Today's New York rockers, posturing Gotham dance music and yesterday's post-punkers from Blighty
NEW YORK NOISE: DANCE MUSIC FROM THE NEW YORK UNDERGROUND
ROUGH TRADE SHOPS: POST PUNK 01
Ah, Manhattan, so much to answer for?and so in vogue as a rock metropolis after decades as a hip hop Mecca. Yes New York is the perfect title for an anthology of contemporary Gotham noise, a timely riposte to Brian Eno’s notorious No New York compilation of post-punk “No Wave” acts released back in 1979.
It’s the new bands on Yes New York, starting with The Strokes and taking in Radio 4 and The Rapture, that have returned NYC to pole position in today’s neo-post-punk world. But it’s the bands on ultra-hip Soul Jazz’s New York Noise (ESG, DNA, Liquid Liquid, James White & The Blacks, etc) that exert such an influence on those acts.
If you’d told me, as I watched the sulky Bush Tetras play some forgotten East Village dive back in ’81, that 22 years later the Yeah Yeah Yeahs would be playing essentially the same music, I’d have laughed. But one listen to the Tetras’ “Can’t Be Funky” on New York Noise, or to their bilious “Too Many Creeps” on Rough Trade Shops: Post Punk 01, should make it clear you’re listening to Karen O’s spiritual aunties.
How much of this music?and of the UK post-punk on the Rough Trade shops album?have I actually come back to in the intervening decades? Precious little, to be honest. The vast majority of it still sounds like what it was: cerebral, bloodless ‘dance’ music for junkies, the kind of posturing Gotham tripe we used to describe as “atonal” and “angular”. The Dance, The Bloods, even ESG and James White: you can keep it, frankly.
But you can also keep a lot of the UK piffle on Post Punk 01, too?even if the great Simon Reynolds is writing a book about it. Pigbag, the Pop Group, Gang Of Four?white and scratchy and just as devoid o’funk as their Rotten Apple equivalents. Hearing 23 Skidoo’s “Last Words” or Scritti Politti’s “Skank Bloc Bologna” again is like burying your snout in a mildewed copy of NME or New York Rocker circa 1980.
How affirmative can one be about Yes New York? The Strokes are what they are?1969 Velvets/Stooges via Blondie and Richard Hell; I dig ’em despite the record-collection references. But aside from the fabulously intense, lan Curtis-via-Blue Nile Interpol, the Yes groups (The Fever, The Walkmen, The Natural History) sound just as narrow and constricted as their scuzzy East Village forebears. All attitude and no trousers, today’s New York Rockers?like so many of yesterday’s?prompt in me the single word ‘NO’.