Tuesday, October 19, 2010

No Wave by Thurston Moore and Byron Coley

This oral history of the small, short-lived, yet influential No Wave scene includes contributions from the likes of Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Arto Lindsay, Glenn Branca, Diego Cortez, and so on, with longer written sections by Byron Coley, and many black and white photographs and fliers throughout the pages.

The late 70s/early 80s was a time in New York history that will never come back, a virtual madhouse where you could live cheaply and do what you wanted. In Luc Sante's essay "My Lost City" (which I am forever quoting), he writes of a feeling of nature taking back the city, of feral dogs and vacant streets, how "in the 1970s New York City was not a part of the United States at all. It was an offshore interzone with no shopping malls, few major chains, very few born-again Christians who had not been sent there on a mission, no golf courses, no subdivisions." This is the landscape that the no wave scene was born into, and it's one that I am forever pining for, wishing that I could have lived through, despite knowing in the back of my mind that it must not have been as romantic as it sounds on paper.

In the book's Foreword, Lydia Lunch writes, "The anti-everything of No Wave was a collective caterwaul that defied categorization, defiled the audience, despised convention, shit in the face of history, and then split..No Wave was the waste product of Taxi Driver, Times Square, the Son of Sam, the blackout of '77...and the desperate need to violently rebel against the complacency of a zombie nation dumbed down by sitcoms and disco." (There's a longer list in between ellipsis but you get the point.)

A family tree of bands at the beginning of the book. It may look like a lot but a lot of the same people were in the various groups.

Here's Brian Eno, who was more of an early adopter of No Wave than a pioneer. But he's still a pretty cool guy.

I really like the simple typographic flier.

Lydia Lunch: the baby-faced killer.

James Chance attacking Village Voice writer Robert Christgau, who apparently was unfazed and continued to praise the Contortions.

On the left, the Contortions playing on a roof somewhere; on the right, Mirielle Cervenka (older sister of Exene and one-time member of DNA) on the subway. (You may recall the scene in The Decline of Western Civilization when Exene learns the news of her sister's death.)

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