23rd February 2018
No wave was a blink-and-you-might-miss-it music genre. Born off the back and as a result of the Manhattan punk scene that was developing in the late 70s. As focused shifted to England’s burgeoning punk endeavours like The Sex Pistols and The Clash, something new was brewing back home in the big apple…
While punk’s home was at the famous nightclub CBGB’s, no wave found its base at the soon-to-be-legendary nightclub the Mudd Club. Co-founder Anya Philips became a kind of poster girl for this movement, bringing glamour, notoriety and her boyfriend fellow no wave-r James Chance to the scene.
No wave music is perfectly summed up in this extract from factmag.com’s piece on the time. “Though the movement owed an obvious debt to ‘60s New York – both to Warhol’s Factory and the sense of doom the Velvets introduced into music – no wave was much more like the hippy dream being turned inside-out. Antagonistic and raw though they were, the CBGB artists’ countercultural stand had one foot in ‘60s idealism.”
“Contrastingly, the no wave bands emerging in Blondie & co’s wake in the winter of 1977 were night-crawling, stringently conceptualist and versed in the traditions of anti-art. They created music that spoke of psychic pain, of sexual sin, and of atrophy; of a moral and spiritual bankruptcy that mirrored the city’s financial one, and a ‘70s New York the no wavers renamed ‘Blank City’. As Thurston Moore told Danhier, “We came out of destruction.”
This anti-art aesthetic and narrative of the genre enticed the likes of Lydia Lunch and Nick Cave, while music played a prominent (albeit distorted) role, there was a heavy poetic aspect to it; in particular a southern gothic one. Influenced by gothic author Harry Crews, Cave would go onto making the ‘Murder Ballads’ heavily referencing the writer, while Lunch was so enamoured by Crews in 1989 she, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and drummer Sadie Mae formed a band named after him. It wasn’t uncommon for a no-wave writer to be part-poet, part-performance and part-musician.
Anti-art, anti-music, pro-noise, pro-poetry: No wave encompassed a multitude of aspects that had never been performed together before. The scene experimented with electronic sounds and peculiar noises, inaudible to some and revolutionary to others. What a time to be alive.