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Fine insights from a great music writer,
This review is from: Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to its Own Past (Paperback)
The great jazz pianist Thelonious Monk is famous for having dismissed the very idea of music journalism and criticism with the remark "writing about music is like dancing about architecture."
If any music writer of the last twenty years has disproved this somewhat blinkered comment it is Simon Reynolds. Previously he has written with great panache about rave music and post-punk. And now with his latest book he turns his attention to the ways in which popular culture, music in particular, has for some time been voraciously feeding on its own past rather than trying to look ahead to the future.
Reynolds writes lucidly and penetratingly. Many of his insights make for compelling reading, particularly the chapter about the coming of the ipod and what that gadget has done to our appreciation of music. I stayed up half the night reading this section despite wanting desperately to go to sleep - you know you've found a good book when you start looking for matches to prop your eyes open so you can go on reading.
The passages where he describes the ever accumulating racks of unwanted musical garbage in charity shops had me laughing out loud. And the chapters on garage punk and the phenonmenon of 'hauntology' (strange British and American electronic indie acts stitching bizarre music together out of esoteric musical odds and ends from their collective childhoods) were both insightful and intriguing - they both caused me to go scurrying off to Amazon to make some suddenly vital CD purchases.
The final chapter, in which Reynolds daringly draws parallels between the current parlous state of the world econonmy and the state of popular culture and music, is highly fascinating - although I am not enough of an economist or academic cultural theorist to be able to assess how much legitimate intellectual weight there is in his argument.
But make no mistake, this is not intended to be some dry academic treatise - this is great, though provoking, popular music journalism shot through with tremendous soul, insight and passion. If you only buy one music book in the next five years, make it this one.