(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is unfortunate that it's so difficult to get this disc so one might as well buy the box set rather than pay 60 bucks for this just cuz it's oop although there has been at least one reissue after the Infinite Zero re-release. I was fortunate enough to hear about James Chance through talking to guys that were familiar with him and told me that I'd enjoy it since I do have eclectic tastes. Luckily I got BUY for dirt cheap still shrinkwrapped on the original ZE label. All of the songs on this album are superb! I don't think I would have ever wanted to be up in front at one of his shows since he was notorius for attacking the audience but then again I probably wouldn't have minded the abuse. James sings/shouts/growls and plays noise sax while bass is usually highly funkdified, drums are jazzlike sometimes and rock the next while guitar is always atonal/freeform and always spastic. To generalize what this album is like it would be if Ornette Coleman, James Brown and Iggy Pop (during the Stooges) were all combined into one and that's not even a very good comparison. Go get something by James Chance and the Contortions and be prepared that something in your physical being will be contorted after listening to it."
It Hurts, Yet I Keep Contorting Myself
(5 out of 5 stars)
"a CLIFFORD HODGE reviewI have the vinyl LP, and the first thing I want to do is give the track listing on the original album, which I suspect is what it should be on the CD as well. Side One: DESIGN TO KILL; MY INFATUATION; I DON'T WANT TO BE HAPPY; ANESTHETIC; CONTORT YOURSELF. Side Two: THROW ME AWAY; ROVING EYE; TWICE REMOVED; BEDROOM ATHLETE. When jazz and rock were blended in a dull overblown genre known as fusion, James Chance - aka James White, aka James Black (James Siegfried)- and the Contortions play a style of music which blends rock with funk and a sort of free-form jazz to arrive at a music which sounds like a cross between the (...) Pistols, with the in-your-face vocal stylings of Johnnie Rotten, Cecil Taylor, and a stripped-down Funkadelic/Parliament. They appear on the "NO NEW YORK" album, which by now is perhaps the best-known rock anthology since the "American Grafitti" LP. Other than in "Roving Eye" on side 2, where you have some nice guitar leads, the guitar is basically just a rhythm instrument, not playing regular chord progressions to move the song along, as it normally would, but instead it might play a series of very rapidly strummed identical quadruplets throughout the song, while Chance's vocals, along with insistent free-form sax and bursts of wheezing, almost industrial-sounding guitar, hold the song together to let you know there is a melody in there. Chance probably has more screams per song than any vocalist in rock history, and he is actually quite skilled at it. If his records ever get closer to the mainstream, screaming might become a kind of alternative vocal style, like vibrato, or yodelling. He sings like James Brown squared. (I wonder how he dances. Yikes!) Within the above-described stylistic frame, the Contortions' music is somewhat minimalistic with regular bursts of guitar and squawking saxophone and drums; and that's all they need; James Chance is the showcase piece here and his singing makes the band. The songs are delightfully post-punk tongue-in-cheek, in many cases self-mockeries which will make you laugh out loud. The songs are all pretty similar in style with a couple slower, softer numbers. "I Don't Want To Be Happy", for example is where the narrator, presumably a fairly typical person of our time tells the details about how, "I prefer the ridiculous...,to the sublime" After a couple listens, you may find yourself starting to lean in that direction yourself."
Funk meets noise
Carl Slim | the factory | 11/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Funk and noise was not that new of an idea even in '79-James Brown was funky and noisey, after all. But this is street level lyrics, decent musicianship (but often atonal), the sax reminds one of Albert Ayler's "Ghosts" album. The grooves are pure James Brown meets lame 70's funk. Chance screams most of the lyrics rather than singing. The overall effect is very negative, and at the same time interesting. Buy the Contortions! Better than Sly and the Family Stone any day."