Reynolds' prior books 'Blissed Out' & 'Energy Flash' were both excellent and the epitome of the kind of music journalism we lack these days (though like some great music journalism, the writing was sometimes more exciting than some of the records described- notably in 'Energy Flash.')Reynolds has found a niche to write about - what came after punk on both sides of the Atlantic and how that mutated into what was termed 'New Pop' & ultimately fizzled out in the horrific decade that would champion Phil Collins, Thompson Twins & Duran...
It's a vast area Reynolds writes about, choosing to get a handle on it by presenting the book in (i) two halves: Post-Punk and New Pop/New Rock & (ii) writing a chapter on related acts - so we move back and forth, and round and about (there's a great timeline, though sadly a discography in the style of 'Energy Flash' is not in the book- it's on the publisher's website!)Reynolds writes, as his features in 'Uncut' & in prior publications, interestingly and intelligently, taking in such names as PIL, Throbbing Gristle, Wire, Devo, The Slits, The Raincoats, Pere Ubu, Joy Division, The Fall, Cabaret Voltaire, Scritti Politti, Gang of Four, Magazine, Subway Sect, The Pop Group, No-Wave (and in what came after post-punk, such names as Dexys, The Specials, Associates, Malcolm McClaren, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, Foetus, Mission of Burma, Husker Du, Meat Puppets and so on...) The only problem with this is that you read about one band, go and put one of their records on, turn a few pages and you're with another band, whose record you go and get and put on (and so on!!!) The answer to this would be a Nuggets-style box-set compiled by Mr Reynolds! Some of the chapters are tasters and for a wider read on certain subjects here, there is a handy bibliography - so while we have a few nice chapters on the U.S. underground SST-wise in the 80s, there are better/more extensive books on that scene (which I felt didn't fit as well as the other parts).
Reynolds has timed his enthuasism for this scene well, with various acts from this time reforming/reissueing (Gang of Four, The Cure, Scritti Politti, Throbbing Gristle, The Fall) & contemporary acts like Interpol, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, LCD Soundsystem, Radio 4, Liars etc nodding this way (some rather plagiaristically!). Plus this book fits into a similar continuum to the recent film 'Kill Your Idols', which pitched acts from No-Wave/the U.S. underground (Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch, Swans) against such pseuds as Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Some chapters are stronger than others - the Throbbing Gristle chapter is particularly foul (especially when detailing the joys of Coum Transmissions!) & takes issue with their flirtations with fascism - I enjoyed that chapter so much, I bought the book! The stuff on PIL is excellent, as too the writing on acts who aren't written about as much as they ought to (Associates, Jim Thirwell, Psychic TV, The Blue Orchids, James Chance & the Contortions). Reynolds reassesses the poppier-Stevo-associated Cabaret Voltaire (underrated I feel) and is correct in pointing out that Depeche Mode did the 'conform to deform' thing well. I think he's a bit hard on Julian Cope and The Cure, but clearly they're not his bag of hammers & the goth-chapter is great fun, going from the great (The Birthday Party, The Banshees) to rubbish (Southern Death Cult, Sisters of Mercy). Obviously George Orwell has rewritten my tastes from the 1980s, so I can slate stuff like The Cult happilly! & as fun as a few FGTH singles were, the attempt to shock is a bit unshocking after the Throbbing Gristle chapter!
'Rip It Up & Start Again' is an excellent book that champions and details the most significant music scene ever seen. I think the ideas and methods of the bands covered here were as forward-thinking as music has ever got. This book is therefore a wonderful exercise in modern cultural history (though the bit on Ballard's 'The Atrocity Exhibition' bizarrely lists Ballard short-stories and then cites 'The Atrocity Exhibition'- in which those named short-stories are chapters!) and with Paul Morley's 'Words & Music' is one of the great recent books from the realm of music journalism. Great stuff and a book I devoured with joy in a day or so....OWN!!!