James Chance & The Contortions – Dish It Out (No New York)

25th March 2023 · 1980s, 1981, Music

“Like getting stabbed in your ears,” said one critic about the abrasive funk, atonal horns and unhinged screams of James Chance & The Contortions’ opening track on No New York. “In a good way.”

By 1978 punk had lost the power to shock and the next shockwaves of NWA and Public Enemy were still in the future. Out of downtown New York came a scene dubbed No Wave.

A dissonant howl into the post-punk / pre-rap void, it was a backlash against the commercialisation of the New Wave that had emerged ont those same scruffy streets half a decade earlier.

No New York is the compilation album that introduced anyone who could bear it to James Chance (aka White), Lydia Lunch and Arto Lindsay.

The man that brought it to us, surprisingly, was ambient pioneer Brian Eno, who was in New York to produce Talking Heads.

Eno had chanced upon a bunch of bands at an underground No Wave festival on a visit to NYC and, presciently, brought them into the studio to record them.

Counter-intuitive, eh? But only in relation to Music For Airports; not so much compared to his experimental contributions to Roxy Music.

The album was released with the lyrics printed on the INSIDE cover so you had to literally tear the sleeve apart to read them.

The original No Wave scene flickered briefly in downtown New York, largely at the Mudd Club, and burned out almost as quickly.
But it left its mark and spawned a second wave that brought us longer lasting bands like Swans and Sonic Youth.

From the same album came Lydia Lunch’s first appearance with Teenage Jesus & The Jerks: “Like a junkie with Parkinson’s detuning a guitar (and) a vacuum cleaner sucking up a cat.”