"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Slash JANUARY 1979 - by Gorilla Rose
THE CONTORTIONS/TEENAGE JESUS & THE JERKS/MARS/DNA: NO NEW YORK
Up at 8AM, groggy and in pain, putting on No New York is a shocker - not unlike having to sit down to breakfast in the studio commissary with the pinheads, dwarfs and armless wonders from Freaks. But after saying hello, splitting a biscuit and giving each side a good triple listen, all is copacetic.
If there were ever four groups seriously trying harder to be experimental, different, anti-music, flippantly postured, rhythmically chaotic, vocally strident, cultishly self-absorbed, or can't-play-won't-learn-let's approach the instruments differently - these are them. And the one man to put them all together conceptually on an album is Brian Eno. The four cuts from each group are loaded with Eno trademarks, in fact, Brian Eno is easily the Phil Spector of the '70s. Instead of the "Wall of Sound Orchestra" we have the "Wall of Tapedeck Tricks."
Easily the most commercially dynamic group on this album, The Contortions just may be Eno, split six ways, and minus the poetic subtleties. Their music is brutal, thrashing, haunted and compelling as an alien encounter. Opening side one, Dish It Out and Flip Your Face are real "turn it up" radio contenders.
The Teenage Jesus cuts are four variations on a forced attempt at sustained suspense in arrangement, chalkboard screech vocalising and epileptic drumming. The Lydia Lunch Bunch did a more cohesive job with this particular kit on their Orphans single.
Mars' material seems more naturally inspired (mad birds, shrieking winds, falling rocks, etc.) than the rest, but in such close company is rather ho-hum experimentally. Yoko Ono seems to be the grandmother of Mars.
DNA has the threat, authority and musical presence one comes to expect from a fourth generation CBGB band. Their music comes off second best in impact of the four groups, and you'll swear Not Moving is an unhammered Devo outtake. If you are a collector of rare musical malaise, art school damage Eno treats or psychotic, urban jungle chants, this is the album for you. Your feet will be tapping, your body will twitch, but only your brain will be dancing. And if I spent forty dollars a month on records like the rest of you do. No New York would be on my list.