“RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN” – by Simon Reynolds (2005)

In case any out there are in need of finding someone a last-minute Xmas gift — I must recommend this tome.

Published by Faber and Faber in the UK in April of ‘05, adiposity music journalist Simon Reynolds’ weighty volume is, cure for the moment, THE scholarly statement on the classic post-punk period. I say “for the moment” because Reynolds’ use of language and visual scope is so inspiring that it makes me want to spend the next several years writing the book about all the bands he left out of this one! While I could argue with Reynolds’ near-exclusion or dismissal of bands that are certainly key to the period (The Cure and Bauhaus immediately come to mind), this book taught me a great, great about bands, scenes and mini-movements I previously thought I knew everything about. One reviewer on the Amazon UK website summed it up best: “The book inevitably poses the question: could we ever have it so good again? Can Pop ever return to a Now this urgent, or will it always be yesterday once more?”

The book was given an American release in ’06, in a slightly truncated version, but it in no way is less impactful a statement than the original unabridged version.

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  1. mono says:

    Agree with you 100% on this one. It may not be the most comprehensive guide, but nothing else I’ve seen has come close to it.

    Don’t know if it’s had a US release but he also put out a kind of companion book called ‘Totally Wired’ that came out earlier this year over here. It’s a load of interviews & conversations with the people & bands covered in ‘Rip It Up…’. Worth checking out if you liked this one.

  2. Tim B. says:

    I believe Totally Wired will be published in the US sometime in 2010, but I’m not 100% sure.

  3. Jim Donato says:

    As someone who lived through this time exactly, it is the best resource yet that attempts to tie it all together. Are there any errors? Sure. I’ve yet to read any book on any kind of music that didn’t have mistakes in these editor-free end times. Yes, Reynolds’ biases can be maddening, but I would chime in that it is certainly the best book yet of its kind. Just remember that the field is not particularly crowded at this time and I hope someone rises to the occasion to attempt to knock this book off of its perch. We would all benefit. Maybe in my dotage I can write that book – if people still read by then.

  4. Emerson says:

    Maybe the next book won’t assert that Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” was the punkiest thing to ever happen, like this one did. Or was it Giorgio Moroder who made punk feel new and vibrant. I forgot since it’s been awhile since I read Reynold’s book.

  5. Jim Donato says:

    “I Feel Love” may not have been “punk” but it was a truly new sound that had siesmic repercussions for music. Eno proclaimed it “the future of dance music for the next 20 years,” which I wouldn’t dispute. Upon hearing it for the first time, Glaswegian punks Simple Minds went out and got a synthesizer. Their song most influenced by it is my fave slab of post-punk ever, “I Travel.” John Foxx among many others will echo the sentiments that it was a profoundly new sound with far-reaching influence.

  6. Michael says:

    Complaining about all the bands left out is to miss the point of the book entirely, though it’s certainly a pretty common observation on music sites. It’s not a post-punk encyclopedia; there are, after all, not just bands but countries and scenes that didn’t make it in. Australia? Germany? San Francisco? Maybe in a better world more of those bands could have been included, but there’d always be something left out, and it wouldn’t much have altered his basic argument, which is that the art rock of the 70s was transmuted into the pop of the 80s in the crucible of punk. If you want an encyclopedia, go read the International Discography of the New Wave, but Reynolds is making an argument about a process and doesn’t need to get everybody’s favorite band or scene into his book to strengthen it.

  7. bret says:

    Dunno — even though I love the book (seeing as how I’m pimping it here on my own site with this blog post — there is a certain warbly perversity in including AN ENTIRE CHAPTER OR TWO on Scritti Politti, and mentioning The Cure in only A SINGLE PARAGRAPH.

    Keep in mind that I read the UK version, and that the US version is truncated by a few chapters, too.

    It’s just a bit weird, is all I’m saying, thesis-wise — even though Reynolds’ thesis is quite sharp to begin with.

    Michael, as a reviewer (part of my job here on this site, to provide critical response to things, in addition to providing the music downloads), it’s difficult for me to not to mention Reynolds’ deliberate nature in keeping the obscure bands in the forefront of the book’s content. I’m satisfied with his portrayal of the scene, and I’ll accept his reasons for not including certain key major bands — something he addresses point-blank in the text (of the UK version, at least). It’s just not what I would do my self if I was writing the book.

    Also, Michael, the snide “Complaining about all the bands left out is to miss the point of the book entirely, though it’s certainly a pretty common observation on music sites” comment is in itself missing the point — pretty backhanded as well, considering the amount of info Egg City Radio pumps out into the blogosphere.

  8. Geoff says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve given this book countless times as a gift (but didn’t keep track who received it, of course). Reynolds does a good job of providing an overview of the period, with some meticulous detail about some bands and he does pretty much ignore others. (There might be a question of the role of goth stuff in the UK vs. US — it may have been more prominent in the US. More books on the subject would be very, very welcome, esp. as the goth histories are all pretty cheesy).

    For additional gift stuff, I’d recommend Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life and Nicholas Rombas’ Cultural Dictionary of Punk as informative and entertaining reads.

    Re: US vs. UK edition. The UK one has an extra chapter or so (on American post-punk), supposedly made superfluous by Azerrad’s book (according to Reynolds). Either edition is fine, but I’d pick the UK one if there was a choice (and it seems to be more common now, even in the US, strangely).

    Bret, thanks for the reminder and a great gift suggestion. Give the gift of post-punk…

  9. Mr X says:

    Agree that “Rip It Up” is an excellent book. Not read “Totally Wired” yet but if its anything like “Rip It Up” it should be worth it. Books that I liked as much (and I’ve read scores believe me) are two from Clinton Heylin. The first is “From The Velvets to the Voidoids”, which is about 440 pages long and is an excellent account of “The Birth Of American Punk Rock” which is its alternative title. It covers the years 1965 to 1980. His more recent book “Babylon’s Burning” is 700 pages long and covers the overlapping years of 1971 to 1980 from a British perspective though there are excellent chapters on East and West Coast Punk not forgetting the Cleveland scene. But Babylons Burning goes up to 1991 ending with the rise of Nirvana so takes in all the American post punk bands left out of “Velvets To Voidoids”. I’ve got the hardback and really can’t recommend it enough. If you get both, read “Velvets To Voidoids” first purely for the historical perspective. Nuff said.

  10. kate hoos says:

    i just picked this up after reading about it on your site. thanks for the recommendation. i’m really digging it so far