A few weeks ago, James Murphy, reluctant voice to a generation of record-obsessed
man-children, announced that LCD Soundsystem was going to call it quits, culminating in a fascinating pushing-and-shoving match for farewell concert tickets. Seriously, it was like Black Friday for doughy people who read Franzen on their iPhones. Since we’re all apparently so super-duper psyched to see this art-dance, noise-punk auteur pack up his edge and send Daft Punk home, we decided to see how well today’s rock critics knew the scene that laid the skronky, dancey blueprint. We asked 16 music writers:
Can you name the four bands on No New York?
Should be a piece of cake, right? The 1978 merging of noise and punk is essentially ground zero for so much stuff we love (like Sonic Youth, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars) and some of stuff we pretend to love (like Richard Kern). LCD Soundsystem even gives us an enormous hint by name-checking one on “Losing My Edge.”
We once again cobbled a consortium of 16 professional and semi-professional rock critics, all given the usual rules:
1. I will not identify you AT ALL, so it is OK to be wrong. [We will say that our esteemed panel edits magazines, websites, and alt-weeklies. They have written for pretty much every outlet you’ve ever heard of, from Rolling Stone to Spin to Billboard.]
2. You can’t use Google.
So, yeah, check the answer and watch our esteemed panel contort themselves:
The correct answer: The Contortions, Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, Mars, D.N.A.
Out of 16 polled:
Number of critics that answered correctly and got all four: 5
Number of critics that got three: 1
Number of critics that got two: 2
Number of critics that only got one: 3
Number of critics who didn’t get any: 5
Most correctly answered band: The Contortions
Most unguessed band: Mars
Number of critics who knew Brian Eno produced the album: 14
Number of critics who guessed ESG: 2
Bands from New York incorrectly guessed: Suicide, Liquid Liquid, Sonic
Youth, Richard Hell, Talking Heads, Blondie, Television
Bands from England and Texas incorrectly guessed: Swell Maps, Throbbing
Gristle, the Jesus Lizard
So, yeah, poor Mars. A great band who never had a James Chance/Lydia Lunch/Arto Lindsay figure looming large over the ’80s underground, and whose perfectly unmemorable name certainly doesn’t do them any favors in the age of Google. And it’s not for lack of being awesome. Their four tracks (a whopping 10 minutes) were among the disc’s most shrill, trading no wave’s staccato poke-and-plod for a more washed-out, misanthropic blur of sound that can still be heard in contemporary Brooklyn noiseniks like White Suns, Sightings and Prurient. They traded in adenoidal whines, jittery guitars and drums that sputtered like a motorcycle revving in your living room. The dueling shouts and wails and whoops and dry heaves of Sumner Crane, China Burg and Mark Cunningham were feral and unpredictable: a little say-it, but mostly spray-it. Sadly Crane and drummer Nancy Arlen have both passed, but together they left behind a phenomenal half-hour of music. Here’s the mighty “Helen Forsdale,” who’s bass line you might recognize the next time you pick up Sonic Youth’s Evol: