“It sounds really fresh, but the musicians in this band, they all go back with me a long way,” says James Chance. “In terms of musicianship, it might be the best band I’ve ever had. It’s a good feeling.” The 63 year-old skronk-jazz icon, who was at the centre of the downtown New York no wave revolution in the late ’70s, is meant to be talking about his new studio album, The Flesh Is Weak, and its scorching lead-off track, Melt Yourself Down, but he’s more keen to sing the praises of the remarkable band who have helped him get here, many of whom have been playing and recording with Chance since his early ’80s downtown heyday.
From the opening discordant blast of Farfisa organ, to those agitated funk-in-distress cries, Memphis horn blasts and surreally sinister lyrics (is that really a Jewish musician, singing about taking “the night train to Auschwitz”?) this is premier James Chance product, fit to be filed alongside Contort Yourself and Bedroom Athlete from those landmark 1979 releases, Contortions’ Buy and James White & The Blacks’ Off White.
Tight, mean, urgent and weird, Melt Yourself Down (and The Flesh Is Weak overall) was produced and overseen by Chance’s long-time guitarist and friend, Tomás Doncker, who first played with the sax maniac back in 1981, at the tender age of 19.
“As soon as I saw James, I knew what he was trying to do,” says Doncker. “This little skinny white boy out of nowhere who thought he was James Brown and John Lydon rolled into one. I’m black, right, and I grew up on James Brown, and this white guy was the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen. He had that thing. It’s called authenticity, man. Soul. And James Chance has soul. Still does.”
The Flesh Is Weak will be released on True Groove Records, November 11, 2016.