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Thurston Moore discusses the No Wave scene, 2008
11:42 am


No Wave
Thurston Moore

Thurston Moore
In 2008 Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore and music journalist David Browne stopped by the McNally Jackson bookstore to promote their new books, No Wave: Post Punk, Underground, New York, 1976-1980 (coauthored with Byron Coley) and Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth, respectively. Moore and Browne talk expansively about those halcyon years of 1976-1981, when the No Wave scene sprouted up right alongside NYC’s punk scene. Indeed, Moore mentions that the inclusion of “Post Punk” in the title of his book annoyed some of the original No Wave musicians, because after all, the movement didn’t really start any later than the punk movement. McNally Jackson is located on Prince Street, just a few blocks away from where the No Wave scene was active—Moore makes a couple of sardonic comments about how hard it is to believe that it’s the same place.
Thurston Moore and David Browne
Thurston Moore and David Browne
Moore describes very clearly how strange the No Wave scene was—they had no media echo outside of the Village, and they regarded artists like Patti Smith and Television to be waaaaay too beholden to such bourgeois notions like “songs” and “solos.” Indeed, even Moore was alienated by the No Wavers’ chilly approach: “I wasn’t attracted to No Wave at the time. At the time I was really put off by it. I thought these people were really kind of offensive. I was like, Patti Smith’s great, Television’s great.” As he says, at the time he’d be far more likely to spend four bucks to see the Ramones than pay three dollars to see these local artists who half the time hardly seemed to be playing intelligible music. It wouldn’t be until Moore encountered recordings of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, James Chance and the Contortions, Mars, and so on that he warmed up to what they were doing. He cites a hostile review of a Teenage Jesus record by Ed Naha in Hit Parader that had such choice verbiage as “This is the worst-sounding record ever made, it sounds like a cat being murdered” that filled Moore with a determination to hear this stuff.

No Wave was so devoid of traditional structure that Browne’s provocative question “How could you tell when a post-punk band sucked?” elicits an interesting response from Moore:  “That’s a good question. The general consensus was that everything else sucked.”
Thurston Moore
For anyone who was in the Village and seeing gigs during those years, the session will represent a wonderful trip down memory lane. Moore recalls the time that CBGB raised the admission price from two dollars to three dollars, and people got PISSED. The references come thick and fast: Bleecker Bob’s, 99 Records, Rat at Rat R, Mudd Club, Mars, Tier 3….

For those who can’t abide such things, be warned that the inevitable Q&A section starts around the 34th minute (although I found it pretty interesting anyway).

Here’s a pretty great clip of James Chance & the Contortions doing “Contort Yourself” in Minneapolis, September 23, 1979:


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The corrosive no-wave funk of Guerilla Toss will melt your face
09:11 am


No Wave
Guerilla Toss

I climbed on board the hype train last weekend to catch Boston’s much talked-about Guerilla Toss on tour, and a funny thing happened. I was chatting with a high epopt of a certain national music magazine who and which shall remain here nameless, and we were both massively unimpressed with the band we were seeing. The grooves were tepid, the singer’s stage presence was awkwardly immature, and the whole band looked like a deadhead’s armpit sweat under a microscope. We chalked the whole experience up as a victory for some truly gifted publicist somewhere, and my pal bailed in a jaded, mild huff. I expressed my disappointment to another friend, who said “Yeah, I wish they would get off the stage so Guerilla Toss could play already.”

OOOOOH, FUUUUUUUUUUUCK… We tenured sitting-in-judgement-on-indie-music professionals had wrongly taken a weak-sauce opening band for the headliner - a terrible, terrible mistake, as it turned out, for no effort to find my friend and get him back to the club before Guerilla Toss played was of any use, and he missed one of the single most electrifying shows of the year.

If one were lazy it would be really easy to lump GT in with the “dance punk” dead end of ten years ago, but no, this is something else. They owe much more to similarly excoriating, female-fronted Boston bands like Big Bear than to the likes of The Rapture. The impact of their music felt like getting fisted by Melt Banana with Gang Gang Dance for lube. They were at once kinetic, visceral, hypnotic, and unforgettable. I typically hate it when a band wears out its welcome live, but GT’s set that night was WAY too short, and I don’t know that it COULD have been too long. Convulsive grooves fell apart and rebuilt themselves by the second, and singer Kassie Carlson’s engaging wail compelled attention like a Dresden air raid siren. Check out the first two tracks from their new EP Gay Disco:


They didn’t have copies of that EP at the show - I picked up some of their other stuff - but digital is already available via Amazon, iTunes and eMusic. Per their label, NNA Tapes, vinyl ships next week. Meanwhile, enjoy the video for “Drip Decay,” posted to YouTube by the band’s drummer Peter Negroponte, and have a cautious gander at their admirably eye-bleedy web site.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Nick Cave, Marc Almond, Lydia Lunch & J. G. Thirlwell: The Immaculate Consumptive

A gathering by accident, design and hair-spray: The Immaculate Consumptive was an all too brief collaboration (3 days, 3 gigs) between Lydia Lunch (gtr. voc.), Nick Cave (pn. voc.), J. G. Thirlwell (aka Clint Ruin, Foetus) (drm., sax., voc.) and Marc Almond (voc.)

The 4 musicians met in London—Lunch had been filming Like Dawn To Dust, with Vivienne Dick; while Cave had been collaborating with Thirlwell (on the track “Wings Off Flies” for the debut Bad Seeds album From Her To Eternity), and both had worked with Almond, who was resting from Soft Cell, and working on Marc and The Mambas.

The party traveled to New York, where they were followed and interviewed by the N.M.E. Lunch had a Halloween event organized for October 30th and 31st—though The Immaculate Consumptive’s first gig was actually in Washington, on October 27th, where Thirlwell broke the piano, and ended with 2 nights later with Cave seemingly bored by the chaos of proceedings.

This is some of the archival material of those 3 gloriously chaotic days together. The cable access interviewer is Merle Ginsberg, known to many of you from her role as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race.


The Immaculate Consumptive - “Love Amongst The Ruined”

The Immaculate Consumptive - “Misery Loves Company”


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Contort Your Tie:  post-punk icon James Chance the new face of Vivienne Westwood?

Legendary post-punk performer James Chance (aka James White, aka James Black, best known for the classic “Contort Yourself”) features on a fetching new tie print by Vivienne Westwood.

If you are a fan of late 70s No-Wave skronk AND snazzy ties, then this is may be of interest (here’s looking at you Richard!) However, to purchase this tie you’re going to have to hunt for it, as it is not featured on the Westwood website’s “Men’s Accessories: Ties” page.

And while we are on the subject, here’s a clip of the re-formed Contortions playing live in Poland in 2008:


Via Michel Esteban.


Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
‘Kill Your Idols’: Fascinating documentary on 1970s No Wave bands

In Kill Your Idols director Scott Crary attempts to find some connection between No Wave bands of the late 1970s like Teenage Jesus And The Jerks, Suicide and Swans with contemporary post-punkers Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Black Dice, Liars and others. The link is too tenuous to stand up to close scrutiny, but the movie is fascinating none-the-less for its exciting archival footage and compelling interviews with New York City’s avant-garde old guard. Listening to Lydia Lunch’s bilious rant about rock and roll’s new breed of hipster bands as a “pandering bunch of mama’s boys” who are “desperate to have their music used in the next car commercial” is a hoot. As are similarly contemptuous critques from Lee Ranaldo and Arto Lindsey.

Contrasting the newer bands with their older influences hits a resonant chord when DNA’s Lindsey describes the 1970’s NYC scene as an era when “we didn’t have a whole industry selling us back to ourselves.” This is the significant difference between creating and re-creating. In their self-consciousness, the new bands lack the vision, fearlessness and recklessness that no-wave’s pioneers brought to the mix every time they stepped on stage. It is impossible to replicate the “shock of the new.” Nothing seems dangerous anymore because everything has been radiated in the pasteurizing glow of our retro-obsessed culture. Rock and roll is disappearing up its own asshole. It wasn’t always this way. With every note, No Wave hit the self-destruct button. Gone. This doesn’t mean that the new groups aren’t good - I love Yeah Yeah Yeahs - but trying to find the link between them and the original no wavers is like trying to find fingerprints on water.

Update: The numbnut who uploaded Kill Your Idols pulled the movie from their Youtube channel. If you have a Netflix account, it is available to stream here.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Ecstatic Stigmatic (1980) starring Exene’s sister Mirielle Cervenka

Special for Easter, here’s a rarely seen document from the bowels of the New York No Wave scene: Ecstatic Stigmatic directed by Teenage Jesus and the Jerks member Gordon Stevenson and starring his wife Mirielle Cervenka (older sister of Exene). Both of whom would be dead within 2 years of the film’s completion, he of AIDS and she of a hit and run driver in Los Angeles. Also appearing is DNA’s Arto Lindsay. Despite the home made proto-goth silliness this is actually pretty relentlessly creepy and the music is fantastic. Definitely worth at least one viewing and/or skimming. Extra huge thanks to our own Marc Campbell for hunting down the best possible version, cleaning it up and uploading for your viewing displeasure. Probably NSFW.

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment
No Wave on film: 135 Grand Street, New York 1979
07:55 pm


No Wave
Soul Jazz Records

The always excellent Soul Jazz Records have released a new DVD, 135 Grand Street New York 1979, a rough-hewn documentation of the No Wave scene, by Ericka Beckman. Featured groups in the film are Theoretical Girls, UT, A Band, Rhys Chatham, Chinese Puzzle, The Static, Morales, Youth in Asia, Morales, Steven Piccolo and Jill Kroesen.  (In the mid-80s, I worked with Jill Kroesen, briefly, at a video post production facility in New York called Caesar Video Graphics. She was a really good designer as I recall).

Recently screened at the Museum of Modern Art and currently showing as part of Sonic Youth’s ‘Sensational Fix’ touring art exhibition around the world, the film has also screened before Glenn Branca’s most recent live shows in New York City.

In this documentary film, punk rock and non-musicianship fight it out with art world attitude. Garage band line-ups in varying degrees of musical destruction sit alongside post-everything poetry and cultural terrorism. Ericka Beckman’s film matches the rawness, minimalism and radicalism of the music - a fitting document and visual statement of new forms created out of New York’s anti-everything musical nihilism, circa 1979.

This film includes the only known footage of many No Wave bands of the period. It is a film about bands filled with painters, filmmakers, actors - and occasionally musicians - thriving and thrashing in the pulsating, vibrant post-punk world of New York where high art met low culture; where Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Wharton Tiers, Taro Suzuki and the others featured here made the connections between John Cage and Joey Ramone, between the questioning of art and ? and the Mysterians.


Thank you Steven Daly!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment