Up til now, the best Punk-era history book I could find was Jon Savage's ENGLAND'S DREAMING. Simon Reynolds' post-punk history RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN (2005) can sit on the permanent shelf right beside it.
The books don't have much in common. Savage's book is a history of the Sex Pistols & the rise of British punk, written by a guy who was present 4 many of the events he recounts so vividly.
Reynolds' book covers what happened after the Pistols fell apart, & is written by a guy who was listening & enjoying the music that poured out of the British Isles Btween 1978 & 1984.
In America, we called the "poppier" end of this stuff New Wave. But there were still lotsa musicians who were dead serious about what they were doing, & Reynolds recounts the stories of a bunch of them: John Lydon & Public Image Ltd., Joy Division/New Order, Gang of Four, Throbbing Gristle, etc.
Not that there wasn't any fun involved: Reynolds also covers Madness, Malcolm McLaren's various silly doings, Bow Wow Wow, Adam and the Ants ("Antmusic"! "Goody Two Shoes"! "Stand and Deliver"!), Culture Club, Wham!, etc.
There's a lot here, covered in a lotta depth & squoze in2 400 pgs. I was even wrapped-up in the stories about bands I'd never heard of or didn't care about. & there's a really Xcellent chapter on the UK's independent record labels.
The only way it coulda bn better is if there was even MORE stuff covered. I'm not sure Xactly where Reynolds' post-punk cutoff line is. Some rather obvious names never appear in the text. U2 finally make an appearance toward the end, but The Clash, The Ramones, The Pretenders & Blondie R barely mentioned, & The Police R never mentioned at all. & summa my heroes such as The Bangles, Go-Go's, Squeeze & Split Enz never appear. There's probly some other obvious names I've 4gotten. Course adding all these folks woulda made the book 100 pgs longer.
(Elvis Costello? Not here. But Talking Heads get a lot of space. Punk or post-punk? -- Some folks Rn't that EZ 2 classify....)
But here's what I like: Reynolds' descriptions have already made me order albums by Wire, Gang of Four & Madness (who I'd actually heard a handful of songs by) -- & I'm also looking in2 folks like The Mekons, Raincoats, Residents, Slits, & others. If you want your musical horizons Xpanded, this book will do it. 4 me, that alone makes it worth reading.
Here's something else I liked: Even if you think you don't want 2 know the stories Bhind Frankie Goes To Hollywood or The Human League or Soft Cell or Wham! or Culture Club or Devo, Reynolds makes those stories enjoyable & worth reading. There's a lot of funny stuff here -- tho no 1-liners I can steal 4 use in this review.
I'm not a fan of all the artists in this book -- Reynolds wasn't, either. But if you're curious about the period, here's somewhere you can start & get some really solid background info. You'll also B grateful the book has an INDEX....
The last section of the book actually points 4ward 2 Reynolds' recent RETROMANIA (see review below). He feels that 1984 started the "Retro" boom that pop music still seems 2 B stuck in. Course there was also a later Rave and Hip-Hop boom that Reynolds touches on....
...I'm not doing this book justice. This is not 1 of my clearer or more-clever reviews. There's a lot of good info here, & I was carried along enjoyably from start 2 finish & never bogged down 4 2 long, even in the areas I didn't think I cared about.
I'm also now pretty convinced that I don't need 2 hear NEthing by Public Image Ltd. or Throbbing Gristle. Not sure I could TAKE Joy Division. Wish there'd bn more about New Order, tho. The section about The Fall was pretty enlightening. The Art of Noise sounds like a lotta fun. & there's probly a whole BOOK that could B written about Trevor Horn & Paul Morley's ZTT label....
4 this & a lot more, Simon, thanx. Did you ever write a sequel...?