boiling in a cylinder, creating a dense, thick sound environment. This sound environment is constant, with little happening apart from a key change towards the end.
This short track is a brief return to tonality amidst the noisier sound pieces on the rest of this album.
This more ambient track recalls Zorn’s work with the group Naked City on the 1993 album Absinthe. It’s full of watery sound effects like a lapping tide and then the sound of a crackling campfire. Strange chimes like in a haunted toyshop bring an uneventful end to what many regard as an uneventful and unstructured album overall.
John Zorn played saxophone and keyboards and provided sampling. William Winant played percussion. Trey Spruance played drums, guitar, and keyboards while Mike Patton provided vocals and played drums. Chris Cochrane played guitar. Jason Baker was an engineer. Allan Tucker mastered the album. Kazunori Sugiyama was associate producer.
The text of the stories by Dennis Cooper and Casey McKinney are found in a 46-page booklet that comes with the CD. They’re accompanied by illustrations created by artist Nayland Blake. Long-time Zorn collaborator (as musician and designer) Ikue Mori was responsible for the design of the album’s packaging.
Weird Little Boy has received much hostility from fans of Zorn and the other players on this album. It’s often regarded as boring, uneventful and lazy music. Many of the musicians involved in it too have since harshly criticised the work. But Bradley Torreano at All Music gives the album a more complimentary 3 out of 5 stars. He praises its variety, from ‘casual guitar jamming…to ear-splitting noise to the sound of someone choking to cartoon sound effects’. Perhaps it’s Torreano’s emphasis on the album as ‘more of an experience’ than a musical work, pointing out the accompanying booklet’s poetry, text, and art, though he also regards Weird Little Boy as ‘very captivating music’ if given some time.