Review Summary: An excellent compilation that shows the short-lived No Wave scene.
Some phrases that generally pop up in various television shows and magazines leave me wondering why some writers have a job. One of the most common ones that irritate me is the jaded, overused “life is like a box of chocolates so you never know what you‘re going to get” line which is a decent simile but magazine/television show writers should at least be more original unless the line suits that particular moment in time. A closer analysis into modern media shows how many everyday life clichés are put into their publications. Well excuse me for being the average everyday muck but this album is definitely “like a box of chocolates”.
This compilation is based upon the late seventies/early eighties New York scene No Wave. The term is a satiric wordplay on the then popular “New Wave” scene that thrived the world. No Wave is not easy to pinpoint as each group added their own unique quality to it’s ever growing sound but the scene drew on genres such as jazz, punk and the avant-garde. This compilation shows a few tracks from each of the major no wave contenders; James Chance and the Contortions, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars and DNA. This barely begins to scratch the surface of bands in this short-lived genre since it is was released at the end of the seventies missing out on some key bands near the end of the movement (Sonic Youth, Swans). However, this is a worthy mix to explain and show the listener the basic sound of the scene. Brian Eno is the brains behind this compilation and pushed for it’s release. It is now considered a basic starting point of New York’s experimental music scene.
This disc kicks off with four James Chance and the Contortions tracks and with the ravaging saxophone and bass allure of “Dish It Out”. None of the tracks really differentiate from each other but each have their own quality appeal. Teenage Jesus and the Jerks then show off four tracks from their small discography. Possibly the most abrasive of all the bands featured here, these tracks slowly burn away and leave a unique mark. Mars deliver the most weirdness from this compilation with four “avant-garde punk” cuts and leave the most pleasurable taste in my mouth while DNA have qualities from all the bands here yet add a fuzzy electronica trait.
There is not much to say about this compilation other than any fan of experimental music or someone looking to expand their narrow taste should give it a spin or two. If there was one complaint, it would be that some of the tracks here are a bit too abrasive and make the compilation feel hard to listen to all the way through however that shouldn’t stop someone from enjoying this again and again.
“I began to express myself musically in a way that felt true to myself, constantly pushing the limits of idiom or genre and always screaming "*** You!" loudly in the process. It's how I felt then and I still feel it now. The ideals behind the (anti-) movement known as No Wave were found in many other archetypes before and just as many afterwards, but for a few years around the late 1970s, the concentration of those ideals reached a cohesive, white-hot focus.”