FOLLOW US ON: follow us in feedly
GET THE NEWSLETTER
CONTACT US
Terminal City: Revisiting James Chance & The Contortions’ groundbreaking ‘Buy’ album
07.21.2015
01:52 pm
Topics:
Tags:

Original Cover art for
 
Truly great jazz is rhythmic enough to lure you in but chaotic enough to make sure you don’t get bored…or too comfortable. Truly great funk is rhythmic enough to keep your body moving and your senses tighter than a trucker on a yellow-jacket binge. Cross these mighty twin forms together and you land somewhere near the county of James Chance. Even then, like any artist worth their salt, simple categorization is not only uneasy but also ill advised. And that’s when things get truly exciting.

Emerging during the late 1970’s quick-flash but potent No Wave movement, Chance, by way of Brookfield,Wisconsin, arrived in New York City and would go on to make a musical mark that initially defined and defied the very scene that he would be associated with. He first came to recorded prominence with an appearance on the Brian Eno-produced compilation, No New York, which also featured greats like DNA, Mars and Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. (A band Chance helped create along with lead singer/force of nature Lydia Lunch.)

However, it was 1979’s album Buy, Chance’s debut along with his band, The Contortions, that changed multiple games and is a rare example of a work that is simultaneously of its era and yet aggressively repels dust and art-mold. Its sonic punch and bone-rattling kinetic rhythm is the kind that cracks buildings at their foundations and runs off all the right people from a party. Arriving on the scene with internal influences ranging from Thelonious Monk to The Stooges, it was a no brainer than the man’s creative thumbprint was going to be unforgettable.
 
Great Poster for a Contortions Show
 

“Contort yourself one time! Contort yourself two times! Contort yourself three times!....”

Buy was and forever is, a powerful work. Upon first listening, the instant vibe is chaos. Truly great music can either cause a riot (i.e. Stravinsky) or calm a riot (i.e. James Brown) and with James Chance the potential for both is thriving and waiting. Atonality collides with a jazz-blues-funk permutation, with Chance, in key moments, coming across like an angular, honky James Brown. The second wallop is what the man does with the sax. It’s the spiritual heir apparent to jazz godheads like Ornette Coleman combo-ed with the throbbing pulse of a city full of crime, despair, drugs, dirt and living defiantly while nodding your head to the less than pleasant reality that surrounds you. In short, one James Chance sax solo makes up for a multitude of sins committed against this noble instrument all throughout the 1980’s in popular music.

From the opening track, “Design to Kill” to the tiki-guitars-from-Hell work on “My Infatuation,” Buy is an unrelenting ride. If a punch can feel like an act of mal-love, this is it. There’s the crime-tinged jazz of “Twice Removed,” featuring lyrics like “...been washed up and left to dry” and “I only like things twice removed.” The big barnstormer of the album, however, is “Contort Yourself.” The song plays out like a battle cry for the entire work.
 
Chance dishing it out two ways during a live show.
 
“It’s better than pleasure, it hurts more than pain. I’ve got what it takes to drive you insane.”

It’s a big, bold statement that not only can be backed up, but Chance himself knows that he can back it up. Seeing footage of the man even further backs it up, since once you witness Chance suited up and coiffed like the bastard son of Chet Baker and a lounge lizard, it hammers the point home. Then there’s the scream. The yowl that Chance lets out in “Contort Yourself” is piercing and possesses all the wow factor of a steel mill combusting.
 

 
Continues after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Heather Drain
|
07.21.2015
01:52 pm
|
Thurston Moore discusses the No Wave scene, 2008
06.12.2014
02:42 pm
Topics:
Tags:

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
|
06.12.2014
02:42 pm
|
The corrosive no-wave funk of Guerilla Toss will melt your face
12.11.2013
12:11 pm
Topics:
Tags:


 
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
|
12.11.2013
12:11 pm
|
Nick Cave, Marc Almond, Lydia Lunch & J. G. Thirlwell: The Immaculate Consumptive

evitpmusnocetalucammi.jpg
 
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
|
04.24.2013
08:51 pm
|
Contort Your Tie:  post-punk icon James Chance the new face of Vivienne Westwood?

image
 
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
|
04.17.2012
09:41 am
|
‘Kill Your Idols’: Fascinating documentary on 1970s No Wave bands
04.15.2012
09:39 pm
Topics:
Tags:

image
 
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
|
04.15.2012
09:39 pm
|
Ecstatic Stigmatic (1980) starring Exene’s sister Mirielle Cervenka

image
 
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
|
04.24.2011
04:36 pm
|
No Wave on film: 135 Grand Street, New York 1979
04.23.2010
10:55 pm
Topics:
Tags:

image
 
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
|
04.23.2010
10:55 pm
|