Various Artists – No New York

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1. Like getting stabbed in your ears.

2. You should listen to this loud. LOUD. One of two things will happen: you’ll come to love it or you’ll suffer a painful migraine.

3. Star producer Brian Eno just finished up with David Bowie and Talking Heads and releasing his first ambient-in-title album, so you wouldn’t expect to have his name attached to a project like this. (Though I suppose, in retrospect, someone who’s been promoting The Velvet Underground & Nico and was playing proto-post-punk in 1973 and 1974 would be attached to this.) But he convinced Island Records to create a compilation detailing then-unknown no wave scene in New York City, exposing these critters to a few cracks of sunlight.

(Keep in mind that the compilation was released in 1978, and thus artists associated with the second wave of no wave (ie. Sonic Youth and Glenn Branca) don’t make an appearance here, although Branca’s Theoretical Girls was considered for No New York‘s inclusion.)

4. There’s a lot of flak aimed at Teenage Jesus and the Jerks here, and it’s warranted for the most part. For one thing, “Red Alert” is completely unsubstantial, a clear inclusion to complete the “four artists, four songs each” setup. Furthermore, the group follows right after James Chance and the Contortions, allowing a clear comparison between the compilation’s most “accessible” group followed swiftly by the least accessible. That’s not to say that Teenage Jesus and the Jerks’s material here is all nonredeemable. I rather like Lydia Lunch’s vocal style (it barely qualifies as singing), and she’s the second most recognizable characters of the album (James Chance being the first, of course).

5. “The sand is washed away / The sea it must’ve ate it.”

6. There’s a moment on “Burning Rubber” after each verse where there’s an instrumental break and it’s one of the best ten seconds of the album, only you wish it were longer.

7. The best vocal moment for Lydia Lunch is on their final track, “I Woke Up Dreaming,” where she sings the title, “I”, punctuated by a cymbal hit, “Woke up dreaming you”, followed by another. Unfortunately the track is just too long, especially in comparison with the much more bite-sized “Burning Rubber.”

8. Steve Albini cited “Flip Your Face” as his favorite song of all-time. He would.

9. Of the four bands, DNA is certainly the most consistent, which shouldn’t surprise anyone – DNA later released the best package of music of any of the bands here, and Arto Lindsay would go on to have an equally rewarding (if not better) and completely different solo career. There’s something going for each track: the infectious two-note stabs in ”Egomaniac’s Kiss” (“Shh“); the skittering “Lionel”; the drag-stab riff movement of “Not Moving.”

10. I honestly love the setup of No New York. None of these artists were able to create a proper studio album’s worth of material (except for James Chance, who soon produced two), and thus a compilation of this manner was almost a necessity.

And even the bands’ proper compilations don’t work in comparison because there just isn’t enough variability in-between the songs (”People joke that if you’ve heard one DNA song, you’ve heard them all”). On No New Wave however, the bands don’t sound like one another: James Chance and the Contortions have the most accessible sound, relying heavily on funky bass-lines. Meanwhile, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks sound like they were discovering instruments for the first time. Furthermore, each vocalist of each group here have their own distinct style; compare Mars’s alien vocals with Lydia Lunch’s angular one with James Chance’s delicious screaming.

11. Like getting stabbed in your ears.

12. In a good way.

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