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29 May 2011

Contortions - 'Buy' (Ze)

They called this stuff "no wave" and I guess that's because it had some nasty sounding guitars and a snarl behind the fun - though I suspect these guys were just as fussy about footwear and hairstyles as their keyboard-soaked peers. I always though the Contortions predated James White and the Blacks, but apparently they operated in parallel, which means this is less of a James White/Chance vehicle then I thought. Guitarist Jody Harris has to get some credit for being integral to this; certianly, his playing is the reason to listen in 2011. This is actually fun party music, with disco beats and fake-free guitar parts; the clanging and dissonance all stays contained and the structures never get too wild. It's a short album, more like a mini-LP, and there's weird bursts of alto sax that make the whole thing sound insanely clean. James Chance sings like an American Mick Jagger but I'm not sure what to compare his sax technique to. There's actually far less sax than I remembered, and it never gets that dissonant except on the last track 'Bedroom Athelete'. The songs are fast and fun, drenched in attitude that fits well when the guitars go wild; 'My Infatuation' is all shreds and slides, removing the traditional role of the guitar entirely, and you can do that when you have such a snappy, solid rhythm section. 'Twice Removed' is my fave because it hints at what the Contortions could do when they held their tendencies at bay; there's a brooding tension remniscent of what Pere Ubu were doing at this same time though it resists the urge to get truly weird. The presence of keyboards is quite minimal, but when they're there, it's cool - more like a fruity 60's organ feel. These currents of youth attitude come and go in waves, because this now reminds me of the Nation of Ulysses in some ways.

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