In many ways, No Wave is not a clearly definable genre: There is, for example, no fixed harmony as in most rock music and blues music. There are some elements common to many No Wave performers, including abrasive atonal sounds, strong emphasis on repetitive rhythm, and more emphasis on mood and texture than on conventional melody. Lyrics often focused on nihilism and confrontation, or were puzzlingly abstract.
No Wave also drew on Performance Art. DNA, for example, were formed by three people with little or no experience playing musical instruments or performing live. Rather than play songs using "proper" methods, DNA quickly utilized their naivete and played strikingly unique sounds.
Performers classified as No Wave generally had little music style in common: Various groups drew on such disperate styles as funk, jazz, blues, heavy metal, aleatoric music and punk rock. Mars, The Swans and The Static, experimented with extremely loud, droning music that was frequently characterized by repetitive drumbeats and explicitly nihilistic lyrics.
No Wave had an important impact on noise and industrial bands who formed after, like Big Black, Helmet, and Live Skull. Sonic Youth emerged from this scene by creating music-as-art that eventually reached mass audiences and critical acclaim.
Brian Eno produced No New York album is perhaps the best example of this genre, featuring songs by Mars, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, DNA and James Chance.