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Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Pastby Simon Reynolds
"'Who wants yesterday's papers?' sang Mick Jagger in 1967. 'Who wants yesterday's girl?' The answer, in the Swinging 60s, was obvious: 'Nobody in the world' That was then. Now we seem to want nothing more than to read yesterday's papers and carry on with yesterday's girl. Popular culture has become obsessed with the past — with recycling it, rehashing it, replaying it. Though we live in a fast-forward age, we cannot take our finger off the rewind button." Nicholas Carr, The New Republic (Read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
One of The Telegraphs Best Music Books 2011
We live in a pop age gone loco for retro and crazy for commemoration. Band re-formations and reunion tours, expanded reissues of classic albums and outtake-crammed box sets, remakes and sequels, tribute albums and mash-ups . . . But what happens when we run out of past? Are we heading toward a sort of culturalecological catastrophe where the archival stream of pop history has been exhausted?
Simon Reynolds, one of the finest music writers of his generation, argues that we have indeed reached a tipping point, and that although earlier eras had their own obsessions with antiquity—the Renaissance with its admiration for Roman and Greek classicism, the Gothic movements invocations of medievalism—never has there been a society so obsessed with the cultural artifacts of its own immediate past. Retromania is the first book to examine the retro industry and ask the question: Is this retromania a death knell for any originality and distinctiveness of our own?
"Kids today are too besotted with every old thing — and a stagnant culture is the result, argues this lively though muddled manifesto. Rock critic Reynolds (Rip It Up and Start Again) visits retro impulses in fashion, architecture, movies, and painting, but focuses on what he claims are the formaldehyde-soaked horrors of retro rock music: tours by geriatric boomer bands; wistful VH1 retrospectives; the musty curatorial obsessions of rock museums and hipster connoisseurs; new bands whose music merely cuts-and-pastes hoary influences; the all-preserving Internet, where adolescents graze in every musical era without developing their own generation-specific sound. There's self-contradiction here, and shallow jadedness — musically, '2010 didn't feel that different from 2009, or even 2004' — and a strange pique at teens who distinguish aesthetics from novelty ('The attachment on the part of young people to genres that have been around for decades mystifies me'). The author's brief for a self-consciously modernist pop music of 'constant change and endless innovation' itself betrays a retro hankering for 1960s-style rock revolutionism. But Reynolds's mix of canny erudition, critical theory, stylish prose, and vibrant evocations of bands both famous and unheard-of, nails the appeal of retro almost despite himself; as he deplores musical nostalgia, he reminds us why it mesmerizes us. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Simon Reynolds is a music critic whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, Spin, Rolling Stone, and Artforum. He is the author of five previous books, including Rip It Up and Start Again.
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Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Pop Vocal