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James Chance and the Contortions - Buy (Futurismo)

3 May 2015

This 1979 classic, originally released on Ze Records, is a touchstone for not only the New York “no wave” scene of that time period, but for post-punk music in general. The combination of James Chance‘s James Brown-like vocals and Ornette Coleman-like sax squalls along with Jody Harris‘ funk-style guitar and future Bush Tetras guitarist Pat Place‘s otherwordly slide playing has been unmatched before or since. It’s worth noting, though, that this album was clearly an influence on then contemporary and later bands mixing punk with funk. Austin, Texas’ excellent Big Boys were one such band, citing this album as an inspiration for their debut Lp Where’s My Towel/Industry Standard and opening track “Designed to Kill” is, to my ears anyway, audibly an influence on The Minutemen and early Firehose. One can practically hear Firehose’s “Brave Captain” being born 7 years earlier. But influence aside, this is 28 minutes of the finest skronk you will ever hear and that is the real reason to track this down. Even when the tempo is brought down from its otherwise frantic pace, as on the slower “Anesthetic” and “Twice Removed,” the tension and intensity is still palpable. Sure, a later version of this album’s “Contort Yourself” (remixed by none other than August Darnell, aka Kid Creole) was all the rage later on (it was on the Disco Not Disco 3 compilation that was released in 2008), both in the early ’80s and during the NYC post-punk revival of the early ’00s when I would hear DJs spin it at art openings, but the version here just rages and is the definitive one in my opinion.

Now Futurismo ups the ante with a colored 180 gram vinyl edition with crisp, remastered sound, a booklet containing new, never-before-seen photos along with great new liner notes by Mr. Chance himself. It should be noted that the digital version increases the track total from the album’s original 9 tracks (this new version adds “Terminal City” and “Incorrigible” to the original running order) up to a whopping 19 tracks, outdoing every previous reissue of this album. The bonus tracks include all 4 tracks that were originally released for No New York, the 1978 Brian Eno-compiled sampler on Antilles that introduced the no wave scene to the larger world. This is the identical track listing to the 35th anniversary digital reissue that the True Groove label put out last year. Regardless, this is the definitive version of Buy. Even if you have a previous version of it, this is worth every penny.