Mark Love's Reviews > Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past

Retromania by Simon Reynolds
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Apr 23, 12

Read from March 22 to April 21, 2012

Modern music is increasingly rubbish. Or rather everything that's going to happen in pop has happened already and we're left shuffling our ipods and staring at youtube. Discuss.

Simon Reynolds takes a look at pop's past and tries to predict its future. Are we just generationally past it, or has the last decade brought nothing new in music, except how we listen to it? What genre defines the "noughties"? Where is the next musical explosion as radical as punk, hip-hop or techno going to come from? Or will popular music continue to just re-scrape the barrel, remix, re-edit, reproduce, mashup and regurgitate the past 50 years as it seems to be doing at the moment? In an age of total recall where the history of pop is just a click away, (how) can today's musicians carve a niche?

Inevitably the book fails to answer these questions, and instead gives a potted (albeit well researched and referenced) history of popular music from jazz to dubstep and discusses how each trend was influenced by the past, and how it broke from it. The analyses show that imitation and innovation (cultural, musical and technical) is nothing new, but also that the recent stasis is more than just the depressing figment of old music fans' imaginations. Music used to be more forward looking and imaginative, casting aside old records, it's now increasingly backward looking and derivative and reproducing nothing but old records and fusing old styles into new micro-genres.

This book could have been written for me, and picks up where Bill Drummond's "17" left off. The history of pop has shown that youth have always created a new sound, and even if we're too old to hear it I hope it's still there somewhere.
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