5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 28 July 2010
An excellently written and painstakingly researched book, and the author's enthusiasm about the era shines through. Like me, your interest in the various chapters will differ depending on how you felt about the years and bands contained within them.
The 'pop' chapters of the early 80's left me glazing over a bit, but only because the music represented here I disliked then and I still do. It was still interesting to see how the personnel linked back to unexpected roots.
However the bits you'll like, which will be different for everyone, you will really enjoy. You can't fault the writing, and actually, it is perfectly easy to skip chapters and cherry pick the bits you want from it. The only patchiness of this book will be down to it's readers' tastes, and Reynolds again proves his substancial worth as a music journalist.
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2005
I loved this book. The coverage is incredibly broad, and the sheer fascination of the music really comes alive through Reynolds's writing. The other reviewers sum up the great things about this book well, and I agree with what they said. So here are a couple of criticisms: he doesn't contextualise the music in the political and cultural context of the day as well as Jon Savage did for punk 1976-1978 in "England's Dreaming". That's not a surprise, since he is covering so many different, overlapping musical scenes in the UK and the UK, with nods to Germany and Australia. But it does make it more of a music fan's book and less of a cultural history than it promised to be. A second related criticism is that this is definitely a history of the producers of music, not of its consumption. So we get very little insight into the subcultures formed around these musical scenes (such as round Two Tone or Gothic), and the interpretation of the music is very much from the point of the switched on 20 something who went to gigs, rather than the bulk of the record buying or radio listening publics aged 10 to 30. The sheer excitement of hearing "Gangsters" or "Pretty Vacant" or "Sensoria" on your little transitor radio for the first time doesn't quite come across. Nor do you get much of a feel for why, when the Human League or Depeche Mode popped up on Top of the Pops or Radio 1, it felt just like the obvious way to make pop records and nothing would need to change again now we'd got it right! Related to this, thirdly, this is a guy in his late 30s (maybe a shade older) telling us that music was better in his day (and I know he has written about 90s rave culture too, but he says that has gone off as well). Hence the historicising. All musical trends have a rise and a fall; and to read this book you get the sense that postpunk, once it had burned out, left nothing worthwhile in its wake (save the rediscovery of its legacy by The Rapture, Franz Ferdinand and co). But that's just a perspective problem - I have a feeling that had he been five years younger, and written about how brilliant the Smiths were, the arc would have started later and ended later. Compare Paul Stump's rather wonderful "The Music's All That Matters" - a history of prog rock with a similar structure, and the same tendency to see the rise and fall of a movement as the rise and fall of "intelligent" or "engaged" or "art" music as the rise and fall of pop as such.
But what the heck - I loved it anyway (and that's in part because I'm the same age group, and I still get a frisson listening to my old Cabaret Voltaire and Fall records). Down with rockism! Up with looped samples of American televangelists!
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2006
I guess it depends on how old you are. From my early 40s I can still look back at the glory of Post Punk as a true golden age. I suppose you youngsters out there just can't believe anything important happened 20 years ago.(Plus, how many kids today want to know anything about the Lemon Kittens ?)
Sadly, the best bits in the book are the descriptions of the now mind boggling amount of dissention and sheer aggro that went along with this 'scene'. I can't see anything today (maybe some aspects of rap) which challenge the prevailing status quo either politically or culturally like these bands did at the time. The descriptions of the Associates and Scritti Polliti alone are worth the price of the book for any aspiring musician. How refreshing to remember there were once 'artists' who didn't think - How can I copy someone and make money ? but did think 'At this point I don't care how to make money, but I don't like anything else so I'll make something new.'
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
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!!!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 7 May 2007
Can music change the world? In this book, Reynolds deftly sketches a context for the stampede of genres that followed on the heels of punk, striking out in every direction from the rediscovered rudiments of rock as rendered by The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, and seeking revolution as profound as the Beatles' achieved with "Revolver". As a member of the Chicago post-punk band "The Imports" (1979-1980), I can recall endless and passionate discussions with my bandmates on key issues such as the importance of originality, the insufferable arrogance of guitar solos, and the innovative promotion of the bass from the ranks of rhythm to the role of melody. At the time, we felt this discourse to be our own, or at least reasonably esoteric. "Rip It Up and Start Again...", however, demonstrates that our little discussions on Chicago's South Side were part of a much larger discourse that strove to find new direction from the apparent cul de sac of three chord bombast. Reynolds not only performs the yeoman's task of documenting the many diverse planks of the post-punk platform, but also manages to construct with them an elaborate structure that stretches from the earliest beginnings to the final throes of what was indeed an inspired period of "popular" music history. Providing as it does a coherent narrative of the complex and intertwined streams of influence and collaboration, "Rip It Up and Start Again..." makes the perfect companion to George Gimarc's "Post-Punk Diary", which approaches the same subject from a perspective of daily events such as gigs, label signings, and record releases.
36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2005
1. The idea that the best period for Pop was the Sixties. Simon Reynolds' elegantly and urgently written survey of post-punk puts that complacent baby boomer myth to rest once and for all. All of Reynolds' books have been essential reading for anyone serious about Pop, and this is no exception. If you are at all interested in how Pop could be challenging, weird and yet compulsive, you really will not be able to put this book down. 'Rip it Up' eloquently and exhaustively makes the case that the 1978-84 period was a pop cultural treasure trove. Reynolds lets us see the usual suspects (PiL, Joy Division, The Fall, The Raincoats, The Slits, Throbbing Gristle, Gang of 4, Cabaret Voltaire) from unusual angles (the anecdote about Martin Hannett making Steve Morris record each drum separately is a wonderful insight into the way in which Joy Division's sound was produced, for instance), as well as re-focusing attention on the forgotten or barely remembered (This Heat, Tuxedomoon).
2. The idea that Pop is essentially to do with music. Reynolds demonstrates that this was a period in which politics, theory and sonic innovation fed into each other in a now scarcely imaginable cocktail of mutual intensification.
3. The idea that Pop has to be entertainment. Reynolds' analysis of postpunk is an implicit broadside against contemporary pop's compulsory trivialization. Pop then was a way of living, not simply a style of consuming.
...and start again:
The book inevitably poses the question - could we ever have it so good again? Can Pop ever return to a Now this urgent, or will it always be yesterday once more? Well, part of what made post-punk so powerful was its unashamed intellectualism. Such intellectualism came from the critical culture that surrounded the groups as much as from the artists themselves. Reynolds, inspired to write by the confluence 'Rip it Up' describes, has kept the faith with that mode of theoretically-engaged criticism. Is it too much to hope that the book will contribute to a climate in which expectations about what Pop can be are raised?
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2011
Rip it Up is a frustrating book. The interviews and history bits are fine, but wading through Reynold's pontificating and buzz phrases is tedious. And it's so snooty that I nearly ended up liking a lot of this music less after reading it.
The problems begin when you start to think about what Reynolds is actually saying. Firstly was "post-punk" really more progressive or open to outside influence than the mainstream of rock and pop? By the tail end of the 70s to the early 80s even the likes of Kiss, ZZ Top and showbiz performers like Lu Lu were making disco influenced music. Whilst electronica had been a feature of progressive rock since the late 1960s, was already prominent in film soundtracks and produced any number of chart hits throughout the era. In fact it's pretty safe to say that the evidence is that all kinds of music already interacted without post-punk's influence and that the basics of the sound was just an extension of what was going on in contemporary music. In other words what Reynolds calls Post-Punk was more influenced by the surrounding pop culture than it was influential. Secondly. Reynold's constantly talks about an anti-rock ideal in the era but then has chapters on SST and Pere Ubu who where in fact rock zealots and when, in truth, Post Punk only really makes sense in context of what passes for serious Rock journalism. Out in the wider world Post Punk was only really radical in the way it was attached to Punk, rather than how it departed from it. Further more, Reynolds constantly pushes this anti-rock message, making numerous reference to how much punk resembled metal, but much of the music he labels as forward thinking was either nostalgic for old soul music (ABC, Scritti Politti, Dexy's) or could equally be seen as a film inspired fad not so far removed from the Rock and Roll fads inspired by American Graffiti or Grease. Was the Quadrophenia inspired Mod revivalism of Ska really much more than the teenage male version of John Travolta and Olivia Newton John?
The book's author also makes statements that are flat out wrong. At one point he seriously suggests that post-punk introduced the studio as a third instrument and that standard rock recording was primarily an attempt to produce a live sound. Aside from the fact that the studio had been the most important tool of the music industry since at least the 1960s, big rock bands toured with small armies of road crew and literally tons of equipment to reproduce the records live. Most post punk was recorded cheap and fast to the pint where it was virtually live. The only real exception being when performers were backed by major record labels who wanted something more polished. Also disco music, soul and reggae were mostly about the tracks not the performance. So again post-punk is only really removed from other music of the era by it's sonic harshness. Another problem which Reynold's tries to rationalise is that groups like Devo existed before punk and were arguably if, post-anything, actually post-hippie and not that far removed from the pop-prog of bands like Sparks.
Further more there's an issue with over intellectualising the music involved. The reality is that a lot of this stuff was made by young people who simply couldn't play that well. The point being that this places it closer to primitive/naive or folk art than to ideas of meta and post modern art. In truth. as with a lot of punk, the music got less interesting as the players abilities improved. Which, again, reinforces the idea that this was to an extent simply a rougher version of contemporary pop.
Though interesting in parts, Rip It Up is really about retrospective gentrification. An attempt to separate post punk from nasty smelly punk rock and thus make it suitable for "educated tastes". But really post-punk is more interesting as an extension of punk than as a rejection of it. The whole notion of one kind of music pointing to the future as a beacon of progressive ideas and other music representing regressive tendencies is faintly ridiculous, because they are interconnected branches of the same evolutionary tree. They don't stay static or de-evolve. They simply grow apart. A heavy metal record from 1979-1984 doesn't actually sound much more like a 60s beat group than Public Image do. Pop music is basically still more rooted in folk art than it is in high culture and ultimately it doesn't benefit from the kind of cod academia inherent in books like this. This is really a book about the enclave mentality of music journalism and its inflated sense of importance. It presents a world in which what were essentially minor college circuit performers are treated as influential titans that shaped the future and much of everything else is either dismissed as pap or backwards, In other words what we have here is yet another version of pop colonialism that attempts to improve what is basically a development of folk culture by removing the great unwashed from the landscape. Also you get the distinct impression that many of the interviewees, who are infinitely more realistic and entertaining than Reynolds, find him bumptious.
Having said all this. some of the music the book covers is worth seeking out and some of the info is interesting.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 September 2011
...I am currently reading the US version, and I hear that the UK edition includes much, much more. Is this the proper one to purchase?
Anyway, despite reading the condensed version, this book has really given a feeling of placement to post-punk, which I always thought of as being an umbrella-term for many varied artists. It's all beautifully crafted together and covers many off-shoots and movements. I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in alternative and engaging music.
on 27 May 2015
My irritation at the way Reynolds pretty much writes off The Buzzcocks, The Ruts, Crass, and, most vehemently, The Clash, who were some of the most innovative punk bands of the era, still can't stop me absolutely loving this book.
Contrary to what some idiots might say, Reynolds keeps his prose light, fleshing out the musical and theoretical concepts that drove the artists covered in an easy to understand way, and never saying 'oh yeah, this is definitely related to Bataille somehow' in the most irritatingly obtuse way imaginable like some academic music writers do - and yes I am talking about you, Paul Hegarty, you fiend. As well as introducing me numerous brilliant groups (it made me finally check out the Meat Puppets, and unlike every other publication ever highlights their album Up on the Sun, which is now one of my favourites) and philosophical figures like Gramsci and De Sade, this book also contains a lot of great, witty descriptions of the various oddities in and around the bands, like Martin Hannett and Stevo Pearce, and explains beautifully what a monumentally terrible person Malcolm McLaren was.
A fascinating non-fiction book, that reads like good fiction.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 12 July 2006
This is the best book out there by the best music critic out there and it talks about the best period in pop music history there's ever been. Mr Reynolds is not only authoritative, accurate and robust; he is also engaging and passionate. This is him at his best, going through those late 70s early 80s musical excellence without disregarding socio-economical context. To list the musical milestones discussed here would take me far too long, so let's keep it simple: If you like The Fall, Gang Of Four, Joy Division, PIL, Talking Heads etc. etc. etc. you should read this; if you like Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party, then you must.