I got introduced to the genre of “No-Wave” in 1981, listening to late-night public radio broadcasts out of Berkeley, CA when my parents were alseep and I should’ve been fast asleep too. Or was it when I started writing & recording my own music back in 2000? Or was it when I answered a Craigslist musician ad a week or so ago, and googled the genre to find out WTF it was?
Whatever, however, this genre does speak to me in the language of the spheres.
A little about the No-Wave genre, and the band Blurt, from http://www.optimo.co.uk:
The name came about as reaction to the term New Wave. At the tail end of the 70’s the record industry was trying to rebrand punk and labeled the poppier bands that came in the aftermath of Punk as New Wave. The No Wave bands wanted to reject this poppier side but they also felt no affinity to Punk. At the time, Lydia Lunch (the queen of No Wave?) bemoaned how Punk was just sped up Chuck Berry riffs and it is true that if you listen to most (but not all!) punk today, it is just badly played, sped up three chord rock n’ roll. The Garage bands of the 60’s had nailed the Punk sound way earlier and frankly mainly sound better to this day. Go listen to ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’. Most of it sounds leaden and apart from Rotten’s vocals doesn’t really sound threatening or revolutionary in the slightest. Listen to No Wave today and it is still a shock to the system and often sounds like a music with no precedent. This last thing is another of the keys to what No Wave is. Many of the artists were determined that their music should not be influenced by anything that came before and should sound totally new. If influences did creep in they were more likely to be from free jazz than any rock based form of music. The ‘No’ in No Wave could thus be taken to imply the music didn’t belong to any particular style or genre.
The ability to play was completely unimportant too. But where Punk liberated thousands of non musicians who found they could make music by only learning a few chords, many of the No Wave artists didn’t even bother learning one chord. Coaxing atonal and abrasive sounds from their instruments and conjuring up basic repetitive rhythms was a much more effective way for them to express themselves. Melody? Forget it! Although when one hears No Wave, it is instantly obvious that that is what is being listened to, none of the bands really have that much in common stylistically.
Blurt – Puppeteer (Factory)
Blurt are probably the most No Wave but not No Wave band of all time (I told you this would be confusing). I think Blurt would have existed and sounded exactly how they do whether such a thing as No Wave had ever happened or not. Hailing from Stroud and based around the skronking sax genius and belching vocals of Ted Milton, Blurt are one of thee great unsung bands of our times. Myself and Jonnie are completely obsessed with Blurt and can listen to them endlessly. One day their music will be reappraised and they will be lauded as much as say Can or Neu! Their music has so much space and groove that it’s easy to get lost inside it. I read a great description of their music recently – Blurt are a psycho-funk, afro-punk, no-wave, pogo-jazz-trio which pretty much hits the nail on the head. I could have picked any one of dozens of their songs but went for this one that appears on a Factory Records compilation from 1981 because it just oozes funk which apart from James Chance’s experiments is not something No Wave is generally known for doing. Blurt still play live and we hope to bring them to Optimo in 2006.
If’n you’re curious about the genre No-Wave, http://www.optimo.co.uk has a ±44 minute sampler available for free download with a whole mess o’ goodness in it. And, well, some crap too (there’s always some, no?).
Go get yer groove on @ Last.fm, with Blurt’s Puppeteer!