Eric's Reviews > Ranters and Crowd Pleasers: Punk in Pop Music, 1977-1992

Ranters and Crowd Pleasers by Greil Marcus
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's review
Jan 06, 10

bookshelves: music, non-fiction
Read in January, 2010

A fine collection of Marcus' writings that revolve around punk and postpunk music for the likes of Rolling Stone, Artforum, and other publications. It's a reminder of how intelligent and thoughtful criticism of music and pop culture has suffered a bit in the internet era. I'm sure great stuff is still out there (Tell me!—Where?), but Marcus is unique in how he mixes highbrow assertions with what could be construed as lowbrow subject matter, and then goes deep, sometimes in the course of just 2 or 3 pages. Marcus has a poetic, often hyperkinetic style that suits the subject matter, making daring connections between the musical and the socio-political that never come off overly academic or cerebral. One feels his excitement and tags along on his wild rides of free association. My only criticism is that Marcus plays favorites—John Lydon/Rotten, Elvis Costello, the Mekons, Gang of Four or the Clash crop up in almost every piece in some way—and his critical lens tends to stay within the confines of the postmodern / Dick Hebdige school of pop culture studies. Kudos also for introducing me to postpunk bands such as Essential Logic and Kleenex / Liliput.
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