1982: Not So Fast
Along with the fast ’n’ loud hardcore music, a certain brand of slower, but still loud, noisey rock was developing during the early eighties. These sounds would develop more directly towards the lo-fi DIY indie rock and midwestern noise rock of the late 1980s through the 90s. On “Health” we hear the influences of post-punk and new wave in the exposed bass and drums counterpoint, and at the same time hear bands of the future like Slint in the jangly, sparse guitar and singing style. The notes on the cover of this record, point to overwhelming station enthusiasm at the time, with multiple ‘cool’s and a comparison to The Fall. This comparison however offers insight into the still present tension during the early 80s as another DJ promptly responds to the comment with “oh, shut the fuck up.” In this comment, we see WNUR becoming increasingly underground, where even a comparison to a relatively fringe band like The Fall seems inappropriate to see at the station.
Continuing this sort of tension and the slower experimental rock it came along with, we arrive at Re-Generation, the b-side recorded live at CBGB’s in New York City. In music most similar to the coming noise music Michael Girl and Swans would would popularize and contemporary to the experiments of early Sonic Youth, we hear abrasive guitars and vocals wash over constant and pulsing percussion. Towards the end of this track, the two streams coalesce on a series of timed unison hits before the entire song devolves into nothingness and the silent groove in-between tracks. The first music director comment on the sleeve of “Even the trendy will HATE this” points to an in-out crowd dynamic still prevailing at the station two years after the dramatic break, in which the ’trendy’ are in search of experimental new music. In response to their comment, the judgmental music director or DJ receives: “stupid - they're great but someone from out of noise area wouldn't know so shut up!” The tension is palpable between the two factions, with one dismissive and one aggressive. Over the next twenty years, you can track how the more aggressive experimental mindset becomes the prevailing tone of WNUR culture, punctuated with the station rebranding to “Chicago’s Sound Experiment” in 1995.