Adam's Reviews > Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984

Rip It Up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds
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's review
Nov 21, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: art-and-music
Read in September, 2010 — I own a copy

Listen up! This is the best straight journalism on rock music I’ve ever read (along with the 2006 music edition of The Believer magazine). Reynolds’ prose is really excellent--upon finishing it, I’m no longer surprised that the place I found a review of it was the New York Review of Books. The writing is just so lean and precise--just like the musical style he’s covering. Reynolds has a way of summarizing a band’s project in two sentences. He is economical with the use of quotations from historical interviews or reviews, so as not to distract from his own voice. His is like the voice of your friend, who in your living room, offers a description that perfectly captures your experience of hearing that album together for the first time.

Check out Reynolds on Suicide: “A unique sound developed. Vega’s half-spoken, half-sung incantations resembled a cross between rockabilly and method acting; Rev generated pittering pulses from a beat-up electronic keyboard and crude but hypnotic beats using a cruddy drum machine originally designed for weddings and bar mitzvahs. Vega’s lyrics reveal a Warhol/Lichentstein-like attraction to the two-dimensional pulp fictions and larger-than-life icons of American mass culture. Suicide’s name itself comes from “Satan Suicide,” an issue of Vega’s favorite comic book, “Ghost Rider.” Like a sci-fi Elvis, Vega’s voice was swathed in eerie reverb and delay effects that harked back to the echo on Presley’s voice circa “The Sun Sessions” while simultaneously evoking the vapor trails of a rocket ship. Deliberately simple, his lyrics risked corn and trusted in the timeless power of cliche” (143).

This book totally deepened my love for Roxy Music and Bauhaus and turned me on to David Bowie for me (I can’t believe I had never heard “Heroes” before!). But, I have to admit, I’m still trying to find the brilliance in PIL. Oh, and a question: why didn’t Psychedelic Furs make it into this book?
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