Thursday, February 16, 2006


Just blazed through the UK version of Simon Reynolds’ RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN, his preposterously comprehensive and readable history of the post-punk years 1978-1984. It’s freakin amazing, and all the clichés apply: I think I actually learned something new on every page. And in the case of Depeche Mode, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, The Human League, and ABC I learned things that I didn’t think I’d care to know, but didn't mind learning.
Ah, romance
The fastest 600 pages I’ve experienced in a long time. The book is all about velocity. The interested reader’s, but mostly that of the surge of innovation that was released when the punk wave crested and broke over the British Isles. (And Cleveland. And LA.)

Reynolds manages to balance his obvious interest in the deeper underpinnings of pop (see his blog) with thoughtful and meticulous mini-bios of all of the key bands discussed. One of the great accomplishments here is how Reynolds is able to stand up real people --- with ambitions, lusts, artistic blocks, hates, grandiose dreams, dumb-ass ideas --- behind canonical (“Love Will Tear Us Apart,” say) and near-canonical (“Mind Your Own Business”) songs that long ago shed their attachment to the corporeal world.

Though my own interest in the bands Reyolds takes on flagged considerably after about page 300 or so, just after the transitional Two-Tone bands turned the innovative spirit back to the past, it's a tribute to Reynolds' rigor and sugared-pill writing that I saw him through the pop transformations of the bands listed above. He's also got a serious Scritti Politti jones.

The US edition is available later this month (tomorrow, at Amazon). Reynolds earlier blogged about the differences in the two editions, but I’ll be damned if I can find this now. The UK book is now out in a cheaper edition. His UK publisher got as far as setting into type an extensive discography, and thought better of printing an 800 page tome. Reynolds has made this available to all, online [opens, slowly, as a 26-pg PDF]; not a bad place to start for a snapshot of the territory he covers (a snapshot the size of Colorado). The book site has more, including mention of a companion CD.

And attention NYers: TMFTML has the details on an upcoming panel (28 Feb) in NYC featuring Reynolds and assorted characters from the book.


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