Rip it Up and Start Again

Rip it Up and Start Again

Punk's raw power rejuvenated rock, but by the summer of 1977 the movement had become a parody of itself. RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN is a celebration of what happened next.Post-punk bands like PiL, Joy Division, Talking Heads, The Fall and The Human League dedicated themselves to fulfilling punk's unfinished musical revolution. The post-punk groups were fervent modernists; w...

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Title:Rip it Up and Start Again
Author:Simon Reynolds
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Edition Language:English

Rip it Up and Start Again Reviews

  • Drew

    This is what happened: I bought the US edition of this book back when it was released, read it, loved it. Six months or so later, I learned that the original UK edition had been cut all to hell for its US release. Something like 200 pages had been removed in order to pare the US edition down to its 400 page final length. I was shocked and appalled, but never knew quite how to get myself a copy of the UK edition, short of doing an international order through Amazon UK, which I told myself would b

    This is what happened: I bought the US edition of this book back when it was released, read it, loved it. Six months or so later, I learned that the original UK edition had been cut all to hell for its US release. Something like 200 pages had been removed in order to pare the US edition down to its 400 page final length. I was shocked and appalled, but never knew quite how to get myself a copy of the UK edition, short of doing an international order through Amazon UK, which I told myself would be prohibitively expensive. So that was all there was to it, for a long time.

    Then, a couple of months ago, I came into a large sum of money (four figures) with which I was free to purchase whatever I wanted. Well, in addition to paying off all of my past due utility bills and purchasing the laptop I'm currently typing this review on (a steal at $450), I went ahead and did the Amazon UK order to obtain the original, director's-cut edition of "Rip It Up And Start Again." Boy, am I glad I did. The 400 page edition that I originally read was thoroughly enjoyable, but it still couldn't compare to the author's original intention. With smaller print, the UK edition still came out to be 125 more pages than the US edition, and where the US edition included no pictures at all, the UK edition presented at least one image every half-dozen pages or so. I finally got to see the Scritti Politti EP cover depicting the squalor in which they lived, as well as photos from Throbbing Gristle and James Chance performances, amongst many other things. And the text was greatly expanded, not just in additional coverage for bands that had been unmentioned in the US text but also in additional sections, sometimes great portions of one chapter or another that were completely removed, which I was now reading for the first time. It was a revelation to me, especially since the sections that were removed often dealt with bands that I'd been far less likely to already know about than the bands that were left in the truncated manuscript.

    All of this is just a comparison between two editions, though. What's really important here is the work itself, and in reading this book, the first work I ever encountered by Simon Reynolds, I found myself going from barely aware of him to being a huge fan. That experience is only amplified by reading this new, expanded edition. Reynolds is one of the best music writers I've ever read, able to integrate literate, intensely rational analysis of the ideas behind particular groups and their recorded works, with far more emotionally-centered reactions to the feel and sound that those works ultimately emanated. Reynolds is more of a Greil Marcus than a Lester Bangs, but he's able to incorporate the strengths of both of these writers as well as those of many others, including British rock critics that I'm, again, less familiar with than I should be, into an ecumenical overall approach that leaves no stone unturned in its in-depth analysis of bands, scenes, movements, and overall periods in punk/rock history. I say "periods" because this book, despite its subtitular reference to postpunk, covers a great deal more than just that few years after the dissolution of the Sex Pistols in which Joy Division and Public Image Ltd. represented the cream of the creative crop. The book delves deeply into the New Wave/"New Pop" movements of the early 80s, probing the depths of synthpop and fey British "haircut bands" to find the serious ideas and important creative moments that were at the root of a great deal of the era. In so doing, Reynolds makes a persuasive case for the likes of the "Don't You Want Me" era Human League, Duran Duran, and even Culture Club. I almost find myself wanting to give certain era-defining synthpop albums another listen. Almost.

    Ultimately, that's the biggest tribute to the power of Reynolds's writing here. He not only makes me want to dig out records by groups I like that I haven't heard in quite a while, but also records by groups I've always hated. If his writing unearths a valuable truth or a worthwhile musical moment on the second Culture Club album or in Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Relax," I feel like I should hear it again, even though I'd ordinarily tell you that I'd be happy if I never heard any of that garbage again. That's enough to tell me that this is a writer worth paying attention to. "Rip It Up And Start Again" may be the first Simon Reynolds book I've ever read, but it won't be the last.

  • Tracy Reilly

    So, this book probably was written for me. Those are my years, this is my music. I was a bit surprised at how differently this was written from the usual rock journalism stuff,usually full of that overly cute jargon, with the writer's personality in flamboyant display. Well in a monthly, vying for the short attention span of the audience, this is perhaps a necessary evil. Seminal!!!

    This book, however, is presented in a less frenzied, leisurely pace. It tends to look at niches of time and place,

    So, this book probably was written for me. Those are my years, this is my music. I was a bit surprised at how differently this was written from the usual rock journalism stuff,usually full of that overly cute jargon, with the writer's personality in flamboyant display. Well in a monthly, vying for the short attention span of the audience, this is perhaps a necessary evil. Seminal!!!

    This book, however, is presented in a less frenzied, leisurely pace. It tends to look at niches of time and place, analyzes what created them on a cultural level--including politics, the socio-economic and educational bent of the given town, how one artist/musician/philosopher, or a group may have started a fire, spread it to the locals, created offshoots or clones, mutated, moved, added new interests, new people, new instruments. Reynolds seems to have special insight into the Northern provinces of Britain, explaining why they frequently became incubators for new music with the combination of dying industries, art schools, and socialist/nationalist ideology. There were a lot of squats and communes.

    But he also has lots of good thoughts about American schools of postpunk--although he does avoid some of the more well-known scenes like Boston, D.C., and California that have probably been done to death. Mostly, what I got from this book was picking up stray threads of people and places I heard about, perhaps, but now I feel I've got a decently thorough schooling in who they were, what they sounded like, why they existed: their raison d'etre, if that changed, and how that made them get big/fail.

    Because the inevitability is always the ultimate failure, whether they had a moment at the Top of the Pops, or avoided it out of a sense of purity. It's kind of fascinating how many different ideas and styles got mashed up in these days--one thread that seems to permeate the post-punk era is this one decision--to guitar or no?? Because electric music was a big part of this era of music, of course.

    I learned a lot. Got me excited about music again. Bands I never heard of, bands I had heard of but never invested in mentally. I had missed a lot, whoo boy.

    I think my Big Learn here was recognizing the difference in experience for the American Music consumer (me) of that era and the British consumer(not me). The main difference, as I see it, was musicologists like John Peel, whose name appears again and again in this book. Forget Clapton is God---or John Stabb. John Peel was the Lord and Savior of all latter-twentieth century odd and creative music. America didn't have him, and that's a big empty for us. That's why Americans with unusual music taste had to dig deeper, search longer, and ultimately feel both alienated and special. We did not have a John Peel with a national microphone to spread the news.

  • Paul

    Warning: do not read this book unless you have ready access to Spotify or some other music subscription service that allows you to listen to entire albums without purchasing them, or else you will go bankrupt trying to catch up with the Fall, James Chance and the Contortions, the Associates and a hundred other bands with which you were vaguely familiar but suddenly find fascinating thanks to Simon Reynolds' writing. This is the best work of music history, and one of the best history books, I hav

    Warning: do not read this book unless you have ready access to Spotify or some other music subscription service that allows you to listen to entire albums without purchasing them, or else you will go bankrupt trying to catch up with the Fall, James Chance and the Contortions, the Associates and a hundred other bands with which you were vaguely familiar but suddenly find fascinating thanks to Simon Reynolds' writing. This is the best work of music history, and one of the best history books, I have ever read. Reynolds is more critic than fan but more fan than sycophant, which makes his examination of what we now call "alternative" music from 1977-1984 both exuberant and objective. He also does an excellent job of evoking the milieus in which various postpunk genres arose -- now I know exactly why Manchester has so much to answer for. Reynolds takes his job as a historian seriously, so when he writes about a band, he describes both its intent and its impact, noting the occasional chasm between the two. His biographical sketches of the artists whom he covers are detailed but brisk and just gossipy enough to be amusing if not horrifying (I'm now convinced that Malcolm McLaren should have been arrested and tried in the Hague for crimes against humanity). If the book has any flaw, it's that Reynolds occasionally overstuffs his chapters with too many references and anecdotes, leaving the reader more interested than informed, and towards the end of the book, he covers some yawn-inducingly familiar territory like the rise of MTV, but even then he's insightful and doesn't lapse into standard cultural critiques even as he quotes people who do. If you care about any late 70s or early 80s music beyond Styx or the Commodores, this book is a must.

  • David

    The standard narrative of the pop music history of the late 70’s and early 80’s has the bracing musical revolution of punk quickly degenerating into the more commercial and co-optable form of New Wave. Punk is the honest, authentic voice of political and aesthetic revolution, while New Wave is the watered down, corrupted, commercialized version of that impulse. Now there’s a grain of truth to this interpretation, but it misses a few things about punk that were quickly to drive it into an aesthet

    The standard narrative of the pop music history of the late 70’s and early 80’s has the bracing musical revolution of punk quickly degenerating into the more commercial and co-optable form of New Wave. Punk is the honest, authentic voice of political and aesthetic revolution, while New Wave is the watered down, corrupted, commercialized version of that impulse. Now there’s a grain of truth to this interpretation, but it misses a few things about punk that were quickly to drive it into an aesthetic dead-end, and it downplays the real virtues of much of the music that followed in its wake. Musically, punk wasn’t anything other than good old guitar-driven rock and roll played louder and faster and with a more aggressive, anti-social, overtly political attitude. Basically it layered a new set of attitudes and fashion statements over an already well-established musical form. Not only that, in a lot of ways it was simply updating and recycling traditional rock poses—macho cock rockers, the rock musician as revolutionary, with the model for revolution being the armed guerilla or street fighter. And punk’s politics—its populism and fetishization of authenticity—worked against musical innovation. One aspect of the founding myth of punk was that it was a cleansing force, washing away the excesses of the bloated, decadent, self-important pop music establishment of the 70’s. Consequently musical innovation and experimentation were suspect.

    Reynolds takes postpunk out of the shadow of punk rock and presents it as a genre in its own right, distinct it from both punk and New Wave. He shows how little postpunk owed to punk, and how much it owed to other genres (the art rock and experimental music of the 70’s, Reggae and dub, funk) and other cultural and intellectual influences (post-60’s collectivist and communal values, postmodern social and aesthetic theory of the late 70’s and early 80’s). Postpunk was a much less ideologically hidebound, much more sonically adventurous musical form than the punk rock that preceded it. About all it inherited from punk was attitude and energy.

    Reynolds dates postpunk from 1978-1984, and the book is divided into two parts. The first part, from roughly 78-80ish, recounts the emergence of postpunk, and focuses on the dour, arty, experimental, socially conscious bands that most music nerds associate with postpunk—Gang of Four, The Fall, early Scritti Politti, PIL, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu etc. The second half, on new pop and new rock, follows the evolution of postpunk into the mid-eighties and focuses on the more accessible, commercial, radio-and-dancefloor-friendly turn the genre took in the early 80’s. Some bands make appearances in both sections, most notably Scritti Politti, who were one of the more uncompromising bands of postpunk’s early years, but who later made a conscious decision to record more listener-friendly stuff in order to infiltrate the mainstream. Other bands covered in the second half include: the Specials and other two-tone and ska revival bands, Malcolm McLaren projects like Bow Wow Wow and Adam and the Antz, arty synthpoppers like Gary Numan and Ultravox, NYC Mutant Disco groups, Progressive Punk bands like Black Flag, The Minutemen, and Mission of Burma etc.

    Reynolds does a fine job of connecting the music to the larger cultural, intellectual and political contexts from which it emerged. Postpunk was born along with Thatcherism in the UK. It also coincided with the rise of postmodernism and critical theory in the universities. It likewise coexisted, in the UK, with a strong tradition of communist and socialist-friendly left-wing politics. There was a bit of this in the US as well, especially in the Reagan 80’s, with bands like The Minutemen proselytizing for the Central American solidarity movement (D. Boon often worked the crowd for CISPES after many Minutemen shows). And, there were certainly strong residues of 60’s and 70’s collectivist, counter-culture politics within postpunk—Factory Records and Rough Trade most notably. And while most pop artists certainly try to manage their careers, and think hard about their self-presentation, the art school refugees and brainy autodidacts who made up the first wave of postpunk were a particularly self-reflective bunch. It would be wrong to describe the music as un-commercial, or to portray the musicians and artists as completely unconcerned with popularity or commercial success, but there was a definite sense of existing to negate the corporate hit-making machinery and the ideology of 70’s corporate rock and pop, at least until New Pop came along and rebelled against postpunk rebellion by emulating the most listener-friendly, anti-rockist pop forms.

    There’s always a danger in any social-intellectual history of the pop arts of inflating the art form’s significance simply by virtue of placing it within a well-developed reconstruction of the cultural milieu in which it emerged (on the other hand, the mistake many highbrow critics make—are there any of them left?—is to avoid looking beyond the shiny surfaces to the more serious elements embedded in pop art forms). There may be some pop songs, genres, movements about which there really isn’t much of interest to say—bands and scenes that don’t merit more than a glib one-paragraph squib in a music magazine, and that don’t connect to larger trends and issues or ideas in any kind of interesting way. But as Reynolds shows this is certainly not the case with postpunk. One could argue that Reynolds is too much of a fan, and that he overpraises much of the music—as the Vanity Fair critic tapped to review the book for the New York Times did, though it’s hard to take such criticism seriously from someone who writes for what’s essentially a middlebrow version of People—but to me he gets it absolutely right 95% of the time. He convincingly makes the case that, despite the preeminent place punk has occupied in rock-crit mythology, postpunk was by far a more interesting and influential movement—sonically, intellectually and politically.

    Reynolds comes to praise, rather than bury, postpunk, but his fanboy’s enthusiasm is balanced by a 40-year-old’s sense of how sophomoric much of the politics were and how crappy, ultimately, a lot of the music was, in traditional musical terms. But this is balanced by an admiration for the creativity and idealism of the various scenes, the sense of mission, willingness to experiment, and to bend musical tastes to the bands‘ will rather than simply playing what was popular in order to be rock stars, that characterized much of postpunk. And while he spends almost 600 pages lovingly reconstructing the scene and it’s influences and musical products, he doesn’t make much of an argument for its larger significance outside of the world of pop music. He never loses sight of the fact that the end product, even of the more uncompromising or abrasive variants—like Gang of Four, Throbbing Gristle, Crass, The Minutemen etc.—was one form or another of pop music. I’m not sure how to say this exactly, but the idea, the concept of pop—as something youth-oriented, playful, ephemeral, disposable, commercial, popular, relatively undemanding, not meant to last—is the reality check that keeps Reynolds from overpraising the music. Reynolds, shows how the world shaped the music, but thankfully stops short of arguing that the music changed the world.

  • Lily

    This is a great read, but definitely meant only for those with previous knowledge of or respect for this era of music history. Newcomers to this genre will most likely be put off by the sheer amount of obscure information that Reynolds includes, while post-punk nerds such as myself will revel in it.

    However, it should be noted that the US version is highly censored and cut by almost 200 pages, and does not include the original photos of the UK release. Take some time to seek out the original UK

    This is a great read, but definitely meant only for those with previous knowledge of or respect for this era of music history. Newcomers to this genre will most likely be put off by the sheer amount of obscure information that Reynolds includes, while post-punk nerds such as myself will revel in it.

    However, it should be noted that the US version is highly censored and cut by almost 200 pages, and does not include the original photos of the UK release. Take some time to seek out the original UK publication and, of course, actually listen to the music that it's describing! It makes the whole experience of reading this book so much more enjoyable, you won't regret it!

  • Brandon

    Here is a band. They put out a great record. Here's why it was great. Then they became less great and broke up. Here is another band. They put out a great record. Here's why it was great. Then they became less great and broke up. Here is another band. They put out a great record. Here's why it was great. Then they became less great and broke up. Here is another band. They put out a great record. Here's why it was great. Then they became less great and broke up. Here is another band. They put out

    Here is a band. They put out a great record. Here's why it was great. Then they became less great and broke up. Here is another band. They put out a great record. Here's why it was great. Then they became less great and broke up. Here is another band. They put out a great record. Here's why it was great. Then they became less great and broke up. Here is another band. They put out a great record. Here's why it was great. Then they became less great and broke up. Here is another band. They put out a great record. Here's why it was great. Then they became less great and broke up. Here is another band. They put out a great record. Here's why it was great. Then they became less great and broke up. Here is another band. They put out a great record. Here's why it was great. Then they became less great and broke up. Here is another band. They put out a great record. Here's why it was great. Then they became less great and broke up. Here is another band. They put out a great record. Here's why it was great. Then they became less great and broke up. Those bands were amazing. There have been no good bands since.

  • Orsodimondo

    .

    .

    Era il tempo dei vinili, e di altri supporti, ma tutti rispettavano la durata di un album. Prima che questa meravigliosa creatura sparisse nel maelstrom dello streaming digitale.

    Reynolds appare l’uomo giusto al posto giusto: sa di cosa parla e sa come parlarne.

    Con passione e competenza, senza dimenticare il benedetto contesto, e cioè il resto, quello che accadeva prima e dopo, intorno – la musica, le band sono ben inserite sia nella storia della musica che nella Storia in generale.

    Tanto più che a casa sua erano gli anni dell’orrida Margaret primo ministro.

    Il post-punk prende l’avvio come reazione agli eccessi del rock, dal fastidio verso il ‘rockismo’.

    Voglia di cambiare, di opporsi, di sperimentare e di ricominciare da capo, di essere intellettuale avanguardistico o amatoriale come un dilettante (

    ).

    Voglia di offendere, a cominciare dalla generazione dei padri (vedi per esempio il diffuso ricorso a immagini e riferimenti nazisti, per provocare la generazione che il nazismo aveva conosciuto e imparato a temere).

    Il punk era troppo primitivo, troppo stradaiolo. E allora via alla sperimentazione sonora attraverso elettronica, rumore (noise), dub, disco, synth…

    Talking Heads, Human League, Pere Ubu, Pop Group, Scritti Politti, Throbbing Gristle, Joy Division, New Order, This Heat, Nick Cave e Birthday Party, PIL, Devo, Residents, Fall, XTC, Cabaret Voltaire, Slits, Gang of Four…

    Il messia fu forse Johnny ‘Rotten’ Lydon, sutura e rottura tra punk e post-punk con i Sex Pistols prima e i PIL poi.

    Ma quello che rimane più inciso nella memoria è Ian Curtis, suicida a 24 anni dopo aver inciso due pietre miliari (“Unknown Pleasures”, 1979, e “Closer”, 1980)

    Ho ascoltato e riascoltato, scoperto e rinfrescato tanta musica leggendo questo libro bello lungo fitto e importante dove si parla di rock, punk, trip-hop, hip-hop, elettronica, jazz, pop, dance, funk ecc. ma più di tutto, si parla di post-punk, sempre sia lode ai Joy Division.

    La musica oggi non è più quel veicolo di identità e liberazione che ha forgiato più di una generazione. Amore per la musica e formazione della propria identità non vanno più di pari passo, l’ascolto è diventato eclettico, i gusti sono ‘un po’ di tutto’.

    Con lo streaming la musica è diventata una fornitura continua, come il gas e l’elettricità, come la televisione. È qualcosa da usare più che qualcosa che chiede il coinvolgimento.

    Non è più la musica a essere elemento aggregativo, a creare un senso di comunità. Più facile che adesso succeda per gli abiti o certe forme di tecnologia. La musica è retrocessa, battuta dalla concorrenza di altre forme di intrattenimento e di creatività artigianale (videogiochi, youtube…).

    La musica non conosce più barriere artistiche perché ha superato i generi. Il che da una parte è un bene, ma dove sono finiti brivido e stupore di quando erano gli artisti a superare le barriere? L’ascolto musicale adesso è una poltiglia indifferenziata, dove sono finite l’avventura e la scoperta generate dall’esplorare i generi musicali? Finita l’epoca in cui la musica era iniziazione. Finiti i tempi dei mods contro i rockers, le tribù non esistono più, l’identità non conta, siamo ormai nell’epoca dell’appartenenza. Amen.

    .

    ("Love Will Tear Us Apart", Joy Division)

  • Andrew

    A thorough and intellectual (sometimes a little too thorough and intellectual) overview of British and American post-punk art rock and pop. The first half of the book explains the lofty intellectual and musical ideals the drove bands such as Public Image Ltd., Pere Ubu, Joy Division, Gang of Four, and the Pop Group, while the more fractured second half explains how this post-punk movement spawned goth, neo-psychedelia, synth pop, 2-tone, the new romantic scene, and finally the New Rock and New P

    A thorough and intellectual (sometimes a little too thorough and intellectual) overview of British and American post-punk art rock and pop. The first half of the book explains the lofty intellectual and musical ideals the drove bands such as Public Image Ltd., Pere Ubu, Joy Division, Gang of Four, and the Pop Group, while the more fractured second half explains how this post-punk movement spawned goth, neo-psychedelia, synth pop, 2-tone, the new romantic scene, and finally the New Rock and New Pop that dominated MTV in the mid-to-late eighties. The path from the droning nihilism of Public Image Ltd's first two albums to Madonna's "Material Girl" doesn't seem clear at first, but Reynolds does a great job of making all the pieces fit. And while Reynolds clearly reveres post-punk for its ambition, innovation, and intellectual depth, he doesn't let its artists off the hook for their many shortcomings: their snobbishness, their political naivete, their stupid fascination with Nazism, and their sometimes condescending views of race. The book is overlong though, and sometimes Reynolds paints in very broad strokes when describing the political/economic/cultural environment from which post-punk emerged. Fewer half-assed attempts at sociology and a little more discussion of the individual personalities that shaped the post-punk scenes would have gone a long way here. Still, any book that can inspire me to listen to Pere Ubu's "Dub Housing" and Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures" again can only be a good thing.

  • Paul

    This is certainly the best single book so far on post-punk, but it is significantly impaired, firstly by Reynolds' refusal or inability to decide what he means by 'post-punk', and secondly, by his decision to try to include musical developments after punk in the US. He ought to have decided what 'post-punk' meant for him and stuck with it. Similarly, he ought to have limited the ambit of the book to the UK, Ireland & Germany, because his treatment of developments in those countries is genera

    This is certainly the best single book so far on post-punk, but it is significantly impaired, firstly by Reynolds' refusal or inability to decide what he means by 'post-punk', and secondly, by his decision to try to include musical developments after punk in the US. He ought to have decided what 'post-punk' meant for him and stuck with it. Similarly, he ought to have limited the ambit of the book to the UK, Ireland & Germany, because his treatment of developments in those countries is generally excellent (albeit with some puzzling omissions and corresponding over-indulgences).

    The conceptual confusion about what 'post-punk' means is the most glaring general problem, and is signaled by a divergence in usage between the book cover and the text. On the cover & spine, the book is subtitled "Postpunk 1978-1984." In the text, the word is consistently rendered as "post-punk." The difference suggests a confusion between 'postpunk' as genre, and 'post-punk' as purely chronological distinction (anything after punk). This fundamental ambiguity is then underlined by the two parts of the book. Part One is "Post-Punk;" Part Two is "New Pop & New Rock." Part Two probably should have been a separate book.

    I turn now to the customary remonstrances for sins of omission. The chapter on the development of Goth doesn't so much as mention Dave Vanian & The Damned; I'd have thought they would be the seminal example of a band moving from punk to a particular place in post-punk. Psychedelic Furs are mentioned only in passing (and even then, only as a 'New Wave' band), while Echo & The Bunnymen and Teardrop Explodes are discussed in detail. In perhaps the most bizarre oversights, Essential Logic are merely mentioned in passing, while Kleenex/LiLiPUT are not mentioned at all.

    There is, on the other hand, a sin of emission in his discussions (plural) of The Associates, which are quite frankly embarrassing. There's nothing wrong with having had sexual fantasies about a favorite singer, but all critical distance & judgment go out the window here, borne aloft by his fan-boy ejaculations. Twelve pages are devoted to this relatively unimportant and utterly non-influential band.

    As an American reader, his uneven and at times down-right shabby treatment of the development of post-punk in the USA is impossible to ignore. He is not American, and so he is completely reliant upon interviews and press coverage. This handicap is most glaringly apparent in the second of two chapters on New York. This chapter contains no writing by Reynolds

    ; it is comprised entirely of quotes taken from music magazines, interspersed with some quotes taken from interviews. He does not even attempt an evaluation of the material presented. Why include this chapter at all?

    Worse, he appears to have decided not to engage with the Los Angeles scene in anything but the most cursory fashion, devoting almost all of his meager coverage to a discussion of L.A. hardcore punk…which had pretty much nothing to do with post-punk, certainly not stylistically.

    To begin with, his treatment of the San Francisco & Los Angeles scenes is bizarrely inverted; the L.A. post-punk scene was much larger and more diverse, and he fails altogether to mention either The Screamers, one of the great post-punk bands that actually preceded punk (like Pere Ubu, e.g.) or Deadbeats (who were doing New York-style No Wave at least as early as anybody in New York did).

    When he does gesture towards L.A. post-punk, interesting bands such as 100 Flowers, Human Hands, B-People & Monitor are only mentioned in a list; neither Wall of Voodoo nor the Fibonaccis rates a mention. [He also fails to mention Fear's 'New York's Alright (If You Like Saxophones)', which skewered the wildly over-rated No Wave scene with greater wit than any of the NY bands.]

    To return briefly to Goth, his treatment is limited to the UK (The Cramps are mentioned as a sartorial influence on one UK band). But the birth of American Goth in Los Angeles is a fascinating chapter in the history of the genre; many of the earliest L.A. Goths were Latino(a), and the role of the sanguinary Mexican style of Catholicism seems significant (and of course it's tempting to include the Aztecs as well).

    He makes a forehead-smacking error in describing "…

    ." TSOL's first record included songs such as 'Property Is Theft', 'Abolish Government/Silent Majority', and 'World War III'. But this error also serves to indicate an even bigger missed opportunity: TSOL's next record (

    ) was explicitly Goth in subject matter and tried to chart a musical course between hardcore and some more expansive form. It isn't a brilliant album by any means, but it serves to underline a certain shoddiness in Reynolds' approach to the American scenes.

    He is aware of the emergence of hybrid punk/roots forms in Los Angeles in the wake of punk (Blasters, Gun Club, Los Lobos, et al.), but he doesn't seem to think they qualify as 'post-punk' for some reason (while Dexy's Midnight Runners somehow do). Neither does he stop to consider

    that development occurred when and where it did.

    L.A. is, after all, the world capital of surface and appearance, and the themes of presentation, image, authenticity and self-fashioning are central to the book. Could there be a more interesting case study of a musician moving through the promise of punk, the experimental space of post-punk, and a subsequent turn to a pre-existing form than the career of Phranc, who went from Catholic Discipline to Nervous Gender (basically an L.A. band, though they started in San Francisco) to solo folk performer? Or how about the move of the Kinman brothers from the avowedly Marxist punk Dils to cowpunk pioneers Rank And File? Another opportunity missed.

    He could have considered why the reactions to the dead-end of punk took such different forms in the UK and in L.A. Indeed, a comparison of the UK with Los Angeles would have been much richer conceptually than the utterly predictable and by-the-numbers focus on NY No Wave and its progeny. It seems to have escaped him that No Wave skronk never appealed to more than perhaps 2,000 people, almost all of whom lived on the island of Manhattan, and it had no discernible influence on anybody else anywhere, ever. Compare the L.A. punk-roots hybridization: that birthed an entirely new sub-genre of music that spread across the country over the next few decades, alt-country.

    Overall, this is a very, very good book on most UK post-punk (qua genre), with a lot of perhaps overly-detailed material on the British pop music that came

    post-punk. Perhaps a better, more tightly-focussed book will be written about post-punk someday. Until then, this will suffice as a guide to the curious and a prod to the nostalgic.

  • Voss

    Interessante.

    Una maratona nella musica dei primi anni ottanta.

    Racconta bene lo spirito del tempo.

    Purtroppo non ho mai trovato comprensibili le recensioni discografiche: l'ascolto non mi restituisce mai le sensazioni che, secondo i recensori, avrei dovuto provare.

    E poi tutto quell'elencare gruppi personaggi e titoli di canzoni e album alla lunga affatica e annoia.

    Peccato.

    Un libro meno recensioni musicali e più sociologia forse sarebbe risultato più scorrevole.

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