‘No New York’ Revisited

No New York (1978)

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With yesterday being dominated by best of lists for National Album Day (whatever that really means) I wanted to look at one album that still gets overlooked, over forty years later. It’s not a studio album, but its impact can still be felt.

Brian Eno curated this album in 1978. No New York remains a timeless melee, a snarling, feral compilation of bands who made concrete slabs of sound.

Mars, DNA, and The Contortions are the snidey bands who comprised the No Wave New York underground scene, and their photos on the back cover mostly resemble mug shots, or asylum inhabitants.

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It was genuinely dissonant, jarring music that landed as a reaction to punk rock, and the New Wave scene hot on its heels, all of which had been subsumed into the mainstream. Ironically, by refusing to tie to any one movement, they in themselves became a movement of sorts. They were oppositional outsiders, entirely anti-fashion, anti-art and anti-industry.

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Lydia Lunch fronted the best known band here, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Her guitar sounded like a rabid dog breaking free and wandering off, attacking random people.

Teenage Jesus’ biggest advocate at the time was one Lester Bangs, moustachioed rock critic and taste maker, who described their staccato poetry-laced racket as “the shrillest record I’ve ever heard”. Surely there can be no finer recommendation.

It still sounds like nothing else.  The squall of  Dish It Out, Orphans, Try Me, etc. broke the mould and inspired the likes of Sonic Youth, Husker Du, Minutemen and a slew of others in its wake. Forget The Sex Pistols and The Clash (the former I do like, though) this is still the real deal. It still excites me more than most music from the era.

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