Rip It up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984

Rip It up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984

by Simon Reynolds

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Rip It Up and Start Again is the first book-length exploration of the wildly adventurous music created in the years after punk. Renowned music journalist Simon Reynolds celebrates the futurist spirit of such bands as Joy Division, Gang of Four, Talking Heads, and Devo, which resulted in endless innovations in music, lyrics, performance, and style and

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Rip It Up and Start Again is the first book-length exploration of the wildly adventurous music created in the years after punk. Renowned music journalist Simon Reynolds celebrates the futurist spirit of such bands as Joy Division, Gang of Four, Talking Heads, and Devo, which resulted in endless innovations in music, lyrics, performance, and style and continued into the early eighties with the video-savvy synth-pop of groups such as Human League, Depeche Mode, and Soft Cell, whose success coincided with the rise of MTV. Full of insight and anecdotes and populated by charismatic characters, Rip It Up and Start Again re-creates the idealism, urgency, and excitement of one of the most important and challenging periods in the history of popular music.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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, London

Jim Windolf
The story of punk's aftermath is…fragmented, with no clear beginning, a mixed-up middle and a whimper of an ending. Pop-culture historians have found it easy to avoid. With Rip It Up and Start Again, the brainy music critic Simon Reynolds steps forward to accept the challenge. He is a brave man…It's easier for a critic to attack than to praise, but Reynolds takes more pleasure in expressing passion for the music he loves than in putting down what doesn't fit his program.
—The New York Times
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 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The words "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?," uttered onstage by Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten as his band disintegrated around him, are usually treated as the eulogy of punk. But what if, as music journalist Reynolds (Generation Ecstacy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture) posits, the quote was actually intended as an epiphany, a new beginning? This thesis forms the cornerstone of Reynolds's highly subjective and illuminating history of the all-too-brief but influential postpunk era. And what an era it was! PiL, the Slits, the B-52s, Joy Division, Throbbing Gristle, Gang of Four, Devo, and others all saw the opportunity to create something new out of the chaotic rubble of punk. Reynolds's enthusiasm makes up for any omissions or critical missteps that inevitably come when trying to cover such a disparate ideological and musical subgenre. Although it's the first book to deal with postpunk, this book stands as a peer among substantive punk histories like Jon Savage's England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond and Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain's Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. Warmly recommended for all libraries.-Matthew Moyer, Jacksonville P.L., FL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The history of postpunk rock gets a microscopic examination by a keen-eyed English observer. British critic Reynolds, who picked apart the development of house music, techno and the U.K. rave scene in Generation Ecstasy (1998), applies his methodology to the multitude of styles and sounds collectively known as "postpunk." The rubric is somewhat misleading, since several of the significant bands Reynolds writes about-Pere Ubu, Devo, Talking Heads-either predated or worked concurrently with the punk explosion of the mid- and late-'70s. But Reynolds's concern is not with chronology but with sensibility-the first half of his book addresses revolutionary bands whose art school-derived musical eclecticism ran contrary to the orthodoxy of conventional punk. He compellingly explores the breakaway sounds and styles of acts as diverse as Public Image Ltd. (the postpunk unit fronted by the Sex Pistols' John Lydon), Gang of Four, Joy Division and the Pop Group. His smart, densely researched accounts of these bands and their scenes are sometimes marred by a weakness for artists whose intellectual rigor outweighed their musical worth. Sadly, this work is really two books in one, and Reynolds utterly loses his thread, and his head, when he abandons the more challenging postpunk sounds of the era to address the style-driven rise of new pop and synth-pop. Wearing his national chauvinism on his sleeve, he makes a slim connection between the pathfinding efforts of postpunk visionaries and the selling-out/buying-in ethos of such commercial acts as Gary Numan, the Human League and ABC, many of whom benefited from the early-'80s explosion of MTV. The latter half of Reynolds's book suffers from a lack of focus,excessive Anglophilia and the strain of justifying the ascent of some decidedly lesser talents. Readers who savor the first 200 pages will likely continue patiently through its wearying finale. A compelling read, swamped in the end by the new wave of '80s rock.

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.46(h) x 0.94(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Meet the Author

Simon Reynolds is the author of Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture, Blissed Out: The Raptures of Rock, and The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion, and Rock ’n’Roll (coauthored with Joy Press). A senior contributing writer for Spin, his pop culture writings have also appeared in many other major publications.

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