Sunday, May 21, 2006

Rip It Up And Start Again

In a nutshell I love Simon Reynolds's new book, Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-1984. It covers the musical period of post-punk music, which wasn't written as much as the previous period of 1976-78 punk rock, but it was a furtile period that created and nutured a vast array of bands from Throbbing Gristle to the B-52s and DEVO to the Raincoats to the Human League.

The book starts off with John Lydon leaving the Sex Pistols in 1978 and starting up the more avant-garde Public Image Ltd., which gave us such memorable records such as the "Public Image" single (with its guitar figure that U2's the Edge would later use a lot) and the Metal Box/Second Edition album. Record labels such as Rough Trade and Factory were set up to document the new bands that wanted to beyond punk rock's simple 1-2-3-4 stance. Jagged, angular guitar riffs and cold, affected vocals often were present in the genre. Post-punk acts formed not just in London, but in Manchester (Joy Divison and the Fall), Leeds (Gang Of Four, Delta 5), New York (the No Wave acts like Lydia Lunch and James Chance) and San Francisco (Flipper). Looking for the next big thing following punk, the British press covered the post-punk acts with enthusiasm and DJs like the BBC's John Peel gave them radio exposure. But by around 1981 some people were getting tired of it, when more copycat bands were forming, and the doom the genre seemed to represent (which was at its zenith/nadir when Ian Curtis of Joy Division killed himself). So people started looking for altenatives such as ska/2-Tone, synth-pop, Adam Ant, and "Mutant Disco" acts like Grace Jones and Pulsallama. Then there was the "New Pop" era of 1982 which bands like ABC (whose Lexicon of Love album had a lot more substance to it than one would expect with its high gloss sheen) that had big colorful manifestos and would make it big on the pop charts, as well as the rise of MTV in America which would give a lot of British bands exposure in the early 80s. Then finally there was the rise of the label ZTT, best known for giving the world Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

This book is so rich in detail covering a lot of different bands that I just couldn't put it down. And when I was able to put it down, I wanted to find out more about these bands. (Did you know that Scritti Polliti started as a raw post-punk band/collective, which was a fry cry away from the smooth snyth-pop of "A Perfect Way" several years later?) It's no wonder that the British music paper the New Musicial Express would name this the best book of last year. And this is just the shorter American edition of this book, which has 432 pages (the UK edition has 556; I'll have to check that edition out as well). And considering that post-punk has been going through a big revival in the past few years (with Franz Ferdinand at the head of the current pack), this book gives an excellent view of the original musical movement.


Blogger Robert Drake said...

I have read this book twice through, since it came out ... a wonderful look at some of my favorite musicians, complete with odd backstories that I never knew! I highly recommend it as well to anyone who loves new wave and its punk origins :)

8:15 AM  

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