the hype about
RETROMANIA: Pop Culture's Addiction To Its Own Past
By Simon Reynolds
Dummy magazine's "The 10 Best Modern Music Books": #1. Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction To Its Own Past "There’s no doubting technology’s ability to reproduce and discover art and artists of the past has had an impact on the retrogressive eye of contemporary culture and music. Whether you agree with his polemical tract, Simon Reynolds’s era-defining book is as essential as it gets."
"The best book I read recently is Retromania by Simon Reynolds. It's fantastic. Reading Simon Reynolds is like getting in a warm bath"--Jason Schwartzman, GQ Style
"The best book on pop music written since the turn of the twenty-first century. His take on the current state of things is spot-on... The beauty of Reynolds's book is that it exposes pop's now-long history--revealing our incessant rehash of what is nostalgically believed to be a better time and place--but that it also leaves room for new possibilities. What's fun is trying to figure out where we can go from here"--Tosh Berman, Artforum's Best of 2011: Books
#3 in Q magazine's books of the year: "probing look at music's knack of repeating itself. Even more impressive than Reynolds' witty writing style is how prophetic the book has proved."
NPR Music Books of the Year: "Simon Reynolds' thesis sounds pretty alarmist at first glance: The collective appetite for nostalgia, he argues, is killing innovation and turning pop culture into a museum unto itself. But the big picture isn't what's so engaging about Retromania: It's the details that sell Reynolds' painstaking exploration of how we got to this point.The book surveys the revival cults of popular music's past — "trad jazz" in postwar America, the ongoing British obsession with 1960s soul — and examines how technological tools have made it a cinch to go down rabbit hole after historical rabbit hole, without any impetus to create something brand new. And yet Reynolds isn't a cynic — just a concerned fan, making his case with the care and meticulousness only a true record geek can muster"--Daoud Tyler-Ameen
#3 Spin's Books of the Year: "Rather than find comfort in the glory of the good old days, Retromania considers the senseless worship of rock history as a threat to the potential for the next big thing. Bemused by nostalgic northern soul obsessives and at one point feeling oppressed by YouTube’s easy nostalgia, Reynolds brilliantly ponders our growing obsession with plundering the past."
“For a long time, Simon Reynolds has been pretty much the most intelligent and thoughtful commentator on pop music around. Here, with rare brilliance, he investigates why, as a culture, pop is becoming so obsessed with the past. Think, he says, of Lady Gaga, the White Stripes and Amy Winehouse. The past is somehow cutting-edge. But why? Because of digital culture, of course. The past used to be out of reach; now it's there, at the click of a mouse.And, he says, it's changing the way we understand the present. An excellent book, and not just about pop music.”—William Leith, The London Evening Standard
Music Book of the Year/Time Out (London). “The argument in 'Retromania'... extends beyond popular music but at its core was a meditation on an online world in which everyone owns - but doesn't value - the whole of the global back catalogue of all genres across a century of record making. It was gloomily enlightening, the sort of book that makes you dim the lights and weep along to your favourite tracks with a renewed sense of loss.”—Chris Moss
The Telegraph's Books for Xmas: "Leading music writer Simon Reynolds’s cultural history of the Noughties and its obsession with all things retro is a startling, thought-provoking tour de force. Isn’t pop culture supposed to derive its youthful energy from the thrill of the new? Concentrating on music but also discussing revivals and remakes in fashion, film and television, Reynolds asks why we’ve recently been preoccupied with exhuming and rehashing the past, what cultural artefacts (if any) will survive from the past decade and what will become of pop culture in the future. Seriously intelligent but equally accessible."
"The big music book of 2011 was Simon Reynolds’s Retromania. In it, the Rip It Up And Start Again author argues there’s a worrying lack of ripping up and starting again in modern musical culture... An intelligent, perceptive, wide-ranging book that speaks a lot of truth."--Metro
USA Today/Pop Candy blog's 100 People of 2011
"67. Simon Reynolds. The author of Rip It Up and Start Again returned to the pop-culture forefront with the nostalgia-filled Retromania"
“Simon Reynolds's Retromania is a must read. One of the best books about music I've ever encountered”— Touré
"I'd have to admit that "the most interesting thing in music" that I
saw last year was Simon Reynold's book Retromania, which explains in
detail why music isn't as interesting as it used to be; or rather,
that it's interesting in different ways... Amazing"--Bruce Sterling
"Retromania confirms Reynolds as one of our best pop-music thinkers. His command of detail is scholarly - watch as he flips deftly between the Italian Futurists, the iPod Nano, Baudrillard and the Bootleg Beatles - and his writing sparkles; so much so, it's easy just to untether your critical faculties and be swept along... Retromania is a pleasure from beginning to end"--Louis Pattison, The National
"Astute" -- Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Giddyingly insightful"--Trevor Butterworth, The Daily
"An important and often compelling work... Reynolds makes a convincing case that today’s retromania is different in degree and in kind from anything we’ve experienced before"--Nicholas Carr, The New Republic
"A provocative and learned book... The reader is in astute hands, and while the route isn't always the most direct one, it is filled with interesting diversions, including ruminations on the nature of boredom in the digital age and on the collector's impulse"--Michael Azerrad, Wall Street Journal
"It seems fair to say that Simon Reynolds' Retromania was the most important music book of 2011. I've read measured criticism about it that made fair points about underlying assumptions and that finding retro depends on where you look, all of which made sense to me. But one of Reynolds' greatest strengths as a critic is to articulate things that feel right even if they are hard to prove definitively. And in my corner of the music universe, Retromania rang true so often I sometimes felt like I was living inside of St. Mary's Cathedral.... Through surveying both the current landscape and examining how retro has functioned in music at different points in history, and putting particular focus on how the archive of the Internet has changed the accessibility of culture artifacts, Reynolds makes a compelling case that the very nature of musical creativity and the listening experience are changing in fundamental ways"--Mark Richardson, Pitchfork
"Retromania is remarkably researched, enthusiastically written, and -- although often a victim of its own enthusiasms -- truly important."-- Adam Hanft, Barnes and Noble Review
"Simon Reynolds’s infatuations with forward-thinking music and movements have been the driving force of his 25-year writing career, sparking such works as his definitive chronicle of rave culture, Generation Ecstasy, and the authoritative post-punk history Rip It Up and Start Again. Likewise, in his underappreciated collection Bring the Noise, this futurist zeal allows Reynolds to weave together a host of independent writings that span more than two decades to present an overarching case that the cross-pollination between white and black music has “served as the motor of change in pop history.’’... Retromania not only makes a persuasive case that retro-ism is impeding pop culture, but it also illustrates why Reynolds is arguably the most provocative pop music writer of his generation."--Eric Been, The Boston Globe
"...Simon Reynolds’ Retromania was inescapable this year if you spent any time reading reviews or big music thinkpieces. After the book was released in July, critics started quoting it, and nostalgia and its pitfalls quickly became the year’s dominant conversation topic. I’m already nostalgic for the arguments Retromania started this year."--Steve Hyden, The AV Club
"What makes this book so wise is its author's awareness of his own complicity in nostalgia... Like the best of Reynolds's writing, it's elegant and urgent.. Whether or not he likes the music, his love of describing it is palpable. The search is still on for music Reynolds can describe without allusion to other music. But here, as throughout, the question is as fruitful for us as it is frustrating for him"--Tom Payne, The New York Times Book Review
"A terrifically agile and edifying spin through the logic of modern pop culture: Punk-rock reunion tours, reissue labels, and record collectors rub up against critical theory, sixties fashion, and Japanese music culture, with idea-packed detours into the modern attention span, the “franticity” of Internet use, and the rise of “curating” pop culture as a full-fledged career option. The stuff that really fascinates isn’t those artists collaging bits and pieces of older styles; it’s the huge pockets of the music world that stake out a piece of lost ground and simply camp out there, like preservation societies or Civil War reenactors. Reynolds understands the allure of that, too, and his sections on the people involved—the mp3 bloggers who post old rarities, the bands who track down vintage gear, or the scenes, like Northern Soul, that spend decades obsessing over styles that lasted only a few years in the first place—are fundamentally an insider’s take"--Nitsuh Abebe, New York magazine
"I recently read Simon Reynolds’ Retromania and it was so spot-on as far as our current attitude to music and its history. For my money he’s one of the most intelligent music writers in the last two decades"--DJ Food
"Retromania is designed to be a polemic, the kind of book you’d throw against the wall if you weren’t so immersed in it"--Timothy Gabriele, Pop Matters
"Reynolds is a keen writer, with the mind of a critic and the heart of an enthusiast, which makes Retromania easy to engage; reading it is like bantering with a smart friend, not like bristling at a lecture. In the same introduction where he states his intentions, Reynolds admits that he enjoys many aspects of retro (though, he adds, “I still feel deep down that it is lame and shameful”). If anything, Reynolds often waxes as rhapsodic about the artifacts of pop-gone-by as do the people who actually dedicate their lives to them.... As he says, this book is meant as “an investigation,” not a closing argument. And it’s a credit to his skill and wit that Retromania is such fun to grapple with."--Noel Murray, Columbia Journalism Review
*-STARRED REVIEW "In this unusual history, music critic Reynolds argues that the last decade was obsessed with what he calls retro-rock, a fascination with the sounds of living memory... A provocative and original inquiry into the past and future of popular music"--Booklist
"Reynolds.. uses critical theory to explore the retro industry and our collective obsession with the immediate past... Covering fashion, music, television, museums, and mashups, Reynolds analyzes our culture's need to acknowledge the past in an attempt to create something new and original. In a paradoxical twist, our accelerated digital world has become locked in hyperstasis. Popular culture, as a corollary, always feels familiar and alluring. Verdict This superbly written critique of popular culture reveals our deep-seated anxieties about social instability and cultural change..."--Library Journal
"Absorbing, brightly written... Reynolds fears that our obsession with the recent past has become a structural part of rock music... Important—and alarming—reading for pop-music aficionados."--Kirkus Reviews
"Reynolds 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... 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"--Publishers Weekly
"Pop Will Eat Itself – no, make that has eaten itself. That’s pretty much the premise of one of the year’s most thought-provoking books about music, Simon Reynolds’ Retromania... Author of an extraordinarily vivid study of post-punk, Rip It Up and Start Again, Reynolds here takes the endless recycling and genre-mashing of post-millennial pop as his starting point. Recalling the startling freshness of rock’s late ‘60s heyday and the endless twists and turns of non-mainstream music in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, Reynolds recognises the irony of his nostalgia for a time when demographics came second to originality. One of those rare books which contains a fascinating idea or kernel of knowledge on every page, Retromania is never less than compelling"--Pro Sound News
"Nostalgia has become the password for entry into contemporary music. With ease and elegance, Simon Reynolds describes this complex condition in Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past (Faber & Faber) and delivers an insightful polemic against it. Retromania serves as a forceful, definitive status report on today's music.... Reynolds' innovative analysis is rife with impatience and sadness. Retromania calls for action, but is not so much a manifesto as an explanation for why music is recycling and not reinventing"--Martin Jack Rosenblum, Milwaukee Express
"Frighteningly erudite, breathtakingly imaginative and a nice man into the bargain, Simon Reynolds, as he nears his 50th birthday, has no realistic rivals in the field of music criticism (other than, perhaps, Alex Ross of the New Yorker). It’s got to the stage where the publication of the English rock hack’s latest book every couple of years is more eagerly anticipated than the new albums by half the bands he writes about... Reading the book... as ever with Reynolds it was impossible not to be impressed by the sheer breadth of reference and ingenuity of argument, let alone the effortless elegance of the writing."--Jonathan O'Brien, Sunday Business Post (Dublin)
"The biggest musical event of 2011 wasn’t an album or a band, or even a new style. It was a book: Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to its Own Past, by Simon Reynolds."--Dominikus Muller, Frieze
"A conversation-starter, and a valuable consideration of the wave of retro-fetishes and musical curatorship saturating the current landscape"--A.V. Club
"The most discussion-inducing music-writing book of the year"--Chicago Reader
"Compulsively re-readable... a year-long talking point among pop obsessives, who could never quite seem to decide whether Reynolds’ scalpel-sharp dissection of today’s rear-view fixation is a condemnation or a celebration. In that very confusion, I suspect, might be Reynolds’ very point"--Montreal Gazette
"Entertaining"--Robert Chritsgau, the Barnes & Noble Review
"His past titles, including Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture and Rip It Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978–1984, definitively document the musical spheres he inhabited, as both fan and critic. His most recent book is his most compelling yet, raising just as many questions as he answers along the way."--J.C. Gabel, Time Out Chicago.
"... the most stimulating contemporary popular music critic in the English language for the past 25 years. Reynolds exhibits the usual fan's obsessiveness with wide-ranging interests and relentless curiosity, but the key to his consistent readability is a keenly analytical mind that recognises the importance of sometimes coolly stepping back from the fashion and the passion to make sense of what's driving it all... [Retromania is] exhaustively researched, sometimes maddening and immensely stimulating... A highly rewarding read"--Lynden Barber, The Australian.
"Geekily erudite and sweepingly referential, focusing on music but in a broad cultural context, where Baudrillard rubs shoulders with the Beach Boys, Kim Wilde with Oscar Wilde. His accounts of arcane styles and subcultures such as “hypnagogic pop” and Japanese Shibuya-kei are best appreciated with YouTube, a portal that may, as Reynolds contends, paralyze us through distraction, but also helps make sense of Retromania. His writing is punchy and poetic, as in his depiction of the “ghost dance” of Deadheads, “an endangered, out-of-time people willing a lost world back into existence.” Reynolds makes so many perceptive points, supported with such strong historical evidence, his book can be exhilarating if you agree with it, fun to spar with if you don’t"--Mike Doherty, Macleans (Canada)
"Compendious and slightly nauseating (in a good way) account of pop-cultural backward-looking... But now pop has eaten itself. The facts—and no one has presented them as clearly as Simon Reynolds—are before us; the fix is in. What next?"--James Parker, The Atlantic.
"That rare thing, a brainy joyride... Along with his encyclopedic music brain, Reynolds brings an accessible but intellectual style that draws on a broad range of cultural artifacts and authorities—a random sampling of index entries accurately reflects the array: Adam Ant, Harold Bloom, Can, Phil Collins, John Coltrane, Sigmund Freud, Gossip Girl, Cary Grant, The Jesus and Mary Chain… It also pointed me to about a thousand blogs, videos, records, and books to investigate"--John Williams, The Second Pass
"In his terrific new book, Retromania, music writer Simon Reynolds looks at how this nostalgia obsession is playing itself out everywhere from fashion to performance art to electronic music -- and comes away with a worrying prognosis. If we continue looking backward, he argues, we'll never have transformative decades, like the 1960s, or bold movements like rock 'n' roll, again. If all we watch and listen to are things that we've seen and heard before, and revive trends that have already existed, culture becomes an inescapable feedback loop"--Thomas Rogers, Salon.com
"Interesting, timely book this one… Key to Reynolds's book is his ability to crystallise an artist, scene or movement with effortless, exciting prose. He opens the doors to times you may want to investigate further, weaving in references, characters, places, events and quotes that will educate, stimulate and have you endlessly hunting around on Google and YouTube. Retromania is fascinating, addictive, superbly written and thoroughly investigated. Part history, part theory and wholly questioning, it’s the perfect read for today – and possibly all of tomorrow’s musical futures."--Jonny Trunk, Record Collector
"Reynolds's mapping of today's pop environment is often witty; his account of the way in which so many artists position themselves as curators is spot-on, as is his description of internet users – himself included – gorging on illegal downloads. His prose, casually neologistic and making deft use of sci-fi tropes, is bracingly sharp. As a work of contemporary historiography, a thick description of the transformations in our relationship to time – as well as to place – Retromania deserves to be very widely read"--Sukhdev Sandhu, The Observer
"Retromania is a terrific book. Reynolds brings profound knowledge and oceanic depth and width to his argument, tracing his theme from trad jazz through the '70s rock and roll boom to the hipsterism of today, via the hyper-connectedness and infinite jukebox of the web. Unlike many of the pop writers who inspired him as a youth, he deploys his high intelligence and vast range of reference lucidly, to argue and illuminate, not dazzle or alienate. He can mention Baudrillard and Pokemon in the same sentence and still make sense "--Steve Yates, The Word magazine.
"If pop is suffering from a fossil fuel crisis due to a perceived lack of fresh resources, the sense that there are no new sounds under the sun, then its global warming is retro sounds and hauntological memory-trips fugging the blogosphere--and this book is its An Inconvenient Truth... A hugely interesting and useful debate starter"--NME
"Already one of the greatest pop commentators of our time... A sequel of sorts to the stupidly good Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-84, this meaty 458-page tome manages to weave such disparate musical elements as Norma Waterstone, Gerry Rafferty, Johnnie Kidd, the Sex Pistols, Lady Gaga, The Cramps, Massive Attack, Mo Wax, The Grateful Dead, Toots & the Maytals and, er, Mick Hucknall, into a a decade-straddling treatise on why we're all so hung-up on the rock'n'roll past. Unlike the man he's often compared to, Greil Marcus, Reynolds doesn't feel the need to batter you over the head with his intellect, opting instead for a conversational style that's not afraid to go off on seriously wild tangents."--Stuart Clark, Hot Press
"If anyone can make sense of pop music's steady mutation from what George Melly noted as its 'worship of the present', to its current status as a living heritage industry where past, present and what the author calls a nostalgia for a lost future coexist, then you'd have to trust Reynolds. he's a top-table critic whose keen ear is matched by a sharp eye for cultural context.... If there's an underlying melancholia to Retromania's state-of-the market opening address (Now), it's shattered by a brilliant dissection of the role played by the retro-urge in pop's first half-century (Then)... An erudite study of pop's eternal lock groove..."-- Mark Paytress, Mojo.
"Simon Reynolds legacy as one of the great music writers of the last thirty is assured, but with Retromania he becomes one of the great social commentators. Drawing together the worlds of music, fashion and technology, he argues that pop culture has become addicted to its own past, and that innovation and futurism are being snuffed out. Retromania is a vital rebellion against our ongoing cultural crisis delivered in the form of a fun and engaging assessment of today’s music world"--Strictly Randl webzine
“If pop music is all about right now, what happens when the past refuses to go quietly? The ever-brilliant Simon Reynolds investigates the cult of retro, the temptations of nostalgia, and the future of music culture--all with a detective’s cold eye and a fan’s hot heart"--Rob Sheffield, author of Love Is a Mix Tape and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran
“One of my favorite music writers wrestles one of my favorite musical paradoxes: what's up with the fetish for the Old in pop's Land of the Eternal New? Unpacking how YouTube makes history more lateral than linear, pondering the remarkable endurance of England's Northern Soul scene, or wondering if record collecting is indeed a distinctly masculine sickness, Reynolds' deep inquiries lead to a bigger question: does obsessive engagement with the past make it harder to invent the future?”--Will Hermes, author of Love Goes To Buildings On Fire
“The crowning achievement of Retromania is that it in no way contributes to the cultural malaise it critiques. You may struggle with the suspicion that you’ve seen it all before and heard it all before—but you’ve never read anything that approaches the idea of retro from as many entertaining and incisive angles. The present may be collapsing into the past, but this is a book for the ages”—Greg Milner, author of Perfecting Sound Forever
"The book is long awaited, and not just because Reynolds's great studies of post-punk (Rip It Up and Start Again) and dance culture (Energy Flash) consolidated his position as the ultimate philosopher-fanboy. There has also not been a comprehensive study of our collective desire for the past until now, and how endemic it is in both mainstream and alternative culture.... His explorations are, as always, breathless and readable, a mix of enthusiastic self-analysis and academic theory... He writes vividly on the dynamics of sharing - how the internet has made multiple ownership of obscure records and films possible, instead of allowing collectors to hold on to them like talismans.... A work that is vibrant and vital."
--Jude Rogers, New Statesman & Society.
"This is a magical mystery tour through the retroscape, and Reynolds finds plenty that’s interesting and, dare I say it, new among the second-hand detritus."--Kevin Courtney, Irish Times
"Looking back over the last 25 years you'd be hard pressed to name a music journalist more adept at tracking and defining the zeitgeist"--The Guardian
"A meticulous and fascinating survey of the evolution of pop's infrastructure of mis-remembering, from trad-jazz to rave nostalgia via reggae reissue labels, northern soul, and, surprisingly, Patti Smith's Horses"--The Independent on Sunday
"Musing on such disparate topics as hipster culture, tribute bands, the mash up, hauntology and MP3s, this is an essential read for anyone who realises that it is history, not piracy, that poses the greatest threat to the progress of popular music."--John Doran, The Stool Pigeon
"Simon Reynolds‘ compulsively readable new book Retromania has caused almost as much consternation amongst glib hipsterati – determined, without investing the requisite effort and intensity of purpose, to lay a claim for their generation – as it has for clueless, bloated, swinging-daddy-o rock critics clinging pathetically to their syndicated investitures.
But guess what? Reynolds is right– as the future, when it eventually arrives, will prove. Just as Lester Bangs bleated through the seventies, suffering a personal famine till punk stirred and broke, so it is the critic’s occasionally unenviable task to speak the unspeakable and admit the inadmissible."--FACT magazine
"A great exploration of this decade’s cultural ennui – namely, ‘where did all the new go’? Reynolds is a music writer but in his journey from the trad-jazz revival of the 50s to today’s hyper-connected hipster roaming the MP3 blogs in search of un-mined seams of obscurity, he draws art, architecture and fashion into his critique of our cultural obsession with the recent past, while also weaving his vast array of reference points to make sophisticated theoretical cases without ever being academic or impenetrable. You might not always agree with his assertion that this decade has been little more than a retread and recombination of bygone attitudes, genres and styles, but this passionate journey in search of our lost future is both enlightening and entertaining"-- Dazed and Confused
"Simon Reynolds is my favourite music writer by a mile, and Retromania is his best yet. It balances a breathtaking amount of research, some real insight, a lot of humour and just enough abstract theorising (which has been a problem with Reynolds’ work in the past for a lot of people). It looks at retro culture and wonders if culture as a whole, and music in particular, is at a dead end of some sort. Tackling everything from garage punk to slavish Japanese fans to garage rock to digital culture, it’s easily the best book I’ve read this year and I totally recommend it."-SSpeakers Push Air webzine.
UK edition published NOW by Faber & Faber
US edition published NOW by Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Italian edition published NOW by ISBN Edizioni
French edition published NOW by Le Mot and Le Reste
Spanish-language edition published April 2012 by Caja Negro
German language edition published October 2012 by Ventil Verlag
Korean language edition published 2013 by Workroom
Info about UK and US events / appearances at this blog or via twitter: www.twitter.com/simonretromania