Agony Shorthand

Friday, December 12, 2003
V/A : “N.Y. NO WAVE” CD….

This new comp of 1978-80 ZE RECORDS selections is sort of the little brother compilation to Soul Jazz’s outstanding “NEW YORK NOISE” assemblage, also from this year. The breadth is limited by the label’s discography, most of which centered around a small knot of key players (JAMES CHANCE/WHITE, LYDIA LUNCH, and LIZZY MERCIER DESCLOUX) and their respective, intermingled bands. I’m admittedly a little late in discovering some of the glories of New York City no wave, probably because I have for years been underwhelmed by the mediocre, annoying James Chance/CONTORTIONS stuff, by the marginally interesting SUICIDE, & by complete ambivalence to Ms. Lunch’s career, including the promising TEENAGE JESUS & THE JERKS (who unfortunately are one of those bands you need to hear exactly once, and then you’re d-o-n-e). In so doing, I pretty much missed out on MARS, who are represented here by “3-E” and “11,000 Volts” – both screeching, plodding, pounding dark rock and roll, totally ferocious and unlike anything before it. If I have to pick a personal “retro discovery of the year” for 2003, I’m going with MARS – and yes, I know, it’s not exactly this out-of-left-field find. You were there way before me.

But hey – were you there for ROSA YEMEN? This group, featuring Lizzy Mercier Descloux on fractured, stream-of-consciousness French, are well represented on NY NO WAVE with a big four tracks, all from their s/t 1978 LP. They’re great. The common denominator of the best no wave is that wildly paranoid, adrenaline-packed skittering that races the heart and scrambles the mind; Rosa Yemen were excellent at capturing this sound and making it even vaguely danceable. Descloux really thumped up the grooves that much more on her solo stuff, documented here on “Wawa” and “Torso Corso”. I’m even surprised to find myself really enjoying the solo LYDIA LUNCH stuff here – some entertaining, horn-drenched fake lounge music with naked-city stories of sex and betrayal. In sum, I’m pretty impressed with the compilation & highly recommend it as a darker adjunct to the more funkified “NEW YORK NOISE”.