DC music writer Marc Masters‘ No Wave book has been out for a couple months now. The Village Voice reviewed it last November. And Washington City Paper’s Mark Athitakis reviewed it and interviewed Masters back in January.
I didn’t write about it when it came out for a lot of boring reasons, but I wanted to blog about the book a bit on a personal level. Masters is a friend and when he contacted me about using some of the No Wave-related interviews that I conducted in the late ‘90s I was more than happy to dig through my archives. This is less glamorous than it sounds. It involves moving my cat’s litter box, as well as numerous suitcases and various paint buckets and such.
The reason I had this material in the first place is because, when I first acquired and became enamored with the Brian Eno-produced No New York compilation album—the central document in the noisy No Wave movement—I decided to write an article about it. I did this not because I was looking for something to write, but because I was curious and it didn’t seem like anyone had ever tackled the subject of this 1978 album—or at least not retrospectively.
Basically, what I was looking for was Masters’ book. It is every bit as exhaustive as I wanted my article about the No New York album to be but wasn’t. The New York-based post-punk movement called No Wave didn’t last long and didn’t leave many recordings behind (the big bands are MARS, DNA, and the Contortions). So, every 7-inch takes on the importance of an album—or even a sub-genre. This might smack of nerdy obsessiveness, but you just can’t cover the subject at length without getting into that level of detail.
Masters contributes to the forward-pushing British magazine The Wire, a publication that panned his book, saying that it’s too academic. It’s an odd charge coming from a review that’s much drier than the book itself. The main bone of contention seems to be the footnotes at the end of each chapter. I guess Masters could’ve included the attributions in the text, but he did so much research for this thing that it might’ve just bogged down the prose. Besides, Lester Bangs already dealt with this stuff, critically, in his usual blurtin’ fashion. A more thorough journalistic approach was overdue—and that’s just what Masters provides.