I purchased Rip It Up And Start Again by Simon Reynolds yesterday to ease me into my summer reading frolics. The book focuses on the post-punk era and specifically the years between 1978 and 1984 which Reynolds considers a rival to the mid-to-late 1960s for the sheer amount of fine music being produced and for the way that music reflected and connected with what was ‘appening within society and politics at the time. I suppose that, despite my belief that it is misguided to look back too energetically, this period remains ‘my period’ too. Aged 13 to 18, I experienced so many new sounds and they can mainly be categorised and classified as ‘post-punk’. I was just too young for punk itself although, for all that movement’s influence, Reynolds regards it as mainly a return to raw rock ‘n’ roll and I can appreciate that too. After the first wave of punk there were two quite disparate routes for ‘the kids’ to follow. One group craved the aggression and accessibility of punk rock and so remained ‘real punks’ which later evolved into the Oi! scene. The other group, ‘arty middle-class bohemians’ – and I purred at that description! – regarded punk as a clarion call to embark on change and to snub tradition. Reynolds calls it the ‘unfinished revolution’ and the wealth of bands that set about seeking out new aural possibilities is over-whelming although some critics regarded this new ‘art-rock elitism’ as a return to what punk itself had tried to eradicate a year or two before. The energy, experimentation, originality, wit, swagger, intelligence and ambition of the following bands changed my life and this book explores the impact of each of them: The Fall, Scritti Politti, Joy Division, Gang of Four, The Associates, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, Talking Heads, Human League, PiL, Siouxsie and the Banshees. So far I have only read the prologue and flicked through and looked at photos but I sense that my shopping trip to London on Wednesday might involve searching for stuff I missed back then and, in particular, Young Marble Giants, The Mekons, Swell Maps, DAF, The Pop Group and, possibly, Heaven 17.
There are lots of marvellous things to read about the book and the post-punk period at the author's own site. It really is worth a visit.