- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books (Feb. 17 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143036726
- ISBN-13: 978-0143036722
- Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.3 x 21.5 cm
- Shipping Weight: 386 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #254,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 Paperback – Feb 17 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
In the reactionary wake of 1970s punk rock came postpunk, a more complex, fragmented brand of music characterized by stark recordings, synthesizers and often cold, affected vocals. Postpunk stands as "a fair match for the Sixties," argues Reynolds, both in terms of the amount of great music created as well as the music's connection to the "social and political turbulence" of its era (the early 1980s). Seeking to address a gap in music and pop culture history, Reynolds (Generation Ecstasy) has penned an ambitious, cerebral effort to establish a high place in rock history for bands such as Joy Division, Devo, Talking Heads, Mission of Burma and, of course, Public Image Limited (PiL), fronted by former Sex Pistols singer John Lydon (Johnny Rotten). Reynolds, an energetic writer, especially captures the postpunk ethic in telling the story of PiL's short journey from record company darlings to utter oblivion. Unfortunately, by the time he gets to bands like Human League and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, his passion is undermined by his subject. Reynolds succeeds in depicting the icons and the richness of an era that clearly manifests itself as a primary influence among a new generation of musicians. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Shed[s] dazzling light on a neglected era of music. The definitive word on the subject." —The Times, London
"Anyone who claims to have read five better books about pop is mad, or a liar." —The Guardian, LondonSee all Product description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com
A major problem with the postpunk movement, though, and Reynold's superhuman efforts in researching and chronicling it, is that an enormous percentage of the music has not survived the test of time. Too much of it was modernism in its best and worst senses: extreme experimentalism and a rejection of past norms (tunes, for example) by young musicians and non-musicians of admirable ambition but questionable talent and inspiration. Many postpunk songs were slapped together in a day by young guys who had picked up guitars, drums and synths for the first time a week before. I often suspect that Reynolds put more effort into researching and describing certain obscure songs than the bands originally spent in writing and recording them.
That said, there are many diamonds in the rough to be found by exploring the bands and songs mentioned in this book. I made many musical discoveries through Rip It Up, something that's become extremely easy thanks to the Internet. The ability to dial up 60- or 90-second samples on Amazon or iTunes of all of the songs Reynolds describes is half the fun.
Reynolds accomplishes what he sets out to do: write the definitive history of post-punk, convincingly define what it was (in short, a period of modernism), and explain its important role in music history, namely as the bridge between punk and the British "New Pop" of the early 80s and a movement that planted the or some seeds of goth, hip hop (via Art of Noise's "Beat Box" and Malcolm McLaren's surprising post-Pistols career), rave, and a host of contemporary bands. He argues, successfully, that postpunk was extremely influential even where the original music hasn't stood the test of time.
Many of the Amazon reviewers here exhort you to buy the longer UK edition of Rip it Up. My advice: don't... unless you're already into postpunk. The US edition is long enough for the general reader at 388 pages.
In the final chapter, Reynolds sets the stage for his next book, Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past, which presumably begins where New Pop entered its decline, around 1984-85, when the dominant paradigm of music shifted from forward thinking (futurist) to backward looking (retro).
I was a bit annoyed that SST were barely mentioned in the UK version, and excised entirely from the US version, but in retrospect it makes more sense as they didn't really fit into the above narrative (at least in the years covered. "Michael Azerrad's "Our Band Could Be Your Life" covers them, among others, more succinctly). So in all, it's definitely a great book, even if it does leave out otherwise interesting acts.